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January 08, 2009

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Stew

Couldn't agree more, Scott. When I've given the plagiarism talk in the past,

In my experience, both faculty and students appreciate this instruction. Often, faculty have not read university policy until a case comes up and don't really know their obligations. And students truly don't have any sort of nuanced understanding of what plagiarism is, not until they are educated about the matter.

I've always couched my lecture in terms of university policy, rather than ethics. In fact, I never refer to plagiarism as an ethical issue. This has irritated a faculty member or two who insist that students should know that plagiarism is unethical. I've found, though, that if you instead push the message that the library staff can help students with their research and citing materials correctly, you can avoid having the session come across as a "fire and brimstone" lecture on the evils of plagiarism.

T Scott

I try to frame my plagiarism discussion around the notion of professional or community norms, rather than in moral/ethical terms. Since I'm usually dealing with graduate students, this seems to work. I point out that "borrowing" from others is handled in very different ways among different communities -- a jazz musician, in his or her solo, may quote liberally the ideas of earlier musicians, but is never expected to indicate in the liner notes of a CD just where those musical ideas from Monk or Coltrane originally appeared. But in the scholarly community, we are expected to be meticulous about tracking all of those sources.

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