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Checks for original content, information on plagiarism, and how to avoid plagiarizing

On this page you will find information about our procedures for screening, good advice (on how to avoid plagiarizing), and other relevant information.

The University of Southern Denmark conducts pre-screenings of PhD dissertations. That is, we screen the dissertations to determine whether they contain only original work, before they are officially submitted to the PhD schools. This procedure makes it possible for the students to improve their dissertations, if we find and identify errors in them.


Plagiarizing means taking the credit for something that somebody else has created. It may happen if you insert a major piece of text from an article, a book, etc., into your dissertation without a correct reference to the original source.

Plagiarism is not only making a direct copy of somebody else’s work (e.g. a text) without referring correctly to the original source, it may also happen in the following ways, if you omit to refer correctly to the original:

  • If you make a few changes to a piece of text that you have copied (e.g. by replacing some words with synonyms).
  •  If you rephrase somebody else’s text, so that the wording is different, but the content is identical.
  • If you translate a text, e.g. from Danish into English (or vice versa).

According to Danish law1, plagiarism is one of the three areas which are considered scientific misconduct, if done on purpose or as the result of gross negligence (the others are falsification and fabrication), if it happens during the planning, carrying out or reporting of research.



Self-plagiarism means recycling something that you have published previously without making this obvious. This can be against responsible conduct of research and should be avoided2.

It is clearly stated in the Danish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity that research results should be published in an honest, transparent, and accurate manner3.

In most PhD dissertations there will be a natural and acceptable degree of overlapping between the dissertation and previously published material, like conference abstracts or articles. It is important that the reuse is transparent (with correct references), so that self-plagiarism is avoided.

At the University Library, we use the software tool iThenticate to screen for plagiarism in PhD dissertations. iThenticate will mark all the pieces of text which the software identifies as identical with text from another source and generate a report for the entire dissertation. At the University Library we will check the report manually and see whether there are correct references for these pieces of text or not. For dissertations from the Faculty of Engineering, we carry out an additional screening in SafeAssign or Urkund.

We suggest the following things for avoiding plagiarism:

  • Don’t use the copy-paste function

    We have observed several times that some students tend to use copy-paste to insert major pieces of text from their own published articles into their dissertations. If you want to rephrase a text, you should avoid copying and pasting text from your own articles (or those of others).

    There are situations when copying and pasting is the best option and is recommended, e.g. when you want to quote directly from another text.

  • Use a reference management tool

    We recommend the use of a reference management tool. The Library offers courses on Endnote. For more information on reference management tools, please see this page.

  • Add references while you write

    Adding references to your text while writing is a good habit. This will help you avoid errors, such as forgetting a reference, and it will prevent you from being uncertain about what exactly you wanted to refer to, if you return to a particular part of the text later to insert a reference.

  • Look at the English versions of Forskerportalen (The Researcher Portal)4  and stopplagiat.nu5

    These homepages contain information about plagiarism and good practices for references. We strongly recommend that you look at their suggestions.

After uploading your PhD dissertation, you cannot edit it anymore. The uploaded version is considered the “final version”.

After you have done this, an employee at The University Library of Southern Denmark will upload the dissertation to iThenticate, the screening tool which we use to check for original content. iThenticate will generate a report which we will control manually at the Library. If there are passages with major amounts of unoriginal text without correct references, we will add a comment to the dissertation.

The manual check will lead to one of three possible outcomes:

  • Green: No comments. The dissertation will be submitted for assessment.
  • Yellow: some previously published text has been identified. Either, the dissertation should be edited and resubmitted for a new check for original content, or the principal supervisor should confirm that nothing further needs to be done. At the Faculty of Health Sciences and at the Faculty of Business and Social Sciences can the Head of the PhD School challenge the principal supervisor's clearance.
  • Red: Suspected plagiarism. The principal supervisor must contact the PhD school secretariat to settle the further process. This may involve the Dean and the Committee on Practice at SDU.

If your dissertation gets yellow status, the editing process can be reopened, if minor errors have been identified and your supervisor decides that they should be corrected.

Note: when we screen dissertations from the Faculty of Engineering, we add a screening in SafeAssign or Urkund. Screening of dissertations is not mandatory at the Faculty of Humanities.

If we receive your dissertation before 8.00 a.m., you will hear from us within two working days. If we receive it later in the day, e.g. at 3.45 p.m., we will answer within three working days (including the day we received the dissertation).

There is no delay on replies during ordinary holidays (e.g. the summer holiday).

Please note that the following days are not working days in 2022.

  • 14. April (Thursday before Easter)
  •  15. April (Friday before Easter)
  • 18. April (Monday after Easter Day)
  • 13. May (Store Bededag)
  • 26. May (Ascension Day)
  • 6. June (Monday after Whitsun Day)
  • 26. December (Boxing Day)

1 Retsinformation (18-11-2020). Lov om videnskabelig uredelighed m.v.

2 Forskerportalen (18-11-2020). Dobbeltpublicering, overlappende publikationer og selvplagiering

3 The Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science (09-01-2021). The Danish Code of Conduct for Research Integrity

4 Forskerportalen (18-11-2020). Plagiering og god citatskik

5 (18-11-2020). Hvad er plagiering?

Read more about the Data Policy here.

Last Updated 22.03.2021