Sunday, October 14, 2007

Page 54 of the Poshard Ph.D. thesis: a real problem as to plagiarism

The August 30, 2007 edition of the SIUDE contained side-by-side comparisons of the Poshard Ph.D. thesis to earlier published texts.

One troubling example appears on page 54 of the Ph.D. thesis, which appears in Poshard's "summary" of the prior art, which "summary" one would expect to be in Poshard's own words. Most of the words of the summary on page 54 come from a 1975 book by James Gallagher, which does appear in the bibliography (see page 108 of the thesis), but the words do not appear in quotation marks AND there is no footnote to Gallagher on page 54. Sadly, Poshard copied from a "summary" section of Gallagher's book.

The thesis cites Gallagher's 1975 book at footnote 4 on page 15 of the Poshard Ph.D. thesis. Footnote 36 at page 41 of the Poshard thesis also is directed to Gallagher's book, and appears to be the closest (preceding) footnote to the copied text appearing at page 54. With a gap of 13 pages, no reasonable reader would understand that the text at page 54 derives from Gallagher's 1975 book.

Given that Poshard does acknowledge the 1975 book and copies from it without attribution, this example would likely be one both of plagiarism and of copyright infringement. There would likely not be a credible "independent creation" defense.

The SIU committee report does not get into the details of Poshard's copying Gallagher on page 54 of the thesis. At pages 7-8 of the committee report, the committee ruled out intentional plagiarism based on Poshard's own account presented in a meeting with the committee. The committee does not delve into details. How a "summary" from Gallagher's 1975 book materialized in a "summary" in Poshard's 1984 thesis is not explained. Apart from the copying issue, there is a substantive issue. The thesis is about how things changed between 1977 and 1983 (Poshard Ph.D. thesis, page 4). If the "summary" of the 1984 thesis is copied from a 1975 book, how is the summary capable of addressing changes that happened between 1977 and 1983?


The SIUDE on Oct. 15 (in an article Poshard wants plagiarism procedures) has the following quote:

Gerald Nelms, an English professor, also reviewed the dissertation at Poshard's request and he said none of the 40 "infractions" he found constituted plagiarism.

"I concluded that really there was no evidence of any academic dishonesty whatsoever," he said.

IPBiz invites Professor Nelms to explain why the copying of Gallagher's material on page 54 of the Poshard thesis is not plagiarism. Page 54 of the Poshard thesis contains text copied from an earlier book by Gallagher (which book appears in Poshard's bibliography) which text does not appear in quotation marks (or in indentation)and which page bears no footnote to Gallagher. Further, because page 54 appears in a section summary, which purports to be a summary by the thesis author, the reader would believe the summary to be in the words of the author Poshard. In the absence of an explanation from Nelms, Nelms assertion is not deemed credible.

One can read the Nelms analysis [IPBiz has saved a pdf copy to avoid any possible Sikahema effects]. Nelms never mentions page 54, as far as IPBiz can see. Again, Nelms is invited to comment on the uncited, unblocked, unquoted material on page 54.

See also Our Word: The 'P' word

***Some previous IPBiz posts


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