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What is plagiarism?

Posted by Plamen Miltenoff on April 28, 2014

What is plagiarism?

Law Professor at the University of Reims, FranceTop Contributor

A colleague of mine is asking us to organise a disciplinary commission for a student who, during a test (home test) quoted an author at great length. I disagree with his judgement. This in my opinion is youth caution (I’m not too sure about what I think so I protect myself with very long quotes). She did refer to the author in question and did not steal his ideas as her own. The risk for the student (who happens to be a very good one) is that she may lose the right to pass any national exam of any sort for x years. I intend to defend her at the disciplinary hearing as I happen to have supervised her for a research last year and am supervising her this year for another and know what she’s made of. The question to you all is : what constitutes plagiarism in your opinion and practice?

 

179 comments

  • Shaun JamisonShaun

    Shaun Jamison

    Law Professor & Librarian

    @ Gregg, another clue is when they don’t bother to take out the hyperlinks from the original source they didn’t credit.

  • Gregg

    Gregg Etter

    Associate Professor at University of Central Missouri

    @Shawn. the sad part is if they would have credited the source it would have been research, not plagiarism!

  • John HainsJohn

    John Hains

    Associate Professor at Clemson University

    Gregg, I get the ‘lazy’ student part. How common is it for courses to be so redundant that a paper like this could be ‘re-cycled’?

  • Gregg

    Gregg Etter

    Associate Professor at University of Central Missouri

    @ John. That’s the point. The class I was teaching was policing in a democratic society. The paper was from a juvenile justice class that was taught by another professor. The content of the two courses does not match. It becomes real obvious when you get a re-cycled criminal law paper in a hate crimes or organized crime class. Some things will transfer and all knowledge is collective. However, in organized crime if you wanted to talk about criminal law, you might talk about the application of R.I.C.O., not Marbury v Madison or Estelle v. Gamble. A person wanting to apply the principles of juvenile justice might talk about the extended rights of a juvenile under Mirranda v. Arizona, not about juvenile holding facilities or juvenile courts.

  • Dr. Murphy NmeziDr. Murphy

    Dr. Murphy Nmezi

    Professor/Academic Mentor, Pathology/Pharmacology/Biostatistics

    Apropos Howard’s response to Mihail’s question:

    I once conducted an initial interview, in virtual space, to fill one of two biostatistics faculty positions that we had. And, it is important to note that success at this interview requires that the candidate be able to answer key questions in biostatistics analysis.

    With each question, (believe me, these are basic questions that anyone with an advanced degree in a related field should be able to answer), I could distinctly hear this individual “banging away” at the keyboard in search of the answer. Obviously, this candidate wasn’t prepared for the interview, nor did s/he possess the foundational knowledge that a degree holder in a field of study must have to succeed. Was it plagiarism or not?

    Perhaps, this candidate plagiarized his/her way through college and graduate school. Who knows? But, I can confidently bet my retirement that some of these jokers are slipping, undetected, through our educational system. I will also bet that this is happening, even to a greater extent, worldwide.

    Mihails Ņ. likes this

  • Harold KatcherHarold

    Harold Katcher

    Professor at University of Maryland

    John, I for one teach four classes, human biology, human health and disease (a watered-down patho-physiology course), the biology of aging and neuroscience. Someone could submit a paper say on Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, any of the dementias to any of these courses, a paper on atherosclerosis to three of them etc. But what is the point of writing the papers? To present their fellow students with new information (assuming they read it) or to give the student an opportunity to learn something new and demonstrate their comprehension? For me it’s mostly the latter, and allowing recycled papers doesn’t accomplish that.
    And Dr. Nmezi I totally agree with you – for everyone we catch, how many slip through undetected?
    Most countries in the world have constitutions that when examined closely, provide all the safeguards needed by a society – but in many places those laws are not upheld (for national security’s sake – a US excuse). So all’s I’m saying is uphold those rules that are in place – softening them may help those who otherwise might not be able to complete or compete successfully in a course or program, but you a hurting the society that expects that graduates of a program will be competent in what they do.

    Dr. Murphy N. likes this

  • John HainsJohn

    John Hains

    Associate Professor at Clemson University

    Harold, I guess I was thinking in terms of courses taught by different teachers. However, four of the five lecture courses I teach are strongly related and with that in mind, I make sure that I am in control of both the content and the assessment. So I make sure that if there is some overlap in content, I do not make an assignment which allows ‘recycling’. If someone has taken a similar course at another institution and ‘recycles’ a report, I have no way to detect that. So as far as I can tell I have never had a problem with this. But my assignments are structured so that they simply can’t support ‘recycling’.

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