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by Dr. Robert J. Belton

An Instructive Experience Concerning Plagiarism

You must be very careful when using others' material. First and foremost, of course, is to give credit where credit is due, but just because you have done so, don't assume that all is well.

I offer my own experience as an illustration: when I assembled the page entitled TEN FINAL QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE SUBMISSION, I used scraps of this and that gathered from years of old class handouts and other teaching notes. I knew that the thoughts ultimately derived from Sylvan Barnet's Short Guide to Writing About Art, and I assumed that the wording had been paraphrased well enough over the years that I did not need to double check the original. Much to my surprise, someone gave Professor Barnet a copy of the page and the wording was almost identical to his. I had included a note saying "Loosely based on Barnet...", but he wrote to me to point out that a more accurate statement would have been "Directly based on Barnet...". Fortunately, Professor Barnet was amenable to the changes that now appear on that page, but there is no guarantee that others would be equally generous and forgiving.

I tell this cautionary tale because it describes a mistake I made after more than a decade of teaching. You should be careful to avoid the same mistake.

Last reviewed shim9/17/2012 6:30:29 PM