Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Has the internet promoted plagiarism? The answer may depend on "what kind of" texts are being investigated.

TimesHigherEducation discusses findings by David Ison, assistant professor of aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida:

When a randomly selected 184 doctoral dissertations written before 1994 were compared with 184 written after 2010, about half of each group contained some sort of unattributed material, according to a paper published in the Journal for Academic Ethics.

link: Internet’s role in rise in student plagiarism exaggerated, study suggests

One might expect that doctoral dissertations would be citing primary sources (e.g., published articles) more than links to internet sites. In the science sector, many technical articles simply are not available on the internet (contemplate journals of the American Chemical Society). Thus, one might question Ison's choice of doctoral dissertations to demonstrate whether or not the internet has promoted plagiarism. High school papers or graduation speeches might be more revealing. They are more numerous than doctoral dissertations and more likely to have text copied from the internet.

**Separately, the things identified as plagiarism in doctoral dissertations frequently come from literature reviews, rather than from the "novel" parts of the thesis. This was at issue in the Poshard / SIU matter.

From a previous IPBiz post in the year 2008:

Commenter Geoffrey Nathan at wrote:

It’s amazing how misinformation gets repeated, like a meme. The President of Southern Illinois University (not just Edwardsville) was essentially exonerated—it turned out that the literature review section of his dissertation was not adequately marked with respect to where quoted material began and ended (even though the sources were named). This isn’t exactly ‘large quantities’, but the level of internecine politics at SIU are such that it gave great delight to some of the administration’s enemies to entertain such exaggerations.

Geoffrey Nathan fails to mention that Poshard's SUMMARY of the literature was copied from a book, which book itself summarized literature PRIOR TO the dates of relevance to Poshard's thesis. There are at least TWO things wrong with this.


Also from the IPBiz post:

To the contrary, intent—like drunk driving, running red lights, or claiming income tax exemptions to which one is not entitled—is not a consideration when defining plagiarism; the only applicable criterion is whether one has included purloined material or not. In the third, the unintentionally comical associate professor apparently believes that plagiarism doesn’t really matter as long as it appears in a Ph.D. dissertation rather than a published book.

Also note the IPBiz post
The details of charges against Poshard of SIU
, including the text:

On a related note, IPBiz believes that charges of lack of novelty, as made by Loring against Thomson in the embryonic stem cell area, are much more serious matters than a failure to cite references in a literature review section. At the end of the day, more damage may be done to Thomson than will be done to Poshard (notwithstanding questioning statements about Poshard, as in

***Separately, Forget plagiarism: There's a new and bigger threat to academic integrity
concerning paper mills and ghost writing


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