Plagiarism and a writer’s professional responsibilities

M. Marcellino ,  Jakarta   |  Sat, 02/20/2010 12:44 PM  |  Opinion

Recent media reports on plagiarism have made headlines again. After the shocking news on the plagiarism by a prominent professor from the Bandung-based Parahiyangan Catholic University on Thursday, Kompas daily reported the two prospective professors from Yogyakarta, who were suspected of claiming authorship of their own works although it may not be theirs.

A guide for the preparation of written work for all academics once published by Cornell University in the United States, pointed out that education at its best, whether conducted in a seminar, laboratory, or a lecture hall, is basically an academic and professional dialogue between teachers and students and among professionals and intelligentsia.

Questions and answers can be explored, discussed, and debated; arguments can be posed, criticized, and resolved; and data can be sought, analyzed, and evaluated. This dialogue has been the mark and delight of the intellectual.

The function of universities and professionals is to further the intellectual property by providing ample opportunities and facilities to clarify and test out their ideas, opinions, statements and arguments.

It is the university, together with the faculty, that has to seriously and rigorously promote the free inquiry of intellectual life.

If this working principle is to flourish and the delight is to come into being, all academics – the faculty members together with their students – must be prepared to assume certain difficult but inescapable responsibilities for whatever work they claim they are the writers.

One essential responsibility is always to demonstrate the extent to which they are the masters of what they are expressing in both verbal and written forms of the language.

They must make clear whether whatever is said or written is their own or someone else’s. Their teachers, fellow students, readers, or colleagues must know whose words they are reading or listening to.

The intellectual dialogue must be academically and professionally carried on. Accordingly, everybody who submits written work to any organization, institute, or educational body must be the author of his/her own paper.

The fundamental concept of plagiarizing is actually simple in that the authors mislabel a particular work, i.e. they claim that what is someone else’s is their own work.

They use facts and/or ideas originating from others. They misrepresent their work knowingly and in academic life “they commit an act morally indistinguishable from any other form of theft”.

As members of an intellectual society, misrepresenting one’s work ignorantly indicates that they show themselves unprepared to assume an academic and professional responsibility presupposed by work at the university and professional level.

Professionals and intellectuals, therefore, have to seriously highlight honesty, the highest standard of intellectual property in aca-demic life.

Since the principal objective of intellectual life is honesty, plagiarizing cannot be tolerated at all and is indeed a particular serious offense which brings about a commensurately severe academic punishment.

The guide book classifies plagiarism into four types: (1) word-for-word plagiarizing, (2) the mosaic, (3) the paraphrase, and (4) the “apt” term.

The first type refers to copying the original text as precisely as possible.

The second type deals with moving a statement from one line to another line and lifting out some phrases of the original text.

The third type is concerned with the writer’s attempt to travel along with the original text, substituting key words or terms from the original or using a different structural pattern to denote the same meaning of a given statement in the original text.

Last, the fourth type denotes the writer’s inability to resist the “appropriation” of important terms used in the original text and the drawing of phrases from the original source but none can reject the reuse in his/her work.

M. Marcellino PhD., is a senior faculty member of the Faculty of Education, Atma Jaya Catholic University, Jakarta.

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