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What Does it Mean to Be a Plagiarist?

25 September 2017

From Plagiarism Today:

Jayson Blair is a plagiaristPierre DesRuisseaux is a plagiaristFormer U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is also a plagiarist.

These are three very different stories about plagiarism. They are different not only in the plagiarism that was performed, but the role the plagiarism played in their careers and the impact being caught had.

However, in all three cases, and millions more like them, two things are consistent: The label of plagiarist and the eternity with which it is applied.

Because of this, the term “plagiarist” has become something of a strange one. It’s a term that can theoretically be applied to almost anyone, but it’s applied for a lifetime with no modification or qualifiers.

Once you’re a plagiarist, you’re always a plagiarist.

This raises a series of questions: What does it mean to be a plagiarist? Can you be a former plagiarist? Can you be a redeemed plagiarist?

. . . .

Often times, plagiarist is simply a label that you can throw onto someone you don’t like, even if the evidence is flimsy. This works in part because there’s no official agency that determines what is and is not plagiarism. What constitutes plagiarism is often a matter of opinion and it’s very possible for two reasonable people to disagree.

. . . .

It’s easy to see why the term plagiarist carries so much weight, even among non-creatives. Plagiarism represents a major ethical failing. At the heart of plagiarism is a lie, claiming the work of another as your own, and that lie can reflect very poorly on someone’s character.

This is why plagiarist is such a powerful label, even among those with no interest in writing or the arts. When you call someone a plagiarist, you’re accusing them of being a liar.

But while the passion is understandable, the application of the term has raised a lot of problems. When the same term is applied to someone who is weakly accused of plagiarizing once years ago, such as President Obama, and to someone who flagrantly plagiarized dozens of times across their career, such as Jayson Blair, you run into a serious problem.

Link to the rest at Plagiarism Today

PG says it is so easy to write, “As [famous person] once said,” and you’re out of the plagiarism zone without reducing the impact of what you’ve borrowed from someone else on your audience.

Perhaps one of the plagiarist’s flaws is being unwilling to credit others with intelligence/insight/inspiration because the plagiarist is insecure about their own capabilities on those areas.


One Comments to “What Does it Mean to Be a Plagiarist?”

  1. “PG says it is so easy to write, ‘As [famous person] once said,’ and you’re out of the plagiarism zone without reducing the impact of what you’ve borrowed from someone else on your audience.” – it really can be that simple.

    If you need to use a lot of other’s material, there are great tools like easybib.com to properly cite the work. If you use another’s idea, footnote it. If you directly quote them, put quotations around it and footnote it. After you’re done, convert them to endnotes if you like. Then, you won’t be called a plagiarist.

    Sidenote: Although CNN was deceptive in their reporting Monica Crowley as a plagiarist, she did footnote but failed to put quotations around direct quotes.

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