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Plagiarism-An Act of

Stealing
JOAN VOGELSANG, EdD, RN

Plagiarism is one of those ethical issues no one wants to talk about. This
article sets the stage for educating readers, authors, and researchers in the
fundamentals of scholarship. Legal ramifications for professional theft, de-
ception, and misconduct provide information regarding the perpetration,
constituents, and aftermath of the act ofplagiarism. The article then commu-
nicates a shift in thinking about the deviation from ethical standards and
strategies for the prevention of the ethical issue. Plagiarism can be pre-
vented.
0 1997 by American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses.

T HE EXPANSION OF a scientific body of


knowledge is shown by a plethora of publi-
cations and presentations. However, it appears
it is not consistent with ethical standards.2 Re-
spect for collegial trust in professional activities
is the foundation of a professional who assumes
the mores and ethical standards of researchers responsibility for truth telling, and acknowledges
submitting manuscripts for publication or devel- others’ achievements.3 Plagiarism destroys trust
oping presentations within the scientific commu- because “it is a breach of professional ethics.“3
nity have not always kept pace.’ Researchers who When trust is broken by plagiarism, one person
use materials from an original source without is “harmed by unjust treatment that violates the
quotation marks or appropriate citation of the person’s rights, sets back interests, and harms
information commit professional theft and decep- one’s sense of well being.“3 To avoid serious
tion. The purpose of this article is to educate consequences, always cite the original source in
readers, authors, and researchers in the funda- the process of note taking.
mentals of scholarship, and to provide informa-
tion regarding the perpetration, constituents, and IDENTIFICATION OF PLAGIARISM
aftermath of plagiarism. Ways to prevent the oc-
The American Medical Association Manual of
currence of plagiarism through proper citation of
Style states that plagiarism consists of any of the
original sources are offered.
following actions, “( 1) direct verbatim lifting of
Plagiarism is of concern to perianesthesia
passages, (2) rewording ideas from the original
nurses and the entire nursing community because
in the purported author’s own style, (3) para-
phrasing the original work without attribution,
Joun Vogelsang, EdD, W, is a Clinical Nurse PAW, and (4) noting the original source of only some
University Hospital, Cincinnati, OH.
of what is borrowed.“’ Plagiarism is the stealing
Address correspondence to Joan Vogelsang EdD, RN, 25
New Uri Ave, Florence, KY 41042. of words or ideas from the true author and claim-
0 1997 by American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses. ing the work as one’s own.4 The continuum of
1089-9472/97/1204-0006$03.00/O plagiarism moves from “the blatant intent to de-

422 Journd of PeriAnestbesia Nurshg, Vol 12, No 6 (December~, 1997: pp 422-425


PLAGIARISM-AN ACT OF STEALING 423

ceive by presenting another author’s writings as tific knowledge is expanded by stealing another’s
your own ” and a lack of education or accultura- original work. The fact remains that everyone in
tion to the ethics of research to unintentional the scientific community is injured by the theft
thoughtlessness or stupidity regarding citation of and deception.’ Legally, the act of committing
the original source.5 Using the exact words or plagiarism falls into three categories.3 The first,
ideas of other authors without appropriate cita- criminal Zaw, prevents the intentional harm of
tion is wrong.’ Words and ideas must be cited one person by another. It is the need to prevent
for the reader to know the original source of harm to others and includes moral judgements
information. Uncredited paraphrasing of anoth- and values. Punishment for plagiarism discour-
er’s work and crediting only a portion of what ages theft and deception of another’s original
is borrowed are misappropriation of the original work. Copyright luw allows the transfer of an
author’s work as one’s own original work.3 author’s work to the publisher, while the author
Although perceptions of plagiarism have not retains responsibility for the content under crimi-
been researched among nurses, Julliard’ exam- nal and civil law. A copyright release form is
ined the perception of plagiarism in the use of signed by the original author at the time of article
another author’s language among physicians, submission for publication. Finally, tort law pro-
medical students, and English faculty. The in- vides compensation to the injured party by the
stances of plagiarism were examined by compar- perpetrator. The intent is to repair the damage
ing two sentences from an original article with done by one person to another. Criminal, copy-
three text samples supposedly published in three right, and tort laws allow the injured party to sue
other articles. It was revealed that plagiarism oc- for damages resultant to the act of plagiarism.
curred across disciplines. Although each text The penalties for plagiarism range from em-
sample cited the original article, none of the text barrassment, humiliation, damaged reputation,
samples used quotation marks to enclose sections and letters of reprimand to forced resignation,
lifted directly from the original article. When loss of academic credentials, termination of em-
asked, the majority of physician respondents did ployment, and law suits. The civil suit, Lam v
not consider the text samples as plagiarism (52/ Koo and Ho, involved theft of a measurement
80 [65%]) nor did they consider this type of pla- tool that examined “the high incidence of lung
giarism serious (68/81 [83%]). In contrast the cancer among non-smoking Chinese women.“’
majority of medical students (63/93 [68%]), and The court “concluded that Dr Lam had made
English faculty (28/3 1 [90%]) did believe the use considerable use of Dr Koo’s questionnaire, in-
of cited verbatim text without quotation marks a fringing the plaintiffs’ copyright and breaching
serious act of plagiarism. Such findings illus- their confidentiality. “’ It found that Dr Lam had
trated conflicting moral rules and ethical stan- obtained the measurement tool surreptitiously,
dards in health care publications. The inoculation and the questionnaire was deemed protected un-
of students to unethical activities by unconcerned der copyright law and confidentiality statutes.
or uninformed health care educators and mentors The court ruling was founded on breach of moral
counters the development of professional behav- and ethical behavior, not the exchange of confi-
iors. “Integrity in research should be one of the dential information.’ The court awarded damages
socialized traits of” faculty who teach moral of $70,000 to Dr Koo and Professor Ho.
rules and model ethical standards6 “Using the Napolitano v Princeton University Trustees in-
exact words or even the ideas of other authors volved the liberal use of “verbatim material from
without appropriate citation is a cardinal sin in another author without quotation marks, even
the world of publishing.“3 though she had cited the work of the previous
author. ” ’ “The court found that Princeton Uni-
LEGAL IMPLICATIONS OF PLAGIARISM versity had the right to withhold Napolitano’s’ ”
Plagiarism is a major crime punishable as academic degree. The verdict supported the Uni-
“theft of intellectual property.“6 It “is a serious versity’s right to set guidelines concerning lan-
act of stealing.“’ Some argue that no one is guage plagiarism.
harmed, and even propose that the body of scien- Berge v University of Alabama and four re-
424 JOAN VOGELSANG

searchers was heard in federal court under the Table 2, Purpose of Citations

False Claim Act ‘ ‘for the theft of intellectual prop-


I. Acknowledges years of intense work of the original author
erty.“’ Berge claimed that her dissertation was 2. Places information in the context of the current body of
plagiarized, her methodology misused, and her knowledge
work used for a subsequent dissertation and two 3. Serves as a mechanism to support, compare, and
published articles. Berge further claimed that “the contrast related work
4. Provides a viable paper trail to trace the original source
Alabama team had misrepresented the status of the
project to the National Institute of Health (NIH),
omitted results that contradicted its’ theories, and
claimed Berge’s work as their own.“” The federal
jury found that the Alabama University research- Paraphrasing requires the development of
ers had “stolen study results and used them to writing skills to produce a well written rephrase
improperly obtain federal grants.“” The court of another author’s work. In paraphrasing, the
awarded Berge $1.9 million. She also received end product must reflect a substantial difference
$498,000 from a NIH settlement, $265,000 from in language from the original source.5 It moves
the four Alabama researchers (for misappropria- beyond the use of synonyms for verbs, words
tion of her research), and court costs. with different sentence structure, or substitution
of similar terms. Paraphrasing requires the syn-
PREVENTION OF PLAGIARISM thesis of thoughts and experiences about a sub-
“The ultimate test of plagiarism is in compar- ject gathered through a review of literature. Sub-
ing the copy with the original. If the copy is near sequent writing of the text is then in one’s own
enough to the original to give the average person words. “No one comes that close to someone
the same idea created by the original, it is said else’s use of words, consistently, unless he has
to be a copy. ‘Original creation’ is a term used taken the words and changed them deliber-
by the court to describe the requirement of origi- ately.“14
nality.’ ‘I3 The best deterrent to plagiarism is a Maintaining scientific integrity and preventing
clear understanding of what constitutes plagia- plagiarism requires giving proper credit for origi-
rized misconduct. Using quotation marks when nal work. Acknowledgement is given by the use
words are lifted from another author verbatim, of direct quotations and citations. Strategies for
citing the original source when paraphrasing ma- prevention of plagiarism are included in Table
terial, and crediting the original source for all of 1. ‘,‘s When a source is not cited, the author
the information borrowed are key factors in the shows disregard and disrespect for the time and
prevention of plagiarism. efforts that have gone into the original work.’
Through citations, moral responsibility is re-
tained and ethical standards are upheld.3 Cita-
Table 1. Strategies for the Prevention of Plagiarism
tions are important to the building of a body of
I. Notes reflect an original author and require full knowledge for several reasons (Table 2).
references The Department of Health and Human Ser-
2. Specific facts and assertions require a reference
vices Office of Research Integrity report plagia-
3. Quotation marks are used when more than six words
are lifted verbatim
rism is involved in one-half of the complaints
4. Paraphrase ideas but reference the original sources they receive for investigation of scientific mis-
5. Use your own words to express another author’s idea conduct.4 The NIH has become the “watchdog”
6. Acknowledge classic references (those ovar 10 years) for accusations of plagiarized misconduct in pub-
7. Understand what constitutes common knowledge and
lication. It has recently developed a “misconduct
fair use
8. Unpublished material is the exclusive property of the
machine” to scan the pages of a manuscript and
original author compare them with scanned pages of the litera-
9. Written permission is required for the LEE of a// ture in a subfield. Operators of the “misconduct
cartoons, drawings, figures, and so on machine” have given testimony which has
10. Written permission is required for the use of a//
“been used to settle disputes of plagiarism” in
published materials
the courtsl’
PLAGIARISM-AN ACT OF STEALING 425

CONCLUSION dards, professional behavior, and acceptable


writing skill~.~ Ethical behavior in the presenta-
Public recognition of plagiarism is the admis- tion of data is the responsibility of each of us
sion of an ethical problem in the publication or and we are reponsible for our actions. Generous
presentation of research findings. Plagiarism in- indulgence with quotation marks, paraphrases,
vites degradation of integrity and sets a course of creative writing, and citation is prudent. The best
actions and consequences that cannot be excused. rule to follow is that when in doubt, always use
Nurses who are authors or researchers have an quotation marks and cite the work of the original
ethical obligation to keep abreast of nursing stan- author.

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