Translation Plagiarism – How translations can become plagiarism?

Recently there has been more talk of translation plagiarism in housework, term paper, bachelor thesis, master thesis, and doctoral thesis. Therefore, we would like to inform about this problem, and how to get it under control.

The fact that sources in other languages ​​are used for a scientific paper, a bachelor thesis and a doctoral thesis is not unusual, but is even common in many disciplines. Thus, statements are translated, paraphrased and substantiated. But it can also happen that more extensive passages are translated and taken directly without naming the source. These translations are plagiarism. This form of plagiarism is called translation plagiarism and is punishable as plagiarism.


A translation plagiarism is when a text that exists in another language, in the language of scientific work (housework, term paper, bachelor thesis, master’s thesis, doctorate, etc.) translated and issued as a separate knowledge or scientific achievement. This is the case if you do not specify the actual, foreign-language source and do not note that this is a translation.

A translation plagiarism is thus a plagiarism, in which a text from another language is translated literally and then used without marking as a translation and quotation in a scientific paper. It is also a translation plagiarism, if the translation is not literal, but “only” in analogy. For the contents and insights of the original source are output as a separate scientific achievement and not marked as citation and translation.


Since the text is now available in a different language, some believe that this plagiarism can not be detected, because after all, the text is indeed present in a new language independently. But beware: The text – its statement and its evidence – is still existing in the other language.

Many make translation work very easy by turning to automated translation services, such as Google translators, Babelfish etc. grab. Simply translate the text via copy & paste with a mouse click. The temptation is great, because it seems easy to scientifically shine with a mouse click.

These plagiarisms are less dangerous than the 1: 1 copies. Because simple plagiarism detection programs can not immediately tell if another source exists or has simply been translated. However, for some years there have also been more sophisticated programs that recognize texts in other languages ​​or create translations from texts at the push of a button and take them into account in their analyzes. Thus, translation plagiarisms are quickly unmasked.

In addition, it should not be underestimated that lecturers – even without plagiarism software – detect such fraud attempts. Because not infrequently they know the statements, positions etc. of other sources. And the lecturers notice the difference between their own student transfer or a mere knowledge theft.


Plagiarism and translation plagiarism can result in criminal proceedings and de-registration. Even a new enrollment can be excluded. In addition, an additional fine in the five-digit euro range may be due.

Therefore, for your own safety a plagiarism check is always recommended!


Translations of foreign language texts are not forbidden, but often even required. BUT it should be the translation as such and not the translation as a scientific output.

The correct procedure is:

  • The text is translated into English or into the language of the term paper, bachelor thesis, master thesis, doctoral thesis etc.
  • Then one raises e.g. by indenting, italics or any other font color this part of the text and marks it with “translated from …” (naming the original source).

It is crucial that the translation is clearly marked and the source is named!