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Illinois Tech Library Guides

Going Beyond Google

How to Find Information Like A Research Pro

Introduction

Research misconduct is a serious problem that threatens the entire academic and research enterprise by undermining public trust, thereby jeopardizing public funding. The Office of Research Integrity of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services defines research misconduct as "fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results." Various studies (1-3) have attempted to quantify the cost of research misconduct, but the original misconduct is only a part of the problem. Fraudulent research published in otherwise reputable journals can have a life of its own, being cited by many other researchers or even forming the basis of honest researchers' work. Perpetuating fraudulent research in this way is itself a form of research misconduct.

Publishers and government funding agencies take research misconduct in all its forms very seriously. Publishers will retract articles in which research misconduct has been detected, signaling that the research is not to be trusted. Government funding agencies, on the other hand, can impose sanctions on individual researchers or on entire institutions, ranging from letters of reprimand all the way to prohibiting any further participation in sponsored programs (see, for example, 45 CFR § 689.3).

(1)
Stern, A. M.; Casadevall, A.; Steen, R. G.; Fang, F. C. Financial Costs and Personal Consequences of Research Misconduct Resulting in Retracted Publications. eLife 2014, 3, e02956. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02956.
(2)
(3)
Michalek, A. M.; Hutson, A. D.; Wicher, C. P.; Trump, D. L. The Costs and Underappreciated Consequences of Research Misconduct: A Case Study. PLOS Medicine 2010, 7 (8), e1000318. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000318.

How to Avoid Perpetuating Fraudulent Research

Various studies show that it can be extremely difficult to recognize fraudulent research. Nevertheless, there are several steps you can take to avoid fraudulent research papers.

  • Avoid research published in questionable journals.  The explosion in online publishing has led to the creation of many low-quality journals having poor or spotty quality control and peer review. There are even journals and publishers that prey on researchers eager to have the results of their research published by guaranteeing publication in exchange for payment—they do not provide any real peer review, editorial review, or any other type of quality control. Because of their poor quality or complete lack of standards, these journals are usually not indexed by research databases or even by Google Scholar. Using research databases recommended by Galvin Library is a good way to reduce your exposure to fraudulent research.
    • Find recommended research databases by subject here.
    • To learn more about using library databases see our Going Beyond Google guide.
    • For more information on questionable publications, see here.
  • Check Retraction Watch. Even reputable journal sometimes publish fraudulent research. A good second line of defense is Retraction Watch. Papers that have been retracted due to any form of misconduct are indexed by Retraction Watch. Check to make sure that papers you are using have not been retracted. Also, check to see if one or more of the authors have had other papers retracted. Papers by authors with a history of multiple retractions should be considered with great care.

How to Avoid Plagiraism

The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations defines plagiarism as "the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit" (45 CFR § 689.1). Plagiarism is a common form of research misconduct, yet it is very easy to avoid by following these three simple steps;

  • Keep track of your sources. Using words or ideas from a source you forgot that you consulted is still plagiarism. Using a citation management tool will help you keep track of your sources as you conduct your secondary research or literature review.
  • Cite. Properly identifying where something was borrowed from is key to avoiding plagiarism.
  • Quote, Paraphrase, Summarize. Either put the ideas you're borrowing in your own words or put the borrowed word in quotes.

For more information on citing your sources see: