Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rampant Plagiarism

Plagiarism, the literary theft of another's ideas and words, is on the upswing in a number of countries, says the desk columnist of the Catholic Times. Here in Korea, the appointment of high government officials usually brings up the suspicion that many of these appointments should not have been approved because of the presence of plagiarized material in doctoral dissertations.

The guideline in Korea for determining whether or not material has been plagiarized is passing off as one's own 6 or more consecutive words that have been taken from another's work. The media tends to report the suspicion of plagiarism when they learn that a particular dissertation exceeds the "6 consecutive word" guideline, and when there is a lack of proper attribution of source material. 

The columnist, when studying in the States, was told that plagiarism is considered to have occurred when taking from another's work three or more consecutive words without referencing the source. If the suspicion of plagiarizing is not explained away satisfactorily, the person is then reported to the department head and may be expelled. The person may also be given advice on how to change the wording so it's not considered plagiarizing, and with practice, avoiding the problem becomes easy.

The columnist tells us he has never been impressed with those who have a doctorate. For him, the title of Ph.D. does not mean the person has a great grasp of knowledge or has mastered all that can be known, even about his own field of knowledge. It indicates only that a person has studied a particular field of knowledge, and may have very limited knowledge in other fields of study. The person is also telling us, if only indirectly, according to the columnist, that he or she has little knowledge in other fields, though not liking to acknowledge this fact.

He is impressed, he says, when meeting persons with a doctorate who, while confident in their field of study, are humble enough to admit their ignorance and listen to others. They do exist, he assures us. 

Although there are many legitimate Ph.D.s, the columnist would like to know why, in Korea, we are so tolerant of those who received their Ph.D.s illegitimately. It has gotten so bad, he says, that even typographical errors from  the original material are sometimes copied. One simple solution to the problem he would like to see used more often is to ask or force those who have plagiarized to resign from their offices and return to the life they had before.