Plagiarism in Science and Technology Master's Theses: A Follow-Up Study

Document Type


Publication Date



This study is a follow-up of an earlier exploration of plagiarism in scientific and technological master’s theses. In our previous study (Holmberg and McCullough 2005), we attempted to find potential occurrences of plagiarism (POPs) in 68 randomly selected electronic master’s theses published in 2003. Our approach was fairly straightforward: for a period of 10 minutes, we selected various unreferenced (not in quotations) phrases from all 68 theses and searched for matches in the Google and Scirus search engines. One author searched for matched phrases in Google and the other searched for matched phrases in Scrius, so phrases from each thesis were searched for a maximum total of 20 minutes. One of our goals, in addition to identifying POPs, was to determine which search engine was more effective in terms of identifying POPs-Google or Scirus. Our criteria for determining a POP in this study was seven consecutive words. We found POPs in 46 of the 68 theses. The purpose of this current investigation was to more fully explore the 46 POPs identified in our earlier study. Specifically, we hoped to determine how many of the POPs were actual occurrences of plagiarism, by seeking out the full content that the POPs matched against. In order to retrieve the full-text of excerpted matches, we consulted available print materials from our library, requested materials through the university library’s interlibrary service, and searched proprietary databases. We compared publication dates of the theses against the matched materials. We sought to eliminate incidental matches and to eliminate matches resulting from occurrences of post-thesis plagiarism by non-thesis authors.


Library Services

Publication Title

New Review of Information Networking