1. The Byzantine Bandit
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    The Byzantine Bandit Member

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    Plagiarism?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by The Byzantine Bandit, May 28, 2013.

    So I wrote this small (1-page-ish) pass/fail paper during last fall semester. In it I included an interpretation of a poem from G.K. Chesterton, which interpretation I had asked for on a forum (I think it might have been before I even knew about the assignment). I didn't site that forum thread, but it seems like I should have been able to arrive at the same conclusion as was reached in the forum. So would this count as plagiarism? Thanks!
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    But you didn't. That's a supposition. Perhaps not technical plagiarism, but you definitely sold someone else's idea as your own.

    (Not judging. God knows I pulled some academic shenanigans to make it through some tediously mind-numbing classes)
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    This is one of those situations in which the very fact that you feel the need to ask the question suggests that you already know the answer.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Depends how you worded it. What research do we do that doesn't look at the conclusions of others? I mean, if students look at Spark Notes, did they cheat or did they learn something? I learn more from Spark Notes than I've ever learned from my high school teachers who were trying to teach me that stuff.*


    *Or I just care more now. ;)
     
  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you copy pasted the answer from the forum into your paper, then it is plagiarism. Otherwise it isn't.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I don't agree, jazzabel. If I read a critique and then passed a paraphrase of that critique off as my own work, I think that's plagiarism. It may not be enough to put you on the hook for damages (given the OP's paraphrase of the "inevitable discovery" argument), but it definitely walks like plagiarism and quacks like plagiarism.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Isn't there a continuum between a fresh summary and a paraphrased summary and what specifically divides the two?
     
  8. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    The rules of academia quite clearly define what exactly plagiarism is. From reading OP's question, I didn't get an impression that it is plagiarism, but obviously, unless we actually read his work and the original, we can not be sure.
     
  9. Anthony Martin
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    Anthony Martin Active Member

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    Can you sleep at night? When you look into the mirror each morning, are you looking at a plagiarist? :D

    I don't think this can be classified as plagiarism in any specific, punishable sense of the word. But that doesn't make it right.
     
  10. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    I'm sorry, but most of the above answers are wrong.

    In the academic world, what you did is a clear case of plagiarism. It does not matter whether you "should have been able to" come up with the same ideas yourself. You didn't. You took someone else's work, and passed it off as your own. It doesn't matter if you rephrased the entire piece into all your own words. If you didn't give credit for the ideas to the person that originated them, then you in fact, stole them. Sorry to be so harsh, but that is the reality. For more help in this area, read the Turabian Style Guide (7th edition), 7.9; the Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition) 4.85 has a small section on it, though it's more for "fair use" policy, which is not the same as plagiarism in an academic setting.

    In short, ask these three questions:

    1. Is what you're writing completely your own ideas? (Not ideas you could have come up with yourself, DID you come up with all of them?) Yes? Then your fine. No? Move on to the next question.

    2. Are the concepts or ideas already so well known that anyone who is in the field you're writing about should already have knowledge of those concepts? Yes? No reason to cite. No? Move on to the next question.

    3. Were your ideas or thoughts spawned by reading what someone else wrote, and are you using what they said or wrote as a foundation for your work? Yes? Then you must cite.

    From what you've written above, the answer to those questions for you is No, no, and Yes. Thus, you plagiarized someone else's work and in any class I teach, would have been docked/failed for it. Remember, the above is only for plagiarism dealing with ideas in an academic setting, not actual words.


    Again - this is NOT the same as "fair use" when it comes to publishing. In the academic world, you cannot use someone else's idea without giving them credit. You must cite.
     
  11. b3av3r
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    b3av3r Member

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    I agree with Scrubb

    It is not just the words/phrases/sentences/etc. that can be plagiarized in this situation. Someone gave you an idea, and you passed that idea off as your own. I am assuming the assignment asked for your interpretation of the poem instead you turned in the forum's interpretation of the poem. There is probably no way to ever prove this so just use this as a lesson for future assignments.
     
  12. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @ec scrubb: Look, I finished medical school and I wrote loads of papers, essays reports etc. I have many years of experience with making sure what I write is not recognised as plagiarism. Every single thing I know about medicine, comes from a book. How do you write a paper? Do you reference every single sentence you ever make, because, you didn't think of any of it by yourself, you learned it somewhere. I appreciate that there is a difference between courses, but generally, plagiarism refers to specific words and to an extent ideas, attributable to an academically reputable source.

    Asking people or friends on an internet forum what they thought of a poem, and someone random saying something that makes you go "I get it!" and then including it in the discussion in your essay most definitely does NOT constitute academic plagiarism, rather, it is a result of discussion. If that was considered plagiarism, normal communication, study, scientific development, could not be happening, because everybody would be suing everybody for just speaking! You could never include what someone said, in a dialogue, for example. It's just not how it is.

    Do you give answers on this forum believing that you will be credited in people's work? I don't. Once I put something up here, I assume people will use it as they see it. Anything else is just misunderstanding the term plagiarism. You can believe this or not, it's entirely up to you.
     
  13. The Byzantine Bandit
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    The Byzantine Bandit Member

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    This might change things. I'm hopefully meeting with my advisor for the program soon, so we can clear things up.


    And for the record, the poem+interpretation were mostly as a lead-in and not the actual subject of the paper, if I remember correctly.
     
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @jazzabel - I think we need to remember that there is a difference between a research paper, in which the goal is to discover and compile existing factual knowledge, and a critical essay in which is the goal is to develop and express one's own original ideas on a literary work.
     
  15. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @ed: I am aware they are different, however, however, there's no way anyone can go through any degree or a subject, referencing everything that might have been said, informally, by someone, at some time, in fear of being accused of plagiarism. You reference recognised sources, opinions attributable to a specific person who is academically relevant, otherwise, you are developing your skills and learning, and occasionally borrowing opinions from friends, girlfriend, internet forum, etc.
    In any case, whenever in doubt, ask the teacher.
     
  16. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    I understand what you're saying, and am in a similar position. I'm in the middle of a research program myself. I've both taken, and taught courses. I'm also a style reader for a doctoral program. What I gave above is exactly the requirements expected. Yes, when you write a paper, if the idea is not yours, and it is not in the general realm of understanding for your field, it must be credited to its source, or it is plagiarism. I can't tell you the number of times I've caught it, even once in a Th.M./Ph.D. seminar from another student, and it was addressed straight away by the professor. Also, what I'm presenting is not my opinion. It's common standards for research oriented work, of which, the OP's work would be included.

    Here's the Purdue University help file on this:

    USF on the subject:
    I could list a hundred more, and they all say the same. If the idea is not yours, and it is not a very basic idea in your field. It is plagiarism.
     
  17. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Ah, dang... sorry for the double post.
     
  18. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am aware of the definition, and I agree with its spirit. However, in terms of "info obtained from another person in a telephone or similar conversation" is open for interpretation. So, if I speak with an expert, or another who is engaged in the same study, and they have a new opinion to offer, and I steal that opinion, and have no evidence of how I arrived at it while they do and can damn me in front of my peers then yeah, that's plagiarism. However, the OPs question involves something very different, so my opinion remains the same, what he did is not plagiarism, although I am sure you can play the devil's advocate, as can I. Ultimately, everyone can decide for themselves based on their conscience, and if uncertain, check with a teacher.
     
  19. J♥Star
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    J♥Star Member

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    I agree with what you've said in this thread, and I have always thought plagiarism could get pretty interesting. For example, if my philosophy of religion instructor tells me to write an argument against the existence of a god. Imagine that I am completely clueless as to current arguments against gods existence and I end up saying that "god doesn't exist because all of the evil in the world." Now, this argument would be very original to me if I had no clue about the current "problem from evil arguments." But my philosophy instructor would most likely tell me that this isn't an original argument and has been said many times. what I'm getting at (the part I find interesting) is that a professor may consider my work plagiarism because he believes that I took another persons idea, when this idea came straight from my mind, and was completely original to me. In the end, I'm really not sure how to end a problem like this. Do we keep looking at books or Google arguments to see if someone else has said the same thing? I was actually writing a paper, and this happened. I thought to myself "hmm this argument sounds too good, maybe i should research and see if anyone else has said the same thing." Even if I did find something (not sure if i actually did or not) would it be wrong for me to leave it in as my own? I don't think it is, because the argument was original for me and I haven't been (at least to my knowledge) exposed to such an argument.
     
  20. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that technically, that argument is well known in the study of the subject, so it wouldn't be a problem, however, you raise an interesting point. Same as people writing here that they read exact sentences or passages they wrote, in someone else's published novel. Plagiarism is a very useful moral and ethical concept and it guides us. It isn's supposed to terrify, make us question ourselves in unhelpful ways, it is not a Spanish inquisition or a trick question. Plagiarism is a deliberate rip off of someone else's intellect and words, and used purposefully, concealed purposefully, and involving the greatest part of your work. Such as, finding someone's thesis on the same topic on the internet, copy pasting it and submitting as your own. Also, in scientific circles, new breakthroughs are so lucrative that any kind of rip off is judged harshly, same as industrial espionage. But that is easily checkable, against the progress notes which should document how you came to your conclusions, But that is all quite different from discussing a poem.
    Academia wants to protect against deliberate dishonesty and theft of intellectual property, and have included the clauses on "other media" and electronic communication because of the internet, not to prevent us from discussing things informally with others in order to gain understanding.
     
  21. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Actually, I pretty much agree with everything you say here. The only caveat is that if the person you're talking to expresses a new idea that you haven't thought of before, it needs to be footnoted (or sourced, depending on your style). One other place I'd disagree a bit . . . in some respects it is pretty much like the Spanish Inquisition. I have a buddy in my program that was accused of plagiarism in front of the rest of the seminar. Why? Because if this was the original sentence: "The remainder of the Hagola determined to withdraw from the People of the Land, in accord with the Torah," what he wrote was, "Of all the returnees, those who remained withdrew from the surrounding nations according to the law of Moses."

    The wording was too close, even had three words that were the same and in the same order, though they were spread through the sentence. That is the type of plagiarism that frustrates me, because it is often inadvertent. I've even caught myself committing this kind. I'll go back and check on a source, and realized that after I've edited my paper two or three times, I've written back into the sentence a few of the original words. The other problem here is when you read something, and then forget where you read it, or that you read it at all.

    I can't tell you how many hours I've spent going back through monographs and books trying to find where I picked up ideas. It's frustrating as all get-out.
     
  22. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    If it was me, I'd go in and plead Mea Culpa. Just tell him that I bounced the ideas off other people, then used their feedback in the paper and after the fact, I realized that I should have cited it.

    The question I have now is how does the advisor know about it? Did you get caught, or did you bring it up to him/her?
     
  23. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @ec scrub: You know, just because someone claims something is plagiarism, it doesn't actually automatically mean they are not wrong. Any rule can can be misinterpreted, accidentally or deliberately. It sounds like you have a difficult person to deal with, who will use the literal word of the law like a pedant, in order to make his student's life unnecessarily difficult. But you are right to be careful and try your best to not give him or her an excuse to bother you.
    With your friend, if the original is a citable (like a reference text of any kind) then I can see how they can flag it up because it expresses the same thought. I wouldn't condone any kind of witch hunt though, they could just ask him to put in the reference. It's the learning process after all, not Spanish inquisition :D
     
  24. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Alright, let's agree that it's the Baptist inquisition. ;)

    (it's a Ph.D. program at a baptist school).
     
  25. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agreed :D
     

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