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Miscellany | 6 Degrees | Afghanistan | Biological Warfare | DW Canoe Race | The Donner Party | The Eastland | The Edmund Fitzgerald | K Class Submarines (Page 1), (Page 2) | McClellan | Murder | Plagiarism | Product Placement | Racial Insults | Ten Plagues of Egypt | UK & US Flags

Miscellany :-

These pages are for subjects that I find particularly interesting. Unfortunately, I've neither the time nor resources to research them more fully, but luckily, other people have made fascinating web-sites on these subjects. I hope you find the choice of material here as interesting as I do.

Plagiarism :-

This essay was originally written for the Alpha Phi Eta, the Terre Haute Ivy Tech chapter of Phi Theta Kappa - the two year college Honor Society. This essay can also be opened as a Word document for viewing or downloading.



Definitions, Penalties and Detection


Ray Thomas


Oscar Wilde: “I’d wish I’d said that!”
James Whistler: “You will, Oscar, you will.”

The above was reportedly exchanged between the two men after Wilde had overheard a witticism during a dinner party.

A friend of mine would often boast how well his 10 year old nephew could use the Internet, and how he would often copy and paste text and pictures into school projects. I remember wondering whether or not the boy was actually learning the material he was copying. My own secondary (high school) education was well before the age of computers and so consisted of laboriously typing or writing essays, the effort of which seemed to help me remember the material. Years later, during one particular semester at Ivy Tech, it seemed that during every class I took the instructor would give dire warnings about plagiarism. Later, whilst researching material for essays, often for these same classes, I would come across Internet sites that offered, for a fee, to either have someone write the essay for me or let me choose from several pre-written ones.

Ivy Tech, in common with nearly all other institutes of higher education, reserves the right to give a failing grade or even expel a student found guilty of academic cheating. During my time at Ivy Tech, I’ve never heard of the college having to discipline anyone for plagiarism, but I did hear of several universities that have either expelled students or even revoked their degree after they had graduated.

 Plagiarism comes in many forms and degrees. It may be as simple as neglecting to cite a particular source or failing to put a copied piece of text in quotation marks to the copying of an entire piece of work and passing it off as the persons own work. Even colluding with other people, and not acknowledging the fact, is a form of plagiarism. Plagiarism is not just the copying of someone else’s words, but also their ideas. One of the simplest definitions is the unacknowledged copying of someone else’s work. The issue is further confused by patent and copyright infringements and by the fair use and common knowledge agreements. Copyright protects “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression” and can be enforced through federal law. Copyright law does not cover ideas, these are protected by patents. Fair use of copyright material is also covered by copyright law (Title 17).

“Common knowledge” information does not have to be cited, but, defining what common knowledge is can be very difficult. Up until Galileo Galilei’s trial in 1633 and for several hundred years afterward, it was “common knowledge” that the Sun revolved around the Earth. (Galileo). State capitols are common knowledge, even though most people would have to look at least some of them up in a reference work. The Kings and Queens of the United Kingdom and the dates they reigned are common knowledge. Even being British educated and once having to learn them by recitation, I can’t remember them all now. A far more practical definition is that if the information appears in at least three general reference works then it is considered common knowledge. However, the best advice seems to be, if in doubt, cite the source.

People plagiarize for a variety of reasons. Among them are laziness, procrastination, poor time management, poor self esteem, lack of interest and because they can. Copying texts can be seen as a shortcut to learning. Students sometimes forget that the whole point of education is not only to learn and retain information but to develop research and analytical skills. It’s very easy to put off unpleasant or tedious tasks. Sometimes deadlines suddenly loom over the horizon and it becomes very tempting to take shortcuts. Given the amount of things that many students have to do, especially if they also work and/or have family obligations, it’s sometimes difficult to manage time in such a way to get all the required tasks done. Some people may feel that their writing or research skills are not up to a required standard, or that their instructors may not think they are. Others may just not be interested in the topic of their essay. This may be especially true of fixed subjects, but, given a choice, a student may well find something they really want to research. Some people simply like taking shortcuts or “putting one over” on their instructors. (Harris)

It is difficult to determine the extent of plagiarism as only those who get caught, or are willing to admit to it, become statistics. Rutgers University’s 2001 study of 2,200 students in 21 colleges found that 10% admitted to “borrowing” at least some material from the Internet and 5% who said they’d taken large parts or even entire papers. (Technology) In 2003, a poll taken during a University of North Texas video conference found that 74% of students had cheated at least once but that 95% of those were not detected. (Dickerson) A British university found that 40% of students had cheated in a class, even though, or perhaps because, they knew their work was going to be electronically checked. (Carroll) In 2001, Professor Lou Bloomfield of the University of Virginia created a computer program to try and catch students who had plagiarized material for essays in his physics class. He found 148 papers over 4 semesters that had been plagiarized. A 20 month investigation by the university’s Honor Committee resulted in 45 students being dismissed and another three having their degrees revoked. (U.Va. Plagiarism)

Sometimes those guilty of plagiarism get found out years later and the knowledge can have a considerable impact on their life. During his 1988 Presidential nomination campaign, Senator Joseph Biden, was found to have plagiarized speeches made by other politicians. Further investigation showed that he also not only plagiarized work while in law school but also exaggerated his academic record. (Plagiarism Plague; Sabato) Another example of this is the case of Elias A. K. Alsabti. In 1988 his license to practice medicine in Massachusetts was revoked because in 1978, he had submitted four plagiarized articles for publication whilst he was a student. The Board of Registration in Medicine said that he had a "lack of good moral character which is required to practice medicine." It was also claimed that Alsabti had also plagiarized as many as 60 articles and had also exaggerated his academic standing. (Standler; Ruedas)

Even high school students have found that cheating sometimes has a very high price. In 1990, Paul Haugh was suspended from Bullis, a private high school. The school also informed the colleges that he had already been accepted for. Haugh sued Bullis for libel but lost. Haugh then went to the Court of Appeals which not only upheld the earlier courts decision but ordered him to pay Bullis’s legal fees of $7,136. (Standler)

The Internet has proved a fruitful source for plagiarists. It’s so easy to copy and paste text into a word processor. My own website – http://www.brisray.com – contains a history of my home city of Bristol, England. It’s a very popular part of my site and is used as a source for local history studies by several schools. In December 2002, I received and email from a teacher who’d set various classes essays in local history. Out of the 60 essays she received, around a third had “scandalously” plagiarized my work – often by simply copying and pasting entire sections of it. Needless to say, around 20 students got zero points for the essay. Personally, I thought it was amusing that the students had gone to a source that their teacher already knew well. The problem is that my site represents around 6 years worth of work, including hundreds of hours going through primary documents and many more going though secondary sources. Needless to say, I’m not particularly sorry that these students got caught.

The Internet is home to a fast growing number of sites called paper mills. These will, usually for a fee, provide people with a paper. Many of these show a disclaimer such as “Students are encouraged to use the papers as a guide for writing their own paper and to show proper sources for all their work” (ScrewSchool) but the lie is given away by sites like UrgentTermPapers who say that “what we suggest is use our paper as a base and edit according to the teachers perspective” but who also say “the model term papers we create is [sic] as close to what your teacher requires as possible.” The Kembel Library of the Coastal Carolina University keeps an updated list of these paper mills. In 1999, when they started the list there were 35 sited listed. Today there are over 250. (Cheating 101) My own experience with paper mills is while I’ve been searching for information for essays I’ve been writing. Given the quality of writing and depth of research of some of the papers I’ve looked at, I’m better off by far by writing my own.

Many states have now enacted laws to prohibit the sale of papers and essays. Those convicted could face several months in jail and a hefty fine. (Standler)

There are several ways that plagiarists can be spotted. As mentioned earlier, an instructor may well be familiar with many information sources. There are other “giveaways”. The sources may be old, or perhaps even discredited. The writing style and quality of writing may be different from the student’s usual work. Styles and formatting may even change dramatically within a document. The citations may be a mixture of MLA, APA or other schemes. The citations themselves may be faked. One of the biggest clues to the fact that a paper may be less than original work are what Robert Harris calls "blunders of the clueless," where the student may not have even read what was copied and so left things like "Thank you for using TermPaperMania” in the text, or accidentally left someone else’s headers and footers in the document. (Harris) Given an international medium such as the Internet, a further clue of plagiarism may be a mixture of American and British spelling. I, for one, have a reasonable excuse for this. I’m a British expatriate living in America – you should see what the spelling and grammar checking of programs like Microsoft’s Word does to my essays!

Just as the Internet seems to have plagiarism easier it has also made the checking of suspect papers simpler. In a process known as “googling” key words or phrases are entered into an Internet search engine and the returned documents checked against the student’s paper for similarities. Google is the largest Internet search engine, hence the phrase, but any other comprehensive search engine can be used. There are now also a range of downloadable programs such as WCopyfind (Plagiarism Resource Site) and even entire sites, such as turnitIn.com, which specialize in document phrase matching. As Sociologist Kieran Healy says, “My ambition, naturally, is to have a student quote my own words back to me without attribution in a final paper. That’s an office hour I’d look forward to.” (Healy) According to the commentaries on the article, this has actually happened to more than one person.

In the newspaper of the University of North Texas, Julie Dickerson wrote of Professor Ted Farris who set an essay on the role of the Merchant Marines in World War II. One of his students didn’t understand what the essay was supposed to be about and wrote 5,000 words on the merchant fishing fleet. Unfortunately, only 149 words of the ones she wrote were her own, the rest were taken from another essay. (Dickerson)

Unfortunately, calling attention to plagiarists is not without its risks with many academic and other institutions as well as individuals unwilling to confront the problem. Professor Lou Bloomfield mentioned earlier as the person whose investigations resulted in the expulsion of students from the University of Virginia and who writes the Plagiarism Resource Site, attempted to expose a case of plagiarism in the field of Laparoscopy – popularly known as keyhole surgery. Evidence to back up his findings was requested to be removed from his website by the US Surgical General Counsel. The University of Virginia also insisted that he sever all ties between his website and themselves. As Professor Bloomfield remarks “Whistleblowers are still punished in our society and I've taken as much punishment as I can endure.” (Bloomfield)

In the autumn of 2001, Christine Pelton, a biology teacher at Piper High School, Kansas set 118 students a botany assignment. Of these, 28 handed in plagiarized projects. Ms. Pelton had warned beforehand what plagiarism was and the penalties involved. These were also part of the class syllabus the students had signed the previous September and were also contained in the school’s student handbook. As a result of their cheating the 28 students received zero marks. The student’s parents complained to both the school and its board. The school board convened a meeting and overturned Ms. Pelton’s decision. This started a chain of events that the school would rather forget. Ms. Pelton immediately resigned. Not long afterwards so did another teacher, as did Michael Adams, the school’s principal and his assistant.

Nick A. Tomasik, the District Attorney for Wyandotte County filed a civil petition against the school board for allegedly violating the state's open-meetings laws. The board also received a lot of hate mail from across the country as well as calls for resignations from parents. When the student’s grades were re-evaluated, students who hadn’t cheated found they had been penalized and their marks lowered. Other students found they were subject to taunts and mockery from students at other schools. Students and ex-students of Piper feel that they may have been “tarred with the same brush” and that they may have suffered during applications for college entry and employment. (Carlson; Lagattuta; Plagiarism Case; Trotter)

The story caused some very strange statements to be made. One boy who had plagiarized someone else’s work said that although he had copied work off of the Internet “it’s not like I copied it straight from the Web site. I changed it into two different sentences.” (Lagattuta) One parent blamed Ms. Pelton for her students cheating. “The problem in her classroom wasn’t with the students, but with the teacher,” they said. (Lagattuta)

These attitudes may serve to highlight a deeper problem. In his article about the Piper School incident Tucker Carlson quotes human performance major, Darcy Jones, at San Jose State talking about the checking for plagiarized work “it totally hurts a person’s right to choose whether or not they want to [plagiarize]” (Carlson)


Works Cited

Bloomfield, Lou. “Two Published Works on Laparoscopy” Plagiarism Resource Site. 14 July 2002. 23 Apr. 2004 http://plagiarism.phys.virginia.edu/case1/home.html The quote comes from the notes to this case and can be found at http://plagiarism.phys.virginia.edu/case1/case1notes.html

Carlson, Tucker. “Reading, Cheating and ‘Rithmetic” That’s Outrageous Readers Digest Large print edition, 26-30, July 2000

Carroll, Jude. “Plagiarism: Is There a Virtual Solution?” Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, Brookes College, Oxford University. Nov. 2000. 23 Apr. 2004 http://www.brookes.ac.uk/services/ocsd/2_learntch/plagiarism.html

“Cheating 101: Internet Paper Mills” Kembel Library, Coastal Carolina University, 1 Apr. 2004, 21 Apr. 2004 http://www.coastal.edu/library/pubs/mills2.html

Dickerson. Julie. “Cheating, Plagiarism Could be Increasing on College Campuses” North Texas Daily. University of North Texas. 25 Apr. 2003. 23 Apr 2004 http://www.ntdaily.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2003/04/25/3ea8f988a790c

“Galileo is Convicted of Heresy” This day in History -1633, History Channel, 21 Apr. 2004 http://www.historychannel.com/tdih/tdih.jsp?category=crime&month=10272956&day=10272977

Harris, Robert. “Anti-Plagiarism Strategies for Research Papers”, Virtual Salt, 7 Mar. 2002. 22 Apr. 2004 http://www.virtualsalt.com/antiplag.htm

Healy, Kieran. “Copycats” Kieran Healy’s Weblog - Social Commentary from a Sociologist. 8 May 2003. 24 Apr. 2004 http://www.kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/000409.html

Lagattuta, Bill. “Cheating in the Heartland?” 48 Hours. CBS News. 31 May 2002. 23 Apr. 2004. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/05/31/48hours/main510772.shtml

“Plagiarism Case Bedevils Kansas School” CNN Education. 19 Mar 2004. 23 Apr. 2004. http://www.cnn.com/2002/fyi/teachers.ednews/03/19/plagiarism.dispute.ap/

“Plagiarism Plague” BBC World News 7 Feb 2003. 21 Apr 2004 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2736575.stm

Plagiarism Resource Site http://plagiarism.phys.virginia.edu/ 23 Apr. 2004 – Professor Lou Bloomfield’s site.

Ruedas. Luis A. “Does This Country Need an Additional Mechanism to Combat Scientific Fraud?” 23 Apr. 2004 http://sevilleta.unm.edu/~lruedas/plagiar.html

Sabato, Larry J. “Joseph Biden's Plagiarism; Michael Dukakis's 'Attack Video' – 1988” The Washington Post 1998. 21 Apr. 2004 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/frenzy/biden.htm

Standler, Ronald B. “Plagiarism in Colleges in USA” 2000. 23 Apr. 2004. http://www.rbs2.com/plag.htm

“Technology Yields Plagiarism Bust”. CBS News 10 May 2001. 21 Apr. 2004 http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2001/05/10/tech/main290674.shtml

“Title 17, Chapter 1, Subject Matter and Scope of Copyright” US Code Collection, Legal Information Institute. 21 Apr. 2004. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/ch1.html

Trotter, Andrew. “Plagiarism Controversy Engulfs Kansas School” Education Week. 3 Apr. 2002. 23 Apr. 2004 http://www.edweek.org/ew/newstory.cfm?slug=29piper.h21

TurnItIn http://www.turnitin.com - Anti-plagiarism detection software and checking service.

“U.Va. Plagiarism Scandal Ends with 45 Dismissals”. CNN Education 26 Nov. 2002. 21 Apr. 2004. http://www.cnn.com/2002/EDUCATION/11/26/uva.plagiarism.ap/


Selected Bibliography

The sources listed below may prove interesting to people who would like to further research this subject but were not cited in this essay.

“Academic Integrity at Princeton” Princeton University 21 Apr. 2004 http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pub/integrity/index.html - The online guide to Princeton’s academic regulations for their students.

EVE http://www.canexus.com/eve/index.shtml - Anti-plagiarism detection software and checking service.

Glatt http://www.plagiarism.com/INDEX.HTM 23 Apr. 2004 - Anti-plagiarism detection software and checking service.

“Guide to Plagiarism and Cyber-Plagiarism” Library of the University of Alberta 23 Apr. 2004. http://www.library.ualberta.ca/guides/plagiarism/index.cfm - A site of resources for instructors and students.

Kirtz, Bill. “Your Thoughts Exactly – Credit Where No Credit Is Due” Talk of the Gown. Northeastern University Magazine. March 1998. 23 Apr. 2004 http://www.numag.neu.edu/9803/tog.html - An offbeat opinion on plagiarism.

LaFollette. Marcel C. "Stealing into Print" University of California Press, 1992 – covers everything from conception to publication of an idea, the abuses that can take place and how these stand in relation to ethics and the law.

MyDropBox http://www.mydropbox.com/ 23 Apr 2004 – A site that helps detect plagiarism.

Office of Student Judicial Affairs, University of California, Davis 6 Mar. 2002. 23 Apr. 2004. http://sja.ucdavis.edu/index.htm - Guide to academic and social conduct at UC Davis.

Plagiarism.org http://www.plagiarism.org/ 22 Apr 2004 – A site that helps prevent plagiarism.

Posner. Richard A. "On Plagiarism." The Atlantic Online. Apr. 2002. 21 Apr. 2004. http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2002/04/posner.htm - Shows how Shakespeare “stole” work from Plutarch which was later used by T. S. Eliot.

Shivakumar, Narayanan. "Detecting Digital Copyright Violations on the Internet" Aug. 1999. 22 Apr. 2004 http://www-db.stanford.edu/~shiva/thesis.html - How anti-plagiarism can be written. http://www-db.stanford.edu/~shiva/SCAM/plag.html shows how SCAM was used to expose a plagiarist.

Sharka. Jane. “Plagiarism Stoppers: A Teacher's Guide” Naperville Central High School. 3 Dec. 2003. 23 Apr. 2004 http://www.ncusd203.org/central/html/where/plagiarism_stoppers.html - A site of useful links to other plagiarism resources.

Stoerger, Sharon. “Plagiarism” 19 Apr. 2004. 23 Apr. 2004 http://www.web-miner.com/plagiarism - A site of useful links to other plagiarism resources.


Ray Thomas, April 2004 


Miscellany | 6 Degrees | Afghanistan | Biological Warfare | DW Canoe Race | The Donner Party | The Eastland | The Edmund Fitzgerald | K Class Submarines (Page 1), (Page 2) | McClellan | Murder | Plagiarism | Product Placement | Racial Insults | Ten Plagues of Egypt | UK & US Flags

HomePage | Optical Illusions | War Stories | QBasic | Dads Navy Days | Bristol | Bristol, USA | Bristol, Canada | Terre Haute | Miscellany | Web Stuff | About Ray | Site Map | Site Search | Messages | Credits | Links | Web Rings

This page created 25th April 2004, last modified 27th April 2005

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