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Old September 12th, 2011, 07:21 PM   #1

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Plagiarism in the Field of History


I have been thinking about this lately. I completed a course in Academic and Research Libraries this past Spring and I had focused some time in reading up on and writing about plagiarism and copyright infringement in the academic realm. I was rather surprised to find the whole outlook on plagiarism to be considerably lax, more so than it used to be.

I was wondering how everyone else felt about well-known historians either caught plagiarizing or admitting to the act? Will this change how you look at future history books that come onto the market?

In studying library science, one of the tasks I will encounter is collection development. I enjoyed some of the works of historians like Stephen Ambrose but after hearing accusations and proven instances of plagiarism committed by him and others including Doris Kearns Goodwin, I don't think that I would ever considering purchasing any books written by them.
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Old September 12th, 2011, 07:23 PM   #2

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do you live in NYC?
the national archives here has a very good intern program....
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Old September 13th, 2011, 05:11 AM   #3

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If a works contains some plagarism I have little problem with it. Nobody is perfect and one may comit plagarism out of sheer ignorance. It is not always possible to know everything that has been written and that is out there. However if their work appears to be nothing but a pure rehash and copy os something else and they bring no or minimal new information or arguments to the table, then I wont have much to do with them. Other than for the sake of reading for completeness. For such is the mark of a rather poor historian.
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Old September 13th, 2011, 05:34 AM   #4

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I wholeheartedly agree with DreamWaever. Plagiarism also has a subjective nature to it in it's very definition. Historians get their info from other Historians anyway. when you are talking about it do you mean a strict copy an past chapter, or a chapter written differently with almost identical info...almost everything I write for hobbies just regurgitates the info of J.H Elliott LOL
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Old September 13th, 2011, 07:09 AM   #5

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Well, for example, Doris Kearns Goodwin's Book The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys utilized phrases from three other books. In the case of phrases used from a book entitled Kathleen Kennedy: Her Life and Times by Lynne McTaggart, Goodwin had footnoted info used from McTaggart's book but did not apply quotes to direct phrases utilized from the work. When the book was first released, McTaggart had contacted Goodwin to notify her of the issue. Goodwin acknowledged that there was infact many places where she had not applied quotes to direct quotes making it appear as though she was paraphrasing the information. Goodwin settled with McTaggart out of court on the issue (which I see as an admission of guilt).

Stephen Ambrose met similar issues with his works. One author/historian had picked out phrases from his book The Wild Blue, a book on WWII Bomber Pilots where phrases has been lifted from other authors. This led other historians and authors to examine his other works which revealed a list of other cases in other works.

Hell, I wrote a paper in college and my professor cited me for plagiarism because I didn't put quotation marks around three words.

I have a stricter outlook on plagiarism, especially when professional writers are committing the act. Partial blame should fall on the publishers and now with computer technology, it should be easier to check new works against already published and printed materials. There really is no excuse for it, but many will try and say that they write so many books in such short time that they just miss it. I always thought that manuscripts and drafts went to an editor but I guess maybe they don't do their jobs either.

History is a field where you need to put a new spin on events because no one wants to read the same take on history in every book they pick up. I understand that sometimes historians in the past have said it better than you ever could (I have encountered that myself), but use quotations. If it happens once or twice in a book, it's a mistake. However, when it happens in work after work it becomes a habit.
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Old September 13th, 2011, 07:13 AM   #6

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I tend to agree that if it's just a few words or phrases, it isn't a big deal.
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Old September 13th, 2011, 07:15 AM   #7

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The use phrases is rather difficult, and perhaps a little peti-fogging in terms of plagarism.

Short of coining a phrase, sometimes its just the best way to describe or its just the best term to use. If thats really wrong as far as plagarism is concerned its not too much to be bothered about.

Now whole paragraphs and arguments and what not is another matter entirely.
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Old September 13th, 2011, 07:19 AM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by DreamWeaver View Post
Now whole paragraphs and arguments and what not is another matter entirely.
Yes I wholeheartedly agree.
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Old July 29th, 2012, 04:54 PM   #9

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The most forgiven plagiarist is Martin Luther King in his doctoral dissertation. As far as "content of character goes", there is a humbling lesson on human nature here.

Another is "
audacity of hope", used by the historian Francis Parkman in (I believe) 1869. He was discussing the indomitable explorer LaSalle, lost on the uncharted Gulf of Mexico coast. Copied? not copied? is it trifling enough not to matter... but what a great word combo.
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