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Ethical Issues: What is Plagiarism?

Wilson Mizner said, " When you steal from one author, it's plagiarism; if you steal from many, it's research.(1).

Calvin College's English Department takes a more serious stance: "Plagiarism is a theft—of the materials themselves, but no less of the right of the cheater's peers to equal consideration, for in effect the plagiarized paper throws all other papers into competition with work that likely has already been judged superior."

Plagiarism comes in many different forms. It can be direct copying, paraphrasing, or more subtly stealing an idea without giving credit to the original author. Here are some examples of each type of plagiarism from the article "Mouse Click Plagiarism"(2).

The Original Material

The association between humans and dogs began as a hunting relationship before organized agriculture had been developed. This Paleolithic cave painting dates back to about ten thousand years ago and shows a Stone Age hunter who has successfully killed an eland with the assistance of his dogs.

-Plate 2, following Page 150

The Intelligence of Dogs, by Stanley Coren, Macmillan, 1994.

 
Plagiarism by Direct Copying

Dogs have been "man's best friend" since long before recorded history. The association between humans and dogs began as a hunting relationship before organized agriculture had been developed. . . .

 

This writer has typed in Coren's words exactly in the first copied sentence
Plagiarism by Paraphrasing Dogs have been "man's best friend" since long before recorded history. The relationship between dogs and humans started as a hunting relationship before people developed organized agriculture. One cave painting that dates back about ten thousand years shows a Paleolithic hunter. . . . The writer has rearranged a few words and substituted a few of his own words, but the idea and the order of development are Coren's.
Plagiarism by Theft of an Idea Dogs have been "man's best friend" since long before recorded history. Dogs and humans first got together as hunters. Cave paintings provide some evidence for this early teamwork. One 10,000-year-old painting shows a Paleolithic hunter and his two dogs after they have killed an eland. The writers has put the ideas in his own words, but those words imply that he discovered the teamwork and the cave painting through his own research; Coren is nowhere acknowledged.

1 Bartlett's, 1992, p. 631
2 Auer, Nicole J., and Ellen M. Krupar. "Mouse Click Plagiarism: the role of technology in plagiarism and the librarians' role in combating it." Library Trends. 49 (2001): 415-32
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These pages were written by Glenn Remelts. and edited by Jeffrey L. Nyhoff and Nancy Zylstra
©2005 Calvin College, All Rights Reserved

If you encounter technical errors, contact rit@calvin.edu.