Friday, August 5, 2011

Plagiarism: then and now and not

Plagiarism has been defined as “the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work” [1]. Since this copied definition of plagiarism has been quoted and given a reference, it should not be considered as plagiarized. Here is another definition [2]: “a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work.”

It may be difficult to prove that thoughts and ideas have been taken from somebody else. After all, we learn—and have been educated to learn—from books, articles, blog posts and other sources of written documents. Many of the words and ideas, put down by us, originate from such sources. When we start to get creative, formulating our own ideas, we typically still “borrow” read-before or used-elsewhere phrases and text snippets—sometimes by purpose, sometimes unknowingly. However, the longer a piece of text, the less likely it will be that two or more authors (unless they cooperated and are then called co-authors) came up with exactly the same text. Today, digitalized texts can easily be evaluated for plagiarism by using text matching software and plagiarism checkers [3,4].

Recently, plagiarism scandals have hit headline news. In Germany, for example, the Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned after the University of Bayreuth revoked his doctoral title accusing him to have violated academic standards in his thesis by failing to sufficiently credit some of his sources [5]. Remember: unless you work for a secret service, you need to reveal your sources. 

Other illustrating examples take us back in time to past centuries: In his biography of the Danish scientist Nicolaus Steno, Alan Cutler tells us about the arrogant London physician John Woodward, who had cribbed almost every important aspect from Steno's writings on fossils and strata, copying some passages almost word-for-word without crediting Steno and other researchers [6]. Cutler also provides an example of a false plagiarism claim: the German Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and the English Sir Isaac Newton—both outstanding philosophers, scientists and mathematicians—are now known to have developed their methods of differential and integral calculus independently; although Leibniz had been attacked by Newton himself (and later by others) of plagiarizing Newton's work.    

Keywords: politics, authoring, citation, copying, cheating 

References and more to explore
[1] plagiarism [].
[2] plagiarism [].
[3] Plagiarism Checker:
[4] Avoid Plagiarism and Make Your Writing
[5] Huffpost World report with contributions by Juergen Baetz:  Karl-Theodor Zu Guttenberg, German Defense Minister, Resigns Amid Plagiarism Scandal [].
[6] Alan Cutler: The Seashell on the Mountaintop. Dutton (Penguin Group), New York, 2003; pages 174-178 and 183-185.


  1. Plagiarizing is the procedure of using someone else content. In this can one case use plagiarism checker.Plagiarism checker can be helpful to find out regrading the content that it is copied or original.

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  2. Here is another definition [2]: “a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work.” online plagiarism detector