Thou Shalt Not Clip & Paste Episode 2: A Ten Commandments’ Tale

another clip & paste-y event reportedly just happened.  like this blog’s first c & p episode, significant monetary gain was involved.

before discussing this recent episode, i must confess.  i am a clip & paste-y person.  my composition, using various word processing programs, including wordpress, involves clipping reference materials for blog post ideas.  these ideas are then formed into articles. occasionally, i might miss a reference myself.

keenly aware of reference and plagiarism problems, i like to leave the reference sources at the bottom of the post while i am writing.  this allows me to remember my reference.  likewise, if i clipped and pasted something and did not have time to do the reference at the moment, i will place, in caps, CITATION, at the end of the sentence or paragraph.  i find this a great reminder that a reference is missing and must be added.

the clip and paste business also reveals to the reader something important, “how much time and effort was done on the research?” when you read articles and see references to wikipedia and encyclopedias, do you get the sense that there was a lack of in depth research?  while this approach may be a quick and easy way to generate an article for either a non-scholarly work or for a seventh grader’s essay, it may not be appropriate for an academic writing.  the problem with these references, for scholarly matters, is that reference material cite other reference sources.  thus, the author is not working off of the original reference material.  it is possible that wikipedia or an encyclopedia might get something wrong.  additionally, the original reference source might be bogus or not credible.   in sum, what is cited is an indication as to the quality of the writing, the effort made to produce, and the scholarship entailed.

in santa clara county, thanks to the mercury news, the wife of a government official has now been accused of plagiarism.  the county paid her $280,000.00 to write a book.   it is reported that “when she handed in the final draft in january this year, entire passages were found to have been ripped straight from wikipedia and the newspaper. now, the county is launching an investigation.” the mercury news also reported that passages from the draft were also lifted from history channel’s website as well as others including the encyclopedia brittannica.   the accused, in response, indicated that the passages had been removed and were never intended to make it into the final version. her response was that  ‘the paragraphs you cited were highlighted in my working copy, and all have long been removed or substantially rewritten, drawing from numerous sources and incorporated in the final bibliography.  ‘the paragraphs you refer to and others were utilized as placeholders and were never intended to be included in the final copy,’ she told the newspaper. ”

a santa clara county executive mr. jeff smith said the newspaper’s findings made him ‘shocked and concerned’.

while i have professionally written within the legal field, i have never heard of the word “placeholder” as part of a writing process.  according to a source, “a placeholder is what a writer puts in when he can’t think of the right line or idea just at the moment, but he’d better put in something and come back and fix it later. ”

in sum, was the author’s take that the alleged plagiarized material were “placeholders” credible?  if the plagiarized materials were placeholders, why didn’t she leave the reference in her draft?  likewise, if this book was intended to be scholarly in nature, was her use of these type of references disturbing as to the depth and research she employed in writing the book?  was she hiding from the county the effort that she made concerning her research?  did she believe that they would be upset if she used wikipedia for her research?

what do you think? please comment.

be well!!

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Published by biblelifestudies

I am a practicing lawyer and long term admirer of the bible

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