The Very Definition of Plagiarism

Since I wrote my response to Canon Press’s investigation into the plagiarism in A Justice Primer, there has been a continued discussion of what constitutes plagiarism. I thought it might be useful to go over some basics. There is a very comprehensive article from Harvard University on “What Constitutes Plagiarism.” It has many helpful explanations, especially as it explains how to integrate the use of source material into your own work without plagiarizing.

Let’s start with the basic definition of plagiarism from the Harvard paper:

In academic writing, it is considered plagiarism to draw any idea or any language from someone else without adequately crediting that source in your paper. It doesn’t matter whether the source is a published author, another student, a Web site without clear authorship, a Web site that sells academic papers, or any other person: Taking credit for anyone else’s work is stealing, and it is unacceptable in all academic situations, whether you do it intentionally or by accident. (emphasis added)

That’s right, folks. Plagiarism is plagiarism whether or not it was intentional. No matter how many times people repeat the claim that the plagiarism in A Justice Primer was unintentional, it doesn’t matter.

One type of plagiarism is Verbatim Plagiarism. This would be when an author copies source material word for word without giving a proper citation. Notice that whether you put the source material in quotation marks or paraphrase it, you still have to provide “a clear citation.” Good examples of verbatim plagiarism would be the two examples of copying from Creation.com that I gave in my last article. (As a side note, it appears that Randy Booth has since taken down those two posts from his blog.)

Another interesting form of plagiarism is Mosaic Plagiarism. This would be when an author quotes or paraphrases from one or more source and doesn’t adequately cite the original material. Mosaic plagiarism would be like the chapter in A Justice Primer on Shimei that weaved material together from two sources with original material.

The Harvard article on plagiarism also covers Inadequate and Uncited Paraphrase. These would be when an author changes words somewhat but either doesn’t change them enough (inadequate paraphrase) or doesn’t cite the source material of the paraphrase (uncited paraphrase.) An example of these from A Justice Primer would be the section taken from Gary North. The original material has been paraphrased some, but a portion is still word for word, and none of it is cited.

One final type of plagiarism that I want to consider today is Uncited Quotation. The Harvard article defines it this way:

When you put source material in quotation marks in your essay, you are telling your reader that you have drawn that material from somewhere else. But it’s not enough to indicate that the material in quotation marks is not the product of your own thinking or experimentation: You must also credit the author of that material and provide a trail for your reader to follow back to the original document.

This particular type of plagiarism is very interesting to me. In my last article on the Canon Press investigation, I included an instance of this kind of plagiarism by Doug Wilson from his book, Fidelity:

mag-1

After my article ran, I read various explanations for why this was not an example of plagiarism. One said that it wasn’t plagiarism, it was simply a similarly worded translation. But last week, someone asked Doug Wilson about it on Facebook. He replied that it was not plagiarism because he put it in quotation marks. He later clarified and called it an “amplified uncited quote.”

plagiarism wilson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not exactly sure what an “amplified uncited quote” is. I’ve never heard the term before, but uncited quotation is the very definition of plagiarism. Carl Trueman commented that my last article was “a combined lesson on Basic Research Methods and Plagiarism 101.” After what I’ve read this last week, I think maybe there are many who would benefit from more instruction on research and plagiarism.

5 thoughts on “The Very Definition of Plagiarism

  1. Jennifer Grassman says:

    I’m not sure what’s more pathetic; defending Wilson’s plagiarism with the understanding that it is plagiarism, or these people who are defending his plagiarism when they clearly and sometimes even admittedly don’t know what plagiarism is.

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