Monday, January 21, 2008

To Cite or Not to Cite....

OK. I've been taking a bit of a breather and trying to beat a nasty cold. After a marathon sleeping weekend - I think I kicked it and the weather is perfect for catching up on my on-line life. Lucky for me - my friend Jenn has not kept her head too low and has sent me many, many happy links today.

The one most appropriate to this blog is on plagiarism. I'm a bit sensitive to this topic, having just finished teaching a graduate course in which two individuals took some liberties with the syllabus and turned in work that was suspiciously familiar. And because it is the number one complaint of teachers when it comes to research projects - that students are just "cutting and pasting" the information into an essay format and turning it in.

Now - we all know that we should cite sources. This world has become a bit more gray lately as there is so much more that is published on the Internet - pictures, blogs, wikis: how do we cite all of those?

And we all know that we should use quotation marks if we lift something directly and at least paraphrase the information without them. Basic writing 101, right?

Strangely - no!

It seems that a pretty well known romance novelist has stolen some key dialogue from a science article. That's right - re-read that last sentence carefully!! The story really is best read from the science writer's perspective (aka "the victim") which is also one of the best examples of voice in writing I have read in a long time.

While the science writer has forgiven the romance novelist ( that a plot in the making?) it is sad that plagiarism has sunk to this level. Reading the passages that are in issue - it is hard to imagine the language being that of post-coital bliss. Didn't the editors notice that? Teachers can tell when writing is not that of their students - can't editors? Why did no one check that?

Even more depressing - apparently the romance novelist stated in an interview that she didn't know she had to cite sources. Really?

I mourn for writing today - for original ideas, for playing by the rules, for the spirit of a good story. But on the other hand - I sure did giggle. I just wish I could share this example with students.....

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