Thursday, January 10, 2008

How to deal with plagiarism

Apparently, this is still a hot issue. Here's a report about a recent discussion among the members of the American Historical Association:

... [T]hreat of lawsuits is clearly a huge issue for journal editors. The key word in dealing with these cases is “fear,” said David R. Goldfield, a historian at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who is editor of the Journal of Urban History.

While the journal editors all understood that fear, many in the audience spoke of other worries: of having their work copied or distorted and of having nowhere to turn. Some victims of plagiarism spoke of their frustrations over the lack of policing, and several suggested that a more aggressive approach is needed. One suggestion: Creating Web sites where people could submit work that they believe has been plagiarized for public view.

In the discussion, the journal editors talked about some of the difficulties they face in dealing with plagiarism allegations and some of the misconceptions they believe exist about the problem. Lessoff said that highly publicized cases about famous authors have created a false impression. “There is an illusion that rooting out plagiarism amounts to a moral crusade against the high and mighty,” he said. But based on his experiences and talking with other editors, most of the cases that do come up involve people who are “marginal or insecure in their professional positions.”