Open Access Theses and Dissertations Increasingly Used as a Source for Plagiarized Journal Articles

Open-access theses and dissertations (also called ETDs for “electronic theses and dissertations”) are increasingly being used to easily create journal articles by some needing a quick and easy scholarly article publication.

After stealing text and data from a thesis and re-formatting it as an article, one can submit it to a predatory publisher and get an easy publication. Because the theses and dissertations have already passed through a round of quality control (the dissertation committee and the defense), they are often ready for publication.

All the open-access activist work that’s been done to make research more available has also helped make more research available to plagiarists, one of the weaknesses of open-access.

Many ETDs are in institutional repositories, many of which are not crawled by Google, Google scholar, or plagiarism detection services. Moreover, some ETDs are mounted on closed networks not connected to the Internet.

This lack of broad exposure makes submitting chapters from theses as scholarly articles easier and less risky because it’s harder to document the plagiarism.

It appears that this 1999 master’s thesis from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University has been used twice as a source for plagiarists:


The original 1999 thesis title page.

The thesis can be found here.

Here are two articles that appear to have lifted text from the thesis without attribution.

The first is an article in the International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, volume 3, issue 4 (April, 2013) entitled “Doubly Helical Antenna by Spiro Mode Maintaining Radiation” by Pragya Soni and Sumit Sharma.

The article’s first page contains these figures:



These figures are lifted from page 5 of the thesis:



The second is an article in the International Journal of Research in Computer and Communication Technology, volume 1, issue 3 (August, 2012) entitled “Applications of Spiro Helical Antenna in Satellite Communications” by Lakshman Giddi and A. Mallikarjuna Prasad.

In this instance, the copying is blatant and obvious. For example, the phrase “In this thesis …” is copied directly without even changing “thesis” to “article.” Moreover, one can observe the line breaks from the original PDF breaking lines of text in the middle:



The text in the right-hand column originally appeared on page 3 of the thesis:



These are just two examples. Both of these journals are already included on my list of questionable journals. Plagiarism — much of it enabled by open-access publications — is increasingly poisoning scholarly communication.

Hat tip: Gail McMillan

23 Responses to Open Access Theses and Dissertations Increasingly Used as a Source for Plagiarized Journal Articles

  1. Lazgin Barany says:

    I’d like to say that here in Iraqi univerdities a thesis supervisor has the right to publish one research paper taken from the thesis or the desseration he/she has supervised. What do you think of this regulation?

    • I would be interested to learn more about this.

    • Nils says:

      Do the students cosign these papers?

    • Dave Langers says:

      As long as the paper is not in the public domain, the student is offered co-authorship (and all contributors properly acknowledged), all authors substantially contributed both to the experiment and to the writing, and all authors agree with the final submitted version of the paper, then that should not be any problem at all.
      If the thesis is public, I guess the journal should be informed of that circumstance during submission, but I don’t think a thesis would have to pose a problem if printed on a small scale.
      I suppose, however, you mean that the supervisor is allowed to do as (s)he pleases with the results when the student has left the research group: that is definitely not acceptable.

  2. dzrlib says:

    This reminds me of a situation back in 1966, when someone actually stole a thesis, waiting to be bound, and used it as the basis for several articles published in Applied Optics.

  3. […] “Open-access theses and dissertations (also called ETDs for ‘electronic theses and dissertations’) are increasingly being used to easily create journal articles by some needing a quick and easy scholarly article publication …” (more) […]

  4. Samir Hachani says:

    Hi Jeffrey.Do you think that an author adapting a part of his thesis to write an article or to participate in a conference is doing a reprehensible work ?

  5. Regarding “much of it enabled by open-access publications”, is there any evidence to back up this? If not, then this attribution of dishonest practices to those who publish and publish in open access journals should be removed. Regarding those journals which are not open access, but which also feature plagiarism, I would point you in the direction of

  6. […] belegen immer wieder – es wird sehr viel im Internet recherchiert. Und anscheinend daraus auch für wissenschaftliche Arbeiten “geborgt”. Neben Open […]

  7. John Rafael Antalan says:

    Did they site the thesis as a reference of their work?

  8. C. Wright says:

    I don’t see any problem with openly accessible intellectual property as long as allegations of plagiarism can be just as openly available and prominent should the content of these works be plagiarized. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to the new fora that are promoted as open fora for discussion of issues in published papers.

  9. Rory McGreal says:

    Yes, it is easier to plagiarise but it is also much easier to detect instances of plagiarism when the content is open access. A plagiarist can keep the deception longer publishing in non-open access journals and by using non-open access content. If one can’t easily find either online freely, one cannot detect it.


  10. Zahid says:

    Hi dear,
    Can u please tell me about inderscience publishers because they have started many journals recently which looks suspicious and I want to submit my research paper in a jounal under this publisher.

  11. sam says:

    please forumite can someone provide us the email addres of Prof. Dr. M. J. Daffee, the Editor- in- chief of pensee journal. their website is rubbish.

  12. Dear Mr. Beall,

    Have you ever heard about Dr Haruko Obokata, who published 2 STAP cell papers in Nature? In one of the paper, there is a copy-pasting in the method section. However, The paper passed the peer review and got published, but now there is an earthquake in the world of stem cell society due to those 2 articles, which were full with a so called “misconduct” . What’s your opinion concerning Nature peer review? To be fair, how will you label Nature? Will you suggest to avoid Nature?

    • Jeanne,

      Wow, what a mean-spirited comment. Yes, I am aware of this case — it has been reported in Retraction Watch.

      I mostly limit my analyses to open-access publishers, and Nature uses the subscription model. There are already many people — like you, apparently — who are closely examining the practices of subscription journals, and my additional voice is not needed there.

      If you want to catch me in a contradiction, I would hope that you could do better than this.

      I suggest that you avoid Nature.


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