Monday, May 04, 2009

More on the Meehan matter in Alabama

An opinion by Edward Blackwelder on the Meehan plagiarism flap in Alabama:

Nick Cenegy's article on Jacksonville State University President Bill Meehan's allegedly having plagiarized portions of his doctoral dissertation is misleading. Webster's New College Dictionary defines plagiarism as "to steal and use the ideas or writings of another as one's own." Take time to look into the accusation and you will discover that Meehan correctly cited every source included in his dissertation.

Certainly, some of the information did not originate with Meehan, this is what research is about. Dissertations consist of original research and the citing of the research of others. "Cite" is the word that prevents plagiarism. Meehan's completed work contained numerous cites.

The University of Alabama would have detected this supposed act of plagiarism when Meehan's research was presented to the appropriate university committee. One of the duties of this particular committee is to check for this, and Meehan's completed dissertation passed with flying colors.

Why does David Whetstone's civil suit over ownership of plant specimens appear in an article entitled, "JSU president accused again of plagiarism in lawsuit"? This is mixing apples with oranges. I imagine Whetstone did most of his "collecting" while on the job. There is ample case law "citing" ownership to the university in a case such as this. Check it out, cites and all.

A comment to the Anniston Star on 4 May 09-->

Mr. Blackwelder is correct that proper citation distinguishes research from plagiarism [defined at Southern Illinois University ["SIU"] as presenting existing work as one's own, without incorporating intent ("stealing") and without excluding self-plagiarism ("of another")]. The Poshard matter at SIU informs two other aspects of Mr. Blackwelder's comments. First, the Ph.D. committee at SIU did not catch what were later found to be numerous examples of plagiarism. Second, to be valid, a citation must be used in such a way that a reasonable reader is able to recognize copied text. Merely referencing a prior text "somewhere" in the thesis is not sufficient. The Wendler matter at SIU illustrated the perils of self-plagiarism, with the Churchill matter at CU adding the twist of ghost-writing to self-plagiarism

Lawrence B. Ebert

See also

Another university president accused of plagiarizing his Ph.D. thesis


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