Saturday, July 09, 2011

The perils of plagiarism

Ah, the risks of plagiarism. UNC football player Michael McAdoo is facing charges of academic fraud for a term paper that he wrote for an African studies class. Due to the NCAA hearing transcript being made public, people, particularly NCSU fans have been searching through the paper to find evidence of plagiarism. And this example indicates the problems with lifting your text from another source, particularly one written in 1911.
"Africa of today presents a complex picture," begins one of the passages in McAdoo's paper. "... Its population of about one hundred and sixty million seems enormous, yet, in comparison to the area, it is small. It is computed at fifteen to the square feet. Its races are innumerable; its dialect a vast confusion."

The cited population was dated - today, Africa has roughly one billion people.

The text was traced to Donald Fraser's book "The Future of Africa," : "Africa of to-day presents a complex picture. ...Its population of about one hundred and sixty million seems enormous. Yet, in comparison to the area, it is small and computed at fifteen to the square mile. Its races are innumerable; its dialect a vast confusion."
That text was published in 1911.

Hint to plagiarists - don't plagiarize statistics from a source a century old to talk about current facts.

And this was a paper for which he supposedly received "improper assistance" from the team tutor. Was this the level of plagiarism that she assisted him with - copying statistics a century old? Couldn't UNC provide a higher level of cheating assistance?

I think I'll have a new example for my students when I talk about plagiarism this year.

1 comment:

Pat Patterson said...

One of my students did a short paper on the history of basketball in the Olympics. His concluding paragraph was on the still undefeated team from the US and that they could continue their winning streak in Rome. The paper was turned in during the school year of 1998.