5.0814 Rs: Plagiarism (2/412)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Fri, 3 Apr 1992 12:05:50 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0814. Friday, 3 Apr 1992.

(1) Date: Thu, 2 Apr 92 18:37:38 MST (377 lines)
From: hexham@acs.ucalgary.ca (Irving Hexham)
Subject: Re: 5.0806 Rs: More on Plagiarism

(2) Date: Thu, 02 Apr 92 17:51 PST (35 lines)
Subject: RE: Plagiary

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 92 18:37:38 MST
From: hexham@acs.ucalgary.ca (Irving Hexham)
Subject: Re: 5.0806 Rs: More on Plagiarism (3/161)

On Plagiarism and Integrity in Scholarly Activity


Irving Hexham

It is, I believe, very important that the
scholarly community gives a very clear and unambiguous
definition of plagiarism. To apply undergraduate
standards to established academics is clearly foolish.
Any plagiarist who has obtained a Ph.D. is clearly
skilled at covering their tracks.

The academic plagiarist is like the successful
embezzler. A bank clerk who takes $100,000 for one
account is clearly likely to be caught fairly quickly.
Therefore, the professional embezzler steals $100 from
1,000 accounts over a ten year period on the assumption
that few people will miss $10 a year and that it is
possible to disguise such transactions so that should
one be discovered it looks like a genuine mistake or
appropriate bank charge.

Established academics who plagiarize are unlikely
to copy an entire book. Instead they will take
paragraphs from many books while at the same time
providing false leads which make their borrowings look
like genuine mistakes or poor footnoting. In checking
various writers works I have found the following
techniques used to disguise plagiarism. I am not
providing specific examples at this time because I am
unsure of the legal implications of posting them on a
computer network.


1. Straight plagiarism: where only capitalization and
sentence structures are changed and the odd word
is added or deleted. The minor change in
wording, changed capitalization, sentence
structure and other visible features alter the
appearance of the passage giving the appearance
that it is original work.

2. Plagiarism using a citation: from the real author
while making minor changes to the text without
using either quotation marks or footnotes.

Such examples are usually found when an author
begins by saying "Dr. X, brilliantly observes..."
But, although the wording is identical with Dr.
X's work no quotation marks are used and no
reference is given.

3. Simple plagiarism using a footnote: which makes
minor changes to a text while providing a
reference but failing to use quotation marks when
academic rules for citation demand their use.

These cases often read: "In an insightful article
Dr. Y argues..." The argument is then given in
almost exactly the same words that are used in the
source. In this case the correct reference is
given but no quotation marks are used in the text
when they ought to have been used.

4. Complex plagiarism using a footnote: where various
change and paraphrasing, from more than one page,
is used with a footnote but without appropriate
quotation marks.

For example: a reference is given, although it may
not be to exactly the correct page, and many words
and phrases are taken from the original text.
Paraphrasing is used to condense lengthy
arguments. But, little or no indication is given
that the passage is paraphrase nor are quotation
marks used when needed. Another technique found
in this type of plagiarism is a deliberate attempt
to change the appearance, but not contents, of the
sentences, thus making the plagiarism less

4. Plagiarism using misleading quotations: where the
effect is to give a false impression of the nature
of the citation used.

For example by quoting a secondary source which in
turn quotes a primary source so that the reader is
led to believe that the quotation represents the
words of the original author. This form of
plagiarism usually occurs when the primary source
appears in a language other than English. Thus
someone appears to be quoting from a Latin text
which they seem to indicate is quoted by their
source when, in fact, they are quoting the source
itself and not the Latin text found in that

Because this is difficult to explain, and
sometimes to spot, I will give a another example.
Once I read a book which appeared to quote a
Buddhist text found in one of Edward Conze's
works. When I read Conze I found that the
quotation used by the plagiarist was not the
Buddhist text as his footnote implied but Conze's
comment on the text.

6. Paraphrasing as plagiarism: paraphrasing
without reference to the original and extensive
paraphrasing, even when the source is mentioned,
is plagiarism although it may be very difficult to
prove. Legitimate paraphrasing takes place where
the source is acknowledged, when the practice does
not dominate a writer's work, and where it is done
to interact critical with a person's views in
dialogue, not simply expound them.

When a chapter contains an introductory and
closing paragraph written by an author followed by
other paragraphs which are all paraphrased from
other people's work then the chapter is
plagiarized. A further indication of plagiarism
is when a paraphrased passage appears to expound
the work of a major author although the footnotes
refer to secondary sources.

For example, if a writer appears to be expounding
the views of Kant but is really paraphrasing the
interpretation of Kant given by writers like
Stephan Krner and Norman Kemp Smith then
plagiarism has occurred even though the footnotes
may refer to the paraphrased works. The
plagiarism can be clearly seen when some of the
footnotes refer to the original text, e.g. Kant,
but are, in fact, taken from the paraphrased
works. In practice many plagiarists give
themselves away by using many of the actual words
found in their sources and by copying mistakes,
especially in footnotes, from the works they use.

7. Self-plagiarism: must be distinguished from the
recycling of one's work which to a greater or
lesser extent everyone legitimately does. Self-
plagiarism occurs when no indication is given that
the work is being recycled and where a clear
effort has been made, through changing the
paragraph breaks, capitalization, and the
substitution of English with foreign terms, to
cause the reader to believe they are reading
something completely new.

The extent of the re-cycling is also an indication
of self-plagiarism. Republishing one's Ph.D.
thesis in a revised form is expected of academics.
To republish the same material in a misleadingly
changed but unrevised, and unacknowledged, form in
two books and to further publish articles which
reprint material found in the books and thesis as
though the articles contain new work and are thus
worthy of merit is the type of self-plagiarism
which should be condemned.

In some institutions self-plagiarism may not be a
problem but at others the existence of a merit
system makes it an issue. To gain merit
increments two or three times for the same work is
clearly unjust. Finally, the existence of
extensive self-plagiarism with evidence of other
forms of plagiarism may be proof of a deliberate
attempt to fool colleagues in the other case too.

Some people argue that self-plagiarism is by
definition impossible. They argue that because
plagiarism is theft a person cannot steal from
their own work. But, this is not correct in law.
There are circumstances, insurance fraud,
embezzlement, etc. where it is possible to steal
from oneself.


In judging that an author plagiarizes care must be
taken to ensure that careless mistakes, printing errors
etc. are not used against an innocent person. Further,
it is necessary to recognize "common usage" and the
nature of the writing itself. I also believe that it
is probably impossible to prove plagiarism when only
ideas, and not actual words, as suspected of having
been plagiarized.

For example many basic textbooks contain passages
which come very close to plagiarism as do dictionary
articles. In most cases the charge of plagiarism would
be unjust because there are a limited number of way in
which a short article or text can comment on a well
known event like the outbreak of the French Revolution
or birth of St. Augustine and, in the case of
dictionary, newspaper and similar types of article,
space does not allow for the full acknowledgement of
sources or the use of academic references.

The intent of the writer should also be
recognized. For example in the early years of this
century the German author Karl May was accused of
plagiarism because his adventure stories contained
descriptions of landscapes and urban settings which
were clearly culled from travel books. May did not
deny this but simply argued that to judge his works as
plagiarized because he borrowed a description in which
to set his story was to totally misunderstand the
function of the storyteller. Someone spinning a yarn
may borrow freely if they reuse the original material
in such a way that the final product is not dependent
on what has been borrowed to create the setting.

It therefore seems necessary to distinguish
between academic and other types of writing and to ask
what is the reader led to believe the author is doing.
If a book contains academic footnotes, is written in
academic style, and is presented as a work of
scholarship then it must be judged as such and measured
against the accepted rules for citation found in
sources such as the Chicago Manual of Style.

An academic author who gives the impression that
they are following standard procedures, by their use of
footnotes etc., when they are actually borrowing the
words and ideas of others without appropriate
references or quotation marks is plagiarizing. This
must be made absolutely clear in any statement on
plagiarism issued by scholars.

For example I recently found an author who said
that A.J. Ayer described someone as "a mere rhetorician
and literary gadfly whose ideas" were not to be taken
seriously. The reference given was: A.J. Ayer,
Wittgenstein, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1984, p.
159. In fact, when I checked, A.J. Ayer said nothing
of the sort. His book was published in London by
Weidenfeld and Nicolson in 1985 and contained only 155
pages. Clearly, the author I was reading was
plagiarizing another author, whom I quickly located
from the books footnotes, who had made the original

It should be added that one important evidence
that plagiarism has taken place is when mistakes found
in secondary texts appear in works which claim to be
using primary sources. For example in two books on
Indian religion by the same author I found references
to the Rig Veda which read "RV." and "RV." when in fact they ought to have read "RV.
10.125.3" and "RV. 10.114.8." In this case the source
of the error was a printing mistake in an article
published by John Arapura, "Language and Phenomena,"
Canadian Journal of Theology, XVI, 1970, p. 43. The
fact that Arapura was the source of the mistake is
clear from the fact that in both books where it
occurred page 44 of Arapura's article is cited in the
same section as the references to the Rg Veda!

Although nobody familiar with the Rg Veda ought to
have made such a simple mistake even here one has to
allow that perhaps the author was writing under
pressure and, although he knew the original source,
took a short cut because he did not have a copy of the
Rg Veda at hand when writing. But, when this mistake
is compounded in other passages by the repetition of
the exact words and phrases found in other authors
works without the use of appropriate quotation marks
etc. it seems certain that deliberate plagiarism has
taken place.

I recognize that most academics find it very hard
to believe that some of their colleagues deliberately
plagiarize. While this attitude reflects well on the
basic honesty of most scholars it reflects badly on
their willingness to check footnotes and compare works
they read against other works and source material.
Since I became sensitive to the abuse of scholarship
through plagiarism, because I experienced a situation
where abuse of scholarship by a recognized scholar
occurred, I have regularly carried out random checks
against both footnotes and passages which simply look

To my horror I have discovered that while most
academics are very honest a small minority abuse the
trust of their colleagues. These individuals appear to
have a complete contempt for academic values. I can
only assume that they are motivated by greed and
ambition. Knowing that scholarship depends on a degree
of trust they realize that most readers will assume
their basic honesty and that scholars lack the time and
motivation to check everything they read. Therefore,
they plagiarize confident that they are unlikely to be
caught. They also know that, even if plagiarisms are
discovered in their work they can usually be explained
away as careless note taking due to the pressure they
are under in their work. Clearly, both scholars and
editors are not doing a very good job in detecting
cases of academic dishonesty.

Finally, I want to draw attention to the following
works which deal with this issue:

Michael Meyer, The Little, Brown Guide to Writing
Research Papers, Boston, Little, Brown and Company.

Frederick Crews, The Random House Handbook, New York,
Random House, 1984.

Edward P. Bailey, Jr., Philip A. Powell, Jack M.
Shuttleworth, Writing Research Papers: A Practical
Guide, New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Donald E. Miller, Barry Jay Seltser, Writing and
Research in Religious Studies, Englewood Cliffs,
Prentice Hall, 1991.

Ralph D. Mawdsley, Legal Aspects of Plagiarism,
Kansas, National Organization on Legal Problems of
Education, 1985.

Irving Hexham,
Department of Religious Studies,
University of Calgary,
Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2N 1N4.

Tel. 403-220-5886
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------38----
Date: Thu, 02 Apr 92 17:51 PST
Subject: RE: Plagiary

The most recent communication on plagiarism concentrates on lying.
There is also simple theft. When a high-ranking professor is accused
up an down the USA for having lifted many paragraphs of her wor, accused
by another eminence in the field, and when this professor is not
castigated, not examined, not made an example in a large an important
department, but is instead recommended for promotion as an
international authority, the case being set aside, one learns, by the
ad hoc committee as not directly relevant to the promotion to 75K$/year,
and then more promotion the year following, and then when the Dean and
the higher authorities pass over it, and when the professor comes back,
after a year in purdah abroad, or so one presumes, and comes back
swinging, to dominate hiring choices and bully others in general,
because approved an backed, after a mingy apology in the journal in
question that doesnt ask for pardon for plagiary, but simply says, in
effect, I mixed up my notes (as the late Alex Haley did for his mil-
lions of $ ROOTS fraud), then am I to recommend to bright students to
come and do graduate work here? Professors have nothing left to fear in
the USA, since they are not bothered for much in the way of their sexual
mores, not hounded or shamed, nor should they be, nor bothered for their
failures to serve this and that in the profession, nor even bothered
much for lack of production, not de-merited. But we do have one thing
left to us in this profession without respect in the university, I mean
the Humanities: we have our scholarly integrity togu ard with some eye
to honor. But no...outright theft is condoned and here rewarded. It
was a stupid thing to have done, some say, deploring. Stupid is what a
professor should not be, when it comes to copying another's text and
publishing it in a scholarly review as one's own, not the whole text, to
be sure, but enou gh to outrage the victim, who presented evidence, made
threats, wrote the Chair and the Dean and made a stink...to no
avail...so far. I myself care not to recommend my own school to others
now. I am, well, shamed, and ashamed. After a lifetime. All we have
left is gone, our honor. Well fancy that, and imagine her falling on
her/my sword? no way. It is serious. But then again, it is not. We
are nothing anymore, diminished, since we are not quite islands, eh?
Kessler @ ucla