Subject: Plagiarism
From: "Geoff Hart (by way of \"Eric J. Ray\" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>)" <ght -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 31 Jul 1998 11:25:17 -0600

Rowena Hart wondered about how to protect herself from overt or
inadvertent plagiarism by her authors. Piece of cake: I edit
everything I receive so extensively that nobody would ever recognize
the original source anyway! <g>

More realistically, the problem is as you say: there isn't any way
other than what you've proposed (i.e., use your BS detector and look
for stuff that obviously reflects a style different from the
author's). One interesting trick would be to copy suspicious phrases
into various search engines, then send a copy of the results of the
search (i.e., the source page) to the person's manager. Getting peer
reviewers involved in the hunt for stolen material may also help,
particularly if they frequent the same web sites. Can you run a
"plagiarist of the week" competition and post the results in the
cafeteria, then rely on peer pressure to bring people into line?

If you know that plagiarism is common, you need to get
management involved in policing things (i.e., disciplining offenders)
or at least in setting a firm policy. If you can't at least get a
formal policy in place, send a note (with a copy to personnel/HR and
a copy in your files) that very clearly explains the problem, and
that contains a statement something like "I will do my level best to
prevent the problem, but in the absence of any formal management
policy on this matter, and with the impossibility of any one person
monitoring the entire body of literature, we must rely on authors to
use their own judgment to avoid plagiarism". This is a weak CYA, but
it does indicate you're practicing due diligence and should help in
the event that someone does take notice.
--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"You keep using that word... I do not think it means what you think it
means."--Inigo Montoya

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