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Is It Plagiarism or
Susan Dunn, MA Clinical Psychology, The EQ Coach
Plagiarism is derived from the
Latin plagiarius ("kidnapper"), and
refers to a kind of intellectual theft defined as "the false
authorship, the wrongful act of taking the product of another
mind, and presenting it as one's own." (Alexander Lindey,
According to Gordon Harvey, Harvard Univ. Expository Writing
"In academic writing
(unlike everyday speech), all language, information, and ideas
not the writer's own are scrupulously attributed to their original sources. Knowledge
never stands alone. It
builds upon and plays against the previous knowledge of previous
knowers and reports, whom scholars call "sources." These are not, in a scholarly paper,
the source of your particular argument (you are), but rather
persons or documents that
help you arrive at your argument. They are sources of information that you interpret; of
ideas that you support, criticize, or develop; of vivid language
that you quote and analyze."
When you do a research paper
in college, for instance, first
you go back and read what everyone else has said about your
topic. Then you draw some conclusions, make some new
points, and - the point of it all - hopefully advance the
field of knowledge. You mention who said what and when, as
a way of history, and then you move forward, attributing to
those who went before you. Or you make a statement and use
data from writers and researchers to back it up.
Not to plagiarize is an agreement among scholars. "Academic
discourse communities," says The Plagiarism Tutorial, Texas
agree to refer scrupulously to one another's writings and
research findings by placing borrowed terms and phrases in
quotation marks, and by explicitly linking quoted materials
to [those who wrote or said them].
UC Davis calls it The Art of Mastering Scholarship, and has
excellent definition here: http://sja.ucdavis.edu/avoid.htm
When you plagiarize, you ultimately cheat yourself. To
quote the Portland School system, "the purpose of collecting
information is to create your own thoughts and ideas around
the information you have read and taken notes over. If you
copy someone else's words, you are not forming your own
thoughts and creative style."
IS IT AGAINST THE LAW?
I like Ron Shook's comment in
this regard, because it's kind
of a gray area. We know copyright violation is against the
law. Plagiarism, on the other hand, says Shook, "is moral
outrage. It is certainly true that a plagiarist can commit
copyright infringement. But what happens when for instance,
I lift wholesale information that is either in the public
domain or which has had the copyright lapse? I'm
plagiarizing but not infringing on a copyright. In those
cases, the objection is moral/ethical rather than legal."
This question is being tossed around on one of my lists. I
think it's a matter of, well, Emotional Intelligence - how
you conduct your life when only answerable to yourself, and
how you respect others. Laws are enacted when people fail
to do what's right -- watch what's going to come up with
cell phones shortly. And everything that's legal to do
isn't the right thing to do.
Use your Emotional Intelligence. If you're saying what
someone else said, quote them. How can you know for sure
where the line is? Take The EQ Foundation Course(c) and
develop your intuition, your ability to know things without
knowing how you know them. When in doubt, err on the side of
caution and attribute. It's the right thing to do.
"Can I get sued for doing it?" is not the question to ask.
"Is this the right thing to do?" is. Check out the Legal
Information Institute's overviews of copyright laws and
This mandate to document sources fairly and accurately is
unique to academic writing. At CoachVille, for instance, or
for articles on ideamarketers.com, or in much business
writing, no documentation of a 'fact' is required.
About the Author
©Susan Dunn, MA, internet marketing coaching,
web strategies and web design, article-writing,
ghost-writing. http://www.webstrategies.cc . For eBooks on marketing, go