Sunday, March 15, 2009

Plagiarism Part 2 - "The Greater Good Factor"

On 6 March, 2009 I began this series to explore what society and academia understand plagiarism to be. In Part 1 I questioned whether my own paraphrasing of my college's plagiarism policy was itself an act of intentional plagiarism. And apparently I am not the first to question such a thing.

Recently, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch followed the issues of missing, high-profile library collections, a plague of plagiarism, and a revolving door to the chancellor's office at Southern Illinois University (SIU-Carbondale). Among these challenges was the accusation that SIU "plagiarized" an Indiana University policy in developing the new SIU plagiarism policy (Kumar, 2009).

Would it not be a smart college administrator aiming to implement an effective policy (e.g., plagiarism, grading, tenure, admissions) who turns to respected colleges with successful policies, to draft, model, or modify a new policy to meet its needs? Are the greater interests of all in higher education and all those served by higher education protected and enhanced by the sharing and dissemination of effective policies?

Today, models and templates for legal codes, constitutions, articles of confederation, mission statements, business plans, and financial, human resource, medical, school and other policies are available for adoption and modification in this same spirit of serving the greater good. The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services makes freely available the Model Policy for Responding to Allegations of Scientific Misconduct (ORI, n.d.1). This model serves the purpose of providing researchers and administrators in higher education with a means to comply with federal law regarding research integrity. Specifically, the model policy "applies to allegations of research misconduct (fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results)." (ORI, n.d.2, p.1).

The common denominator among these examples would seem to be a purpose of serving a greater good. Let's call this the "greater good factor" and hypothesize that it is one factor in determining whether a practice is plagiarism.

Kumar, K. & Hahn, V.S. (2009, March 9). SIUC helmsman looks beyond media storms. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, at A1.
Office of Research Integrity. (n.d.1). Policies: ORI model policy for responding to allegations of scientific misconduct. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from
Office of Research Integrity. (n.d.2). ORI model policy for responding to allegations of scientific misconduct. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from

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