As Warren Throckmorton’s examinations of Pastor Mark Driscoll’s “citation problems” continue, I’ve been researching “intentional plagiarism” and “unintentional plagiarism,” as well as what common academic and publishing style guides say about fair use, copyright, and paraphrasing.
More on those matters in upcoming posts. First, I wanted to share some relevant information from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.
Back in July, NBC News reported the following based on a Pew report that had just been released:
Most writing teachers believe that digital tools — from wikis to whiteboards — make it easier to teach writing, but say they worry about plagiarism and informality in their students’ work, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.
More than 2,400 Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) middle- and high-school teachers were asked about the use of digital tools including interactive whiteboards, wikis, websites, blogs, and collaborative Web-based tools (such as Google Docs) as sources of help for writing.
“In addition to giving students low ratings on their understanding of fair use and copyright, a majority of AP and NWP teachers also say students are not performing well when it comes to ‘appropriately citing and/or referencing content’ in their work,” the study found.
“This is fairly common concern among the teachers in the study, who note how easy it is for students today to copy and paste others’ work into their own and how difficult it often is to determine the actual source of much of the content they find online.”
Those issues have become so important that 88 percent of the teachers said they spend class time talking to students about the concepts of “citation and plagiarism,” while 75 percent make sure they talk about the notions of fair use and copyright with their students. [boldface added]
Apparently, few really understand the academic, ethical, and legal implications of an inappropriate use of another person’s ideas and (or) creative work.
While the websites of some acclaimed universities (e.g., see here and here) note that students might not always be aware of when they are plagiarizing, those same sites name such unawareness “unintentional plagiarism.” In other words, it’s still plagiarism.
This would be a different take than that held by the folks at Driscoll’s publisher Tyndale House, who defensively have suggested that plagiarism requires an intentional act.
“While there are many nuanced definitions of plagiarism, most definitions agree that plagiarism is a writer’s deliberate use of someone’s words or ideas, and claiming them as their own with no intent to provide credit to the original source,” Tyndale House said in part of a statement released back in December.
“Nuanced definitions of plagiarism”? Cut the nonsense. Tyndale House might as well had told us the definition at hand depended on what our definition of “is” is.