I’ve been following with interest the coverage of the eminent biologist’s use of unnatributed text in his books, and have read the recent article in The Guardian: Eminent scientist Lewis Wolpert sorry for using others’ work
When something like this happens in student work it is taken very seriously by the Department, and in fact it is getting easier to catch these occurrences with clever software.
However, this can easily be the result of carelessness rather than a willful intention to deceive. As mentioned in the Guardian article, it is quite common to cut relevant passages from webpages and put them in a scratch file, and then eventually weave them unchanged into the final writeup. In the case of students it could be that they just feel the authoritative text is written much better than they could, and sometimes it seems there are only a few ways to phrase some simple concepts. Other times it seems clear, from comparing the two texts, there is an attempt at hoodwinking, by adding little grammar changes (even mistakes!) or changing the order of words, etc, to help pass through detection.
How do *I* try to avoid inadvertently leaving text unchanged in something I am writing?
1. I keep my scratch file separate from my draft file. So when I am doing “research” (ie websurfing) I try to save passages and URLS into this scratch file, and try to not cut and paste from here into the draft.
2. I try to use some punctuation (or surround by asterisks) any phrase which I am likely to quote but which i will need to attribute properly.
3. I try (but don’t always succeed) in immediately creating a bibfile entry and insert a \cite in the LaTeX source.
4. I try *never* to cut text from a wikipedia page, whether it is for the scratch file of the draft file. I may use the combination of words immediately to find another publication, but keep wikipedia for consultation only.
I hope that with these steps I am able to avoid an embarassing situation – but know well that I could get careless.
I would like to know how other people handle this vexing problem!