Friday, January 11, 2008

Does plagiarism require intent?

Following along the lines of the "inadvertent plagiarism" strategy of Glenn Poshard, the lawyers for Bhavin Mehta in the Ohio U case put on a witness who stated plagiarism requires "intent":

Mehta's attorneys, Fred Gittes and Barbara Terzian, called Patrick Scanlon, a faculty member at the Rochester Institute of Technology and an expert on technical writing and plagiarism, to testify. Scanlon said there is a generally accepted definition of plagiarism, which he defined as "deliberate use of someone else's ideas or expression of ideas as if they were their own."

In order to identify plagiarism, Scanlon testified, "intent is essential."

When asked by Terzian what kinds of issues should raise concerns for an adviser when reading student theses, Scanlon identified three things. Faculty members might recognize unattributed text, a sudden and marked change in writing style and inconsistencies in the document that might suggest cutting and pasting.
[from Athens Messenger]

IPBiz notes that the "issues that raise concerns" would not, under the Scanlon formulation, prove plagiarism; one would have to prove intent. Glenn Poshard has already demonstrated how to remove intent from the table.

IPBiz notes that the Mehta strategy does differ from the Poshard strategy. Poshard argued that there were no standards (at the time of his thesis), which strategy might have been available to Mehta but which they don't seem to be using. IPBiz is not clear that Mehta is arguing the right points.

But the position of Ohio U isn't all that coherent either:

Dennis Irwin, dean of the Russ College of Engineering, testified that he disagreed with the definition of plagiarism used by the former student who discovered the plagiarism. In response to questions from Gittes, Irwin also confirmed that in an e-mail to OU Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl, he stated "very serious concerns" about the Meyer-Bloemer report and argued that it was wrong to release it. Gary Meyer and Hugh Bloemer had been asked by the university to investigate the plagiarism allegations.

This case is a mess, but Ohio U. appears to have problems.



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