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Plagiarism on Personal Statements: A Disturbing Symptom of a Broader Trend

Maxine A. Papadakis, MD; and David Wofsy, MD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA 94143.

Potential Conflicts of Interest: Disclosures can be viewed at www.acponline.org/authors/icmje/ConflictOfInterestForms.do?msNum=M10-1275.

Requests for Single Reprints: Maxine A. Papadakis, MD, University of California, San Francisco, 513 Parnassus Avenue S-245, San Francisco, CA 94143; e-mail, papadakm@medsch.ucsf.edu.

Current Author Addresses: Dr. Papadakis: University of California, San Francisco, 513 Parnassus Avenue S-245, San Francisco, CA 94143.

Dr. Wofsy: University of California, San Francisco, 513 Parnassus Avenue, Box 0633, San Francisco, CA 94143.

Ann Intern Med. 2010;153(2):128-129. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-153-2-201007200-00010
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In this issue, Segal and colleagues (1) report on the frequency of plagiarism in the personal statements of applicants to 5 residency programs. In a carefully performed study, the authors used a Web-based tool (2) to check the content of personal statements and identified statements in which at least 10% of the material was copied. On the basis of this standard, the authors detected evidence of plagiarism in more than 5% of applications and concluded that “a concerted, nationwide effort to detect and deter plagiarism is warranted” (1).



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The other "Ghost" in the room
Posted on July 19, 2010
Jonas B Green
UCLA Medical Center
Conflict of Interest: None Declared

Plagiarism represents a form of dishonesty that does not reflect well on our profession and ought therefore to be exposed and eviscerated. Yet pointing the finger at medical school applicants may be premature when we cannot even police ourselves.

I refer to the inexplicable tolerance afforded to plagiarism that many acclaimed physicians, usually with ties to the pharmaceutical or medical devices industries, have engaged in when applying their names to 'ghost' publications. Fortunately many journals and institutions have taken steps to bring such practices to a close, but simply moving on ignores the fact that many fraudulent 'authors' have not been reprimanded, penalized, or even forced to remove these publications from their curricula vitae.

May I add, in response to Papadakis and Wofsy's commentary, that while not favorably disposed to the applicant enhancement industry, frank plagiarism is quite distinct from advice on revision by an experienced hand. How else do we learn to improve our writing but by the guidance of mentors? Having received and provided advice on professional applications, perhaps I want merely not to be lumped in with the plagiarists. Still, I limit my advice to wording and do not suggest new ideas, for the writer and named author should always be one and the same.

Conflict of Interest:

None declared

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