The plagiarism stories that get the most coverage in the news revolve around authors [e.g.: Markham, Viswanathan],  journalists [e.g.: Blair,  Marr] , politicians [e.g.: Senator BidenMinister Guttenberg ],  or academics [students to Harvard Professors]  — these cases seem especially newsworthy as they are folks who “should know better.”   Thus, it is more than a little disconcerting when the Chronicle features an article that essentially says we should give up on being “obsessed” with citation in academia.

While we may be familiar with publishing companies pulling novels after discovering plagiarized plot-lines and passages, or universities pulling degrees from plagiarized theses,  it is worth noting that it is often not the editors nor professors, but the reading public, who are “discovering” the plagiarism.  Of course plagiarism is not limited to the written word, but also to paintings, photos, music-sampling, methodologies, etc.  Web Search engines and software like Turnitin make it easy enough to discover these cases,  and the social web allows for quick dissemination of these accusations — whether list-servs, discussion boards, blogs, Facebook or twitter.  It seems that although we shouldn’t be obsessed with citation mechanics, the functions of proper citation are appreciated by the public at large…so let’s not give up on our StJ students quite yet.

The Libraries and the LEAD program have worked together on a plagiarism workshop in the “Academic track” of the LEAD program. Many student-leaders might struggle with their own academic writing, but they also co-ordinate their organization’s correspondence, write newsletters, update news on Facebook/twitter pages etc.  LEAD and the libraries try to help these students avoid the pitfalls of poor research, poor citation, and copyright infringement in a social-web world and to  “understand the impact that technology could have on organizational [and academic] communications, not only in terms of both the commission and the discovery of plagiarism, but in the quick dissemination of ill-researched information or mis-information. We also thought they also needed to be aware that the “re-mix/mashup” mentality among students could have ethical and legal ramifications for organizational leaders who have official publication venues” (Maio & Shaughnessy, 2012).

The LEAD plagiarism workshops are scheduled twice each semester, but if you would like to request a workshop for your department or club, we stand ready to help out anytime, with this topic, or to help you tailor a workshop session for your class/group.

For more information on the LEAD certificate program, visit their site.

For more information on the Libraries’ resources about plagiarism and citation consult our LibGuides on Plagiarism, Proper citation (why we cite) , RefWorks (how to cite), Turnitin (how unitinentional plagairism can be identified) the relationship between copyright and plagiarism, creative commons, and why plagiarism still makes news!

(Forthcoming 2011).   Maio, N and K.G. Shaughnessy. “Promoting Collaborative Leaders In The St. John’s University Community”  Libraries and student affairs in collaboration.  Hinchliffe, Lisa Janicke and Melissa Wong, eds.  Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.