A few years ago, I wrote (in Somewhere, over the spectrum …) of an AHA! moment, a realisation that understanding of academic citation practices may best be imaged, not just by a straight-line continuum from black to white with shades of grey between, but by a spectrum, all shades of the rainbow and anywhere in between.
It was Teddi Fishman, then director of the International Center for Academic Integrity, who gave me this insight. In a plagiarism case in which she was asked for her opinion, had a published piece of work had been plagiarised, Fishman said
With regard to citation errors and plagiarism, there is a wide spectrum and certainly not all are created equal. The main defining characteristic in cases that we’d classify as citation errors is that there is an attempt to identify the source of the information rather than to make it appear as if the words or ideas are those of the person using them in the document.
(The full article from which this quotation is taken is no longer available on the Cambridge Chronicle site. Fortunately, it can still be found in the Internet Archive; the quotation of Fishman’s response as reported by journalist Sara Feijo is on page 3 of this article.)
Fig. 1 – Black and white and shades of grey
In the continuum imagery, the white end comprises writers who know the rules, know what is right, what is expected, what is needed – and do them! Ideally they will observe the conventions of citation and referrencing because they have integrity, they wouldn’t – couldn’t – do otherwise.
At the black end we have the writers who know the rules, who know what is right, what is expected, what is needed – and they knowingly break the rules! They copy, they paraphrase without acknowledgement, they use other people’s work and claim it as their own, they use their own work over and over and claim Continue reading