March 25, 2006

Don't plagiarize.

What shortcuts are you taking now, that you might live to regret?

52 comments:

AllenS said...

I can't agree with you more. Let me add this to the discussion: What shortcuts are you taking now, that you might live to regret?

Ann Althouse said...

Some day Allen's going to get a job offer, and somebody's who's jealous is going to dig up all his skimpy blog comments and go after him.

Gerry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gerry said...

I apologize. I decided to take my comment down.

howzerdo said...

Yesterday, I caught a student in my class plagiarizing. Sadly, in my experience, it is all too common. Last semester, a front page story of the student newspaper was mostly plagiarized from a local newspaper, and I have found about 20 instances of plagiarism in the past 5 years. Students either copy directly from the internet without attribution, or hand in papers that another student wrote for class in a prior semester (even though I change the assignment and the paper no long fits the guidelines!). Maybe my zero tolerance policy is saving them from the fate of this Post columnist and blogger by teaching them a harsh lesson earlier? (Or was being caught in a class at college the reason he dropped out, I wonder?)

AllenS said...

Ann,

I was trying to be funny by plagiarizing (using your words contained in the post). Now when I look at my post, it appears like I was making fun of you. I wasn't.

Ann Althouse said...

Allen: I was trying to demostrate that I got your joke. Too deadpan of me?

Ann Althouse said...

howzerdo: May I recommend scaring the would-be plagiarizers with this story of how Domenech lost a nice job? I'll bet there are thousands of young people who need to worry that they've got the same vulnerability, and something they'd really love to achieve can be taken away from them. Their past wrongs are just lurking out there forever, waiting to be uncovered by their enemies.

Michael Farris said...

"Their past wrongs are just lurking out there forever, waiting to be uncovered by their enemies."

I sense a marketing opportunity, can you think of a tony, upscale name for arsenic?

J said...

With technology making it so easy to spot this sort of thing, it's hard to believe anybody, especially a journalist, believes they can get away with it. That said, Domenech evidently claims innocence, including a contention that an editor placed copy in a review he wrote that was lifted from another source ( http://www.humaneventsonline.com/article.php?id=13507 ). Will that defense become more or less effective over time? For example, if the writer of this article - http://news.independent.co.uk/media/article352287.ece - claimed that an editor had inserted the first sentence of his description on Instapundit after he wrote the article, I would have no trouble believing him.

Doug H. said...

I was happy to see Domenech finally take responsibility. Like J I was initially troubled by his reliance on lame excuses. It was sad to see someone in a such a level of denial.

Aspasia M. said...

People teaching at Universities have noticed a HUGE problem with plagiaring students. Like howzerdo has discussed - the cut and paste funtion is how plagiarizers operate.

We need to drive home to kids that plagiarism is theft.

Gerry said...

J-- he no longer claims innocence.

Elizabeth said...

I do all my lit grading with my computer in front of me, browser tabs open to several search engines. I can't browse the "pay for" sites, but I can spot their work because of the generally poor fit of the the paper to the assignment. A year ago, I received a paper on the short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper" full of grad-school critical vocabulary and literary history. When I confronted the second-year, 19-year-old slacker who'd submitted it, she didn't weasel out or deny responsibility, but she was shocked when I showed her a print out of the original work from a website. "I didn't know it was PLAGIARIZED; I got it from my cousin!"

We document every instance of plagiarism to the Student Judicial Office, so there's a paper trail following the student through school. It's helped as a deterrent for repeat offenses, and we can actually expel someone for repeated offenses, which is satisfying.

reader_iam said...

I used to help out friends' kids with their high school papers but won't anymore because almost inevitably I'd run into problems with their "lifting" material from internet sources. It was such a hassle trying to convince them that plagiarism is theft, and it was surprising and outright depressing to learn that a number of their parents weren't clear on where the line is. (I'm trying to be charitable here.)

It's part of a larger problem/attitude, I think. These same kids often don't think they should have to pay for music or movies, either--and, frankly, their parents too often have the same attitude. Both my husband and I have also taken flak for not letting people copy music CDS or software (unless, in the latter case, it's open source). It's amazing how often people--even businesses--balk at buying the requisite number of software licenses. They even get annoyed if you won't help them "steal" software (and get very offended if you suggest that that's what they're doing).

Kids are observant: How seriously are they going to take what we adults say about intellectual property etc. etc. etc. when so many of us are ethically challenged--even flagrantly so--on these issues?

Aspasia M. said...

I'm really shocked at how the concept of plagiarism has been "dumbed" down to a lesser offense in kids minds.

I suspect they look at a cut and paste function as different from finding a printed book and copying directly from that hard text.

Even if the original published book or essay is simply available on-line, that in some way depreciates the "theft" of the words to these students.

However, Universitites will still bring very harsh measures to bear if students are caught plagiarizing. A first offense could be flunking a class or a paper. A second offense could mean expulsion.

And for a college with a strict honor code, like Willilam and Mary or UVA - a first instance of cheating can mean expulsion from the school or being stripped of one's degree.

It's quite a serious offense, yet these students seem unaware of the possible real-world consequences of their actions.

Ricardo said...

This post seems to share a lot of similarities with the other one today on "impeachment". Both involve a dumbing down in ethical beliefs and behavior. Students seem to increasingly believe that it is permissible to copy off the internet, and voters seem to be increasingly jaded over what (if any) accountability is expected from our national leaders. How easy is it to make children listen to adults concerning "ethics" (plagiarism, song piracy off the web, etc) when the adults themselves seem to sanction, and sometimes even encourage, ethical lapses? Don't adults have a duty to demonstrate "leadership by example", before children can be expected to modify their behaviors?

Aspasia M. said...

Ricardo,

The blogger had apparently compilied an on-line collection of his published writings, many of which were thefts.

Who does something as stupid as to archive a bunch of his thefts?

When I said this out-loud, Mr. Geoduck replied, "Someone who didn't think he had done anything wrong. It was his portfolio. He thought it was ok to plagiarize. He didn't define it as plagiarism."

Yikes! I'm shocked. Are other people shocked by this?

I don't get it. This guy was a professional editor and writer. If he didn't want to be a writer - why didn't he get another job?

Ann Althouse said...

Plagiarism is much worse than theft. It's a fraudulent presentation of your own work, done for gain. It would be like copying a CD only if you also went on to claim that you had played the music on the CD yourself and were entitled to be paid for doing it. Plagiarism is wrong even when the work is in the public domain.

Ann Althouse said...

geoduck: "I don't get it. This guy was a professional editor and writer. If he didn't want to be a writer - why didn't he get another job?"

I can't even imagine wanting to use the kind material Domenech appropriated, because the joy of writing is finding the ideas and phrases in one's own mind. A plagiarist should be rejected as a writer not just because he's dishonest, but because he has revealed that he doesn't have the mind of a real writer. No one should want to spend any time reading the work of someone who isn't interested in the content and form of his own expression.

Patrick Martin said...

Am I the only one who doesn't think much of a 24-year-old being excused for misconduct when he was "younger"? The earliest allegations of plagiarism were from when he was 17... that's just 7 years ago. It's not like he's in his 30s or 40s and had long since learned his lesson and cleaned up his act.

I agree very much with howzerdo. Plagiarism is rampant in our high schools and universities. It is time for a massive crackdown throughout education, from elementary school on up.

That said, I do wish the left in general was willing to hold people on its side to the same standards they use to ravage anyone on the right.

Johnny Nucleo said...

When I was in college, nobody thought anything of buying papers. I didn't cheat, not because I was good, but because the papers on the market weren't as good as what I could write myself.

Is this surprising? When you tell a student not to cheat or plagarize, what do you appeal to? Honor. But to most kids, honor is a joke. Why should they take it seriously? What's to gain?

I don't mean to pick on Ann (being a fan) but what was the reason she gave in her admonition not to plagarize? You might get caught. But if you know you won't, or are willing to risk it, why not plagarize?

Ann Althouse said...

Althousefan: I agree that higher motives should stop people from doing wrong, but I still want other safeguards. In this case, I think we should scare the kids too. And part of teaching a sense of honor is impressing on young people how seriously other folks think about dishonor and how long the dishonor lasts.

LoafingOaf said...

So no one at William & Mary reads PJ O'Rourke? I would've spotted that immediately had I been there.

Or is it that no one read the student paper?

I've been reading a lot of Chritopher Hitchens and just happened to read his views on plagiarism last week:

"A good rule of thumb for young plagiarists starting out in life might be the one set down by George Moore. 'Taking something from one man and making it worse is plagiarism'. To 'making it worse' one could add 'or leaving it exactly the same'."

The RedState plagiarist violated both Moore's rule and Hitch's addition. He also lied after being busted, something I'm sure he's regretting as well.

ChrisO said...

Patrick Martin: You said "That said, I do wish the left in general was willing to hold people on its side to the same standards they use to ravage anyone on the right." Are you suggesting that there are rampant plagiarists in highly visible positions on the left who are not being held accountable because they're on the left? Or is this just another knee jerk swipe at the opposition that actually has nothing at all to do with the subject at hand?

Along those lines, I find it amusing that Michelle Malkin acknowleges that Doemenech is a plagiarist and has to resign, but still can't resist calling the people that exposed him "moonbats" and "sick." Jeez, she certainly is a one-note.

LoafingOaf said...

I'm looking over the evidence.

It's sad how his approach to movie reviews was to go to rottentomatoes.com and paste things together.

When I was in school I liked the idea of being a movie and music critic, too. When I realized it was too hard for me to express my feelings about art in words, I moved on.

Although I don't like a lot of this guy's politics, he seems to be better at writing about politics than about art. Perhaps if he had stuck to being a hack political writer and let go of his fantasy of being a movie critic he wouldn't have been in over his head, tempted to steal and be a phony. Or, at the very least, he should've forced himself to write his reviews before reading anyone else's.

Thing is, half the movie critics out there are copying from each other's reviews. They're not really plagiarists like this blogger, because they do put it in their own words. But it does account for why they can watch 300 movies in a year and end up with almost identical year-end Top 10 lists. The best critics, in addition to being talented writers with knowledge about the artform they're commenting on, tend to stick with their indivudual gut feelings no matter what everyone else is saying.

reader_iam said...

Plagiarism is much worse than theft. It's a fraudulent presentation of your own work, done for gain. It would be like copying a CD only if you also went on to claim that you had played the music on the CD yourself and were entitled to be paid for doing it. Plagiarism is wrong even when the work is in the public domain.

I understand the distinction perfectly well, but I feel that you're making too much of it--we're talking degrees of wrong here, and they both start from the same wrong-headedness.

They're both just plain wrong. They're both taking what's not yours. Plagiarism takes stolen material one step further, granted, but it starts with stealing something that's not yours. They're not as separate as you are presenting them in this particular comment. They are both dishonest and disrespectful. One of them is even illegal.

My point was simply that many adults are ethically challenged about what is and is not theirs for the taking. They don't seem to understand that just because they "can" doesn't mean they "should." They disrespect laws and boundaries about what is or is not theirs. Kids see this and act accordingly.

LoafingOaf said...

I find it amusing that Michelle Malkin...still can't resist calling the people that exposed him "moonbats" and "sick."

The people who exposed him did us all a favor. He was gonna be busted sooner or later. Would've been worse (for Ben as well) had it been later. And I don't think people should be surprised that he was being gone over with a fine-toothed comb. He did write some offensive things.

JimK said...

ChrisO, you need to read Malkin's post more carefully. She's right, the poeple that went after Domenech are moonbats and sickos. Did you see the crap they said BEFORE the plagiarism came to light? Or are you simply glossing over that part because it affords you a means by which to attack Malkin? You don't need to make it up, Malkin will give you a good reason 5 out of 7 days every week.

However, from where I'm sitting, it looks like you could use a mirror before you decide to criticize anyone.

howzerdo said...

Ann: good idea. I do spend (what I always think is too much, but I guess is never enough) time every semester telling students about the harsh academic penalties, but maybe adding in the future professional risks is another angle. And of course, I tell them that I hope they will not cheat simply because it is wrong, regardless of whether they are caught and punished. How I wish that alone was enough!

geoduck2: students at the university where I work can be expelled for one instance. The faculty member decides whether to fail the student on the assignment or the course - and regardless, all incidents are reported to Academic Affairs, so that there is a record, in case there is a second offense. The professor can also refer the case to Judicial Affairs, for a university-level penalty. Among the most severe: suspension, and a note of the student's transcripts. This is likely to happen to the student I just caught (who is now sending me numerous emails filled with justifications. If only he put that much effort into the original essay!)

Johnny Nucleo said...

Ann Althouse: I must come clean. I was trying to hijack the thread. I never doubted your commitment to ethics, but I saw the opportunity to use what you said to segue to my current monomania: the idea that if a critical mass of a society comes to doubt the existence of God (or the gods, or whatever), that society is doomed.

Ricardo said...

Althousefan: What if the god is money?

Johnny Nucleo said...

Ricardo: No one's god is money. People like money, because with money they can by stuff, but people don't worship money. That's just an expression. Also, very few people doubt the existence of money.

Ricardo said...

I beg to differ. Your god is what you worship and adore, and where you give your constant devotion. If you cut through the rhetoric, and really "watch" the people who spend one hour in church a week, and who then spend the rest of the week locked in a love-embrace with money, you'll see what's really going on in their hearts.

Anyway, my question was a hypothetical. What if the god of a critical mass of Americans turns out to be money? Are we doomed?

Aspasia M. said...

Is this surprising? When you tell a student not to cheat or plagarize, what do you appeal to? Honor. But to most kids, honor is a joke. Why should they take it seriously? What's to gain?

Honor. Gained or lost, I mean.

Why do people like to win in sports? For the glory. Why is it shameful to cheat at cards or sports? It's a loss of honor.

The Burr-Hamilton duel - I suppose we could argue if it was about honor - but people used to the concept of honor seriously.

Not to plagiarize a famous quote but remember this?: "Our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

Gak! Maybe I'm a romantic, but kids apparently don't see plagiarism as a loss of honor.

Ann Althouse said...

Loafing Oaf: "Thing is, half the movie critics out there are copying from each other's reviews. They're not really plagiarists like this blogger, because they do put it in their own words. But it does account for why they can watch 300 movies in a year and end up with almost identical year-end Top 10 lists. The best critics, in addition to being talented writers with knowledge about the artform they're commenting on, tend to stick with their indivudual gut feelings no matter what everyone else is saying."

Yes, it is very hard to sit through all sorts of movies and write interesting and accurate descriptions and opinions. If I see a movie, I'll usually blog about it, but I don't purport to review movies, because reviewing involves a certain discipline. It's not purely amusing. I'd do it for a good salary, and then I'd be willing to work hard at it. For blogging, I only want to reel out the insights and observations I happen to have. I still care about my writing and originality and so forth, but I'll ignore all sorts of things that belong in a review whenever they don't amuse me (such as plot descriptions, methodically identifying the characters and actors).

Johnny Nucleo said...

Ricardo: I see what you're saying, but greed is not really the worship of money; it is a manifestation of self-worship. You are your own god. You make up your own rules, and when one of your rules conflicts with your desire, you just change the rule. It's an appealing idea. One can never be wrong. And yes, I think if enough people think that way it spells doom for a society.

Johnny Nucleo said...

"Why do people like to win in sports? For the glory."

Geoduck, I agree with you, but steroid use is rampant in sports and people care less and less. And traditionally, gambling has been a criminal enterprise. The threat of violence kept things clean.

One more thing. Maybe it's apocryphal, but supposedly Clinton cheated at golf. I remember when I first heard it, I thought it was funny. I thought people who were outraged were just a bunch of squares.

Aspasia M. said...

Geoduck, I agree with you, but steroid use is rampant in sports and people care less and less. And traditionally, gambling has been a criminal enterprise.

Hmmm. My great-grandmother ran a numbers game out of the family grocery store. Gambling itself doesn't violate one's honor. Rather, it seems to me that the act of cheating damages honor.

For example - card playing doesn't damage one's honor. However, cheating while playing cards does damage one's honor.

I suppose this particular example of plagiarism really hacked me off for several reasons. Mr. Geoduck worked as a layout editor at our college newspaper. So I was really annoyed when Ben D. blamed the college editors at William and Mary for his plagiarism.

I also got a master's at the College of William and Mary. The school has a strict honor code. I'm also annoyed as an alumni of W&M.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Geoduck, I agree that gambling is not necessarily dishonorable and cheating always is.

But if someone asks, Why? and our answer is Honor, and the someone says, What the hell is Honor? what do we say? To whom or what do we appeal?

Your great-grandmother sounds cool.

Aspasia M. said...

althousefan,

But if someone asks, Why? and our answer is Honor, and the someone says, What the hell is Honor? what do we say? To whom or what do we appeal?

I see honor as related to integrity.

Integrity is a steadfast adherence to a moral or ethical code. In general these ethical codes have to do with lies, stealing or cheating others. I think one of the worst is a broken promise.

My simple ethical code:
Don't lie, cheat, or steal. And never, ever break a promise.

My great-grandmother, and her relatives, would often say:

(Insert Our Family Name) doen't break promises.

I grew up hearing this. (Our Family Name(s) doesn't lie or; (Insert Family Name (s) don't break their promises.

If any of us lied, cheated or broke a promise, it would bring shame on our family. It literally would hurt the honor of our family.


Honor is the reputation for personal integrity -- or a code of integrity.

If we deal with others without honor then our lack of integrity is revealed in public.

Your great-grandmother sounds cool.

Thanks. She was a cool lady. I guess any wedding she planned for her children was a kick. There was always card playing in the garage at the reception.

I didn't know her very well, but my father told me lots of stories about her. Her husband ran the farm and she ran the grocery store. She not only had 12 children and ran a grocery store, but before she died she was a partner in the local bank.

Being Italian, they of course made home-made wine. I've tasted my grandfather's wine, and it's not bad, especially considering that they made the wine in the Midwest.

Elizabeth said...

The appeal to honor is helped if we can illustrate the long-term consequences of shame, job loss, public exposure. Maybe I'll start showing "Shattered Glass" in my lower-level courses.

For a few semesters, I was able to use a close-to-home example, of Stephen Ambrose, whose name and reputation were well-known enough to serve as a cautionary tale. By the time his plagiarism was revealed he was professor emeritus, if I recall correctly, but by then Band of Brothers and the D-Day Museum here in New Orleans were in the public eye, so even freshmen had an idea of who he was.

I was crushed by his taint of plagiarism. I deeply respected his work, especially what he did for men of my father's generation. And ours is pretty much a podunk campus; it was heartening to have someone of his reputation there. His fall from grace reflected on us and felt like a betrayal.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Geoduck, I don't disagree with anything you said, but what I'm hinting at is the object of my current monomania.

I don't particularly want to believe in God, but I've come to the realization that intellectual consistency forces me to.

For a moral code to be anything more than mere preference, it must be transcendent. Otherwise the code is based on things like My Family Says, or Some Smart Guy Says, or We As A Society Say.

I believe honor and integrity are transcendent. But if there is no God, that's just happy talk, and they really aren't and in fact are just things I like. If someone else doesn't like them, I can't really say anything. I can fight them, foil them, but I am not "right" and they are not "wrong". We are nothing more than two opposed parties seeking self-interested goals.

If there is no God, how can we be outraged by Islamofascism? Islamofascists want one thing, we want something else. Who's to say what's better? If there is no God, what does "better" even mean? Say I like destruction and chaos. Then there's nothing more to say.

Perhaps this is the case. Perhaps there is no God. But this idea is dangerous. Intellectuals can handle it. Oddly, intellectuals believe so can everyone else. They can't. They will reject a godless morality. And something else, something we probably won't like, will take its place.

Aspasia M. said...

althousefan,

Certainly a belief in divinity can inform one's sense of honor and integrity in a helpful manner. However, people like Cicero show that a code of integrity is not dependent upon a belief in a particular religion.

Although I've always thought that a belief in the divine can be a ward against hubris. The laughter of the Gods and such.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Geoduck,

But Cicero based his ideas on stoicism. Was stoicism a religion? I think it was, but my definition is admittedly broad. Was Cicero really a stoic? I don't know, but he understood that to communicate transcendent ideals you had to base them on something. Cicero also believed in the Republic. He thought it absolutely kicked ass and was better than any game in town. It ended while he was still alive.

Aspasia M. said...

Althousefan,

Well, I'm no expert in Cicero but if the subject interest you - I'd suggest Cicero's On Moral Duties, De re publica and, in particular, the Dream of Scripio. Cicero has a concept of natural law and it appears that he believed in the divine. This belief in the Divine appears to be informed by the Roman pantheon of Gods although I'm no Cicero expert.

I wouldn't be surprised if Cicero's concept of natural law influenced Thomas Jefferson. You may be interested in what the late 18th century Englightenment Deists? The Jefferson Bible is interesting.

Ben Franklin also has interesting Deist-like things to say about religion, morality and God. His Autobiography has some sections on some of his religious thinking. Of course, Franklin did also write _To A Young Man On How To Choose A Mistress_. But we all knew Franklin was a salty character & who knows what he got up to in those French salons?

Johnny Nucleo said...

Of course Cicero believed in the the divine. We all believe in the divine. Some of us want to deny it. The word "God" scares us.

ChrisO said...

JimK

Actually, I don't have to read Malkin's posts more carefully, because I avoid her posts like the plague. I was responding to her quote in the article.

And I'm sure there were some hateful things written about Domenech, but I've read enough of his stuff to know that he traffics in snark and hatefulness. So too bad for him.

The larger issue was that the Post, in order to "balance" Dan Froomkin, who is a respected liberal journalists and columnist, brought in a guy who is a shill for the Republicans and a clear partisan with limited journalistic background. That would be like balancing Charles Krauthammer with James Carville.

Aspasia M. said...

Chris O,

Yes. James Brady appears to be an idiot.

Althousefan,

Divinity as in the Divine. If one is talking about the Roman pantheon of Gods, would it be an error to say "God?" If I am discussing a tradition of polytheism, should I use the word "God?" I'm not sure. Perhaps there was a concept of a "Zeus" or an overarching Divinity in anchient Rome.

Like I said, I'm not an expert in Cicero & I don't know enough about Roman religion. For all I know, Cicero was big into Mithras or Isis, or both. But I'm pretty sure he wasn't talking about Jehovah & the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Johnny Nucleo said...

No thinking Roman of the late republican era believed in the gods. They knew it was a load of nonsense. The stoics conception of the Divine was pantheistic.

How one conceptualizes the Divine is not my concern. I use the word "God" because in the Western Tradition that is the word we use. My point is that absent a Divine Source, morality is meaningless. That this abyss cannot be avoided is the blind spot of our intellectual class.

Bruce Hayden said...

You should add Doris Kearns Goodwin to the list of plagiarists. Apparently, she (or her research assistants) lifted a lot of material for her book on the Kennedys "The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys" which was ultimately made into a TV miniseries. Apparently, in a revision of the book, she has footnoted her sources, but still didn't put the quotes in quotes (which Forbes suggests brings it up to the Ambrose level of plagiarism).

I should note that she after taking a leave of absence for this from PBS, I am starting to see her again as a talking head - usually opining as a "presidential scholar" on Bush's weaknesses as a president (i.e. she tries to play the neutral, but invariably portrays the liberal view).

Abraham said...

My point is that absent a Divine Source, morality is meaningless. That this abyss cannot be avoided is the blind spot of our intellectual class.

You may not agree with all of its conclusions, but Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism postulates that ethics can be logically derived from observable facts about the nature of Man and the world in which he lives. Just an example.