Sunday, January 11, 2009

Inadvertent plagiarism, again

In a discussion about plagiarism by one Neale Donald Walsch, one sees "inadvertent plagiarism" (remember Glenn Poshard?):

A second explanation, which has since been removed, appeared on Jan. 8, citing a study on inadvertent plagiarism that describes a memory phenomena causing people to remember experiences that did not happen to them or the words of another as their own.

Lead researcher David McCabe, a psychology professor at Colorado State University, said inadvertent plagiarism was a possibility in this case.

"Most people think of memory as sort of a video camera or tape recorder, where memory is more reconstructive," he said. "You know that maybe some information comes to mind about an event and then we start filling in the details."

The more similar an event is to a person's real life, the more likely he would be to inadvertently copy or internalize it and forget the real source, McCabe said.

Anderson Smith, a psychology professor at Georgia Institute of Technology who published the research along with McCabe, declined to comment directly on the case.

Inadvertent plagiarism is more likely to occur in older adults, he said, but plagiarized material more than a paragraph long is very unlikely to be copied by accident, he said.

"If there's a long passage, from a paragraph up, then it's almost impossible that that could be inadvertent plagiarism," he said.

Walsch said he did not have enough scientific background to respond to opponents of the theory.


**ALSO, Southern Utah University (SUU) writes:

While vowing to avoid cheating, lying and stealing in a pledge is fine and dandy, research has shown no connection between honor codes and less cheating.

Rutgers University researcher Donald McCabe presented his findings at SUU last semester and after years of research said he could find no difference in the academic honesty at schools with honor codes and those without.

If student leaders want to reduce disparity between what is taught in different classes then a pamphlet explaining the nuances of plagiarism would be better than a general declaration.

While it is likely that students hear different things regarding cheating and plagiarism in different classes, the statement "I refuse to lie, steal, cheat or tolerate those who knowingly allow it to occur" is unlikely to clear up any confusion.


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