Plagiarism showcased – and a call for action

image I hate plagiarism, partially because it has happened to me, partially because I publish way too little because I overly self-criticize for lack of original thinking, partly because I have had it happen with quite a few students and am getting more and more tired of having to explain even to executive students with serious job experience that clipping somebody else’s text and showing it as your own is not permissible – this year, I even had a student copy things out of Wikipedia and argue that it wasn’t plagiarism because Wikipedia is not copyrighted.

I suspect plagiarism is a bigger problem than we think. The most recent spat is noted in Boing Boing – read the comments if you want a good laugh and some serious discussion. (My observation, not particularly original: Even if this thing wasn’t plagiarized, isn’t this rather thin for a doctoral dissertation?)

The thing is, plagiarism will come back to bite you, and with the search tools out there, I can see a point in a not too distant future where all academic articles ever published will be fed into a plagiarism checker, with very interesting results. Quite a few careers will end, no doubt after much huffing and puffing. Johannes Gehrke and friends at Cornell have already done work on this for computer science articles – I just can’t wait to see what will come out of tools like these when they really get cranking. I seem to remember Johannes as saying that most people don’t plagiarize, but that a few seem to do it quite a lot.

It is high time we turn the student control protocols loose on published academic work as well. Nothing like a many eyeballs to dig out that shallowness….

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One thought on “Plagiarism showcased – and a call for action

  1. Hans Nordhaug

    I can confirm that plagiarism is a major problem at the Norwegian college where I work. I actually spend some time trying to teach my students common sense when it comes to copy-and-paste, but plagiarism is apparently completely OK for them …
    It makes me sad to spend so much time on this, but before (if?) the students pass my class they have stopped doing this. I hope.

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