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Plagiarism: Who Really Knows About It and Who Cares?

Posted by Jessica Gopalakrishnan on Jul 8, 2011 5:00:00 AM

Plagiarist Targeted ScholarHaving recently joined iThenticate in its quest to help professionals detect and prevent plagiarism, I've been immersed in plagiarism cases across different industries to familiarize myself with the scope of scholarly misconduct. I have dealt with minor issues of plagiarism in my marketing career, mostly other blogs copying and pasting content verbatim. Up until a few months ago, however, I wasn't aware of the magnitude of plagiarism outside of academia.

Some cases of plagiarism cause a chuckle, like the nature writer whose writing about meerkats turned up in a romance novel. But let's face it, plagiarism is stealing from another person. It is serious and dishonest -- and seriously dishonest.

It is assuring that there are organizations that are dedicated to the promotion of ethics and best practices, such as the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), but also a growing number of sites and technologies that exist solely for the purpose of detecting and identifying plagiarists or misconduct. There are:

  • Plagiarism hunters who are devoted to publicizing the news of accused plagiarists or retracted works, from doctorates or theses to scientific or medical findings, like Retraction Watch
  • Wiki sites where people can make writing contributions or corrections, such as the GuttenPlag Wiki
  • Blogs, mostly written by people frustrated with others copying and pasting their words and claiming as their own, without citing them, like Plagiarism Today
  • Technology and software like iThenticate and CrossCheck; search engines like Google and Bing that help identify unoriginal content

There has been an explosion of new plagiarism cases as of late. People are getting caught. People lose their jobs. Organizations' reputations are damaged. No one in any industry or capacity is exempt. Not high ranking government and political figures like the former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. Not elite University faculty like the University of Alberta Dean, Dr. Philip Baker. Not doctors, scientists, celebrities, musicians - not even ministers.

Why do people plagiarize?

In my opinion, it boils down to the need for institutions and organizations to better educate people about what plagiarism is, how to avoid it, and that the chances of being caught are increasing.

As more attention is called out to cases of plagiarism, more individuals and organizations will realize the importance of checking written work before publication and start to make changes to protect their intellectual property and their reputations.

Given the technology, like iThenticate, social media and the internet in general, I might say that the world is on the right path to getting plagiarism under control. Then again, I still think there is a lot more to still be done.

By the way, do you really know how frequently plagiarism is written about on a daily basis? Create a Google Alert for "plagiarism". It may have an impact on your writing or business practices.