Wednesday, November 21, 2012

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Plagiarism – So What? (University Preparation Tip #2)

Plagiarism is stealing ideas from other writers without explaining in your text that these ideas belong to another person. It can be a whole chapter, a section, a paragraph, a sentence, maybe only part of a sentence. It is a BIG academic culture shock to many students and probably one of the most complicated academic ideas to completely understand.

I will probably write more about plagiarism in the future but this is a short post to say this: Plagiarism is a serious problem in many countries. Here is my evidence:

Pál Schmitt (Picture from BBC)
This is Pál Schmitt. He was the President of Hungary from 2010 to 2012. In April 2012, Schmitt had to resign as president of the country because it was discovered that his Ph.D. was mostly plagiarised from Bulgarian and German sources. You can listen to the story from the BBC or click here to listen and read it.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (Picture from Wikipedia)
This is Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. He was the German Defence Minister and many people believed that he would be the next Chancellor of Germany. Unfortunately, in March 2011, Guttenberg was forced to resign when it was discovered that he had copied more than half of his 475-page Ph.D. thesis from other sources.

Ioan Mang (Picture from Twittweb)
This is Ioan Mang. He was the Education Minister of Romania until May 2012 when he was forced to resign because of multiple counts of plagiarism in many of his academic papers.

There are other cases or plagiarism where the politicians still have their jobs but many people want them to resign; Romania’s Prime Minister Victor Ponta, Russia’s Cultural Minister Vladimir Medinsky and German Education Minister Annette Schavan.

Tony Blair (Picture from Wikipedia)
This is not only something that individual people do. Countries have also plagiarised. In 2003, the British Government, led by Tony Blair, copied the work of Dr. Ibrahim al-Marashi to make a document that Britain and America used to ‘prove’ that Saddam Hussein was making WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) in Iraq. Al-Marashi’s academic work was plagiarised and then used as military intelligence and this document helped to start the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.

All of these cases of plagiarism have been found quite easily now with the latest plagiarism-checking software that nearly all universities use.

Plagiarism is becoming easier and easier to identify and it is causing big problems for very powerful people. So my advice to students from other countries is that this is important and you need to spend some time thinking about it and you need to make sure that you understand what it is 100%.  If you don't understand, you need to speak to your tutors/lecturers/supervisors/teachers and get them to explain it to you so you do understand.

Not understanding plagiarism is not an excuse for plagiarising.


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