Category: plagiarism

I have defended people from high school students to law professors.  Most of them are outrageous abuses of electronic plagiarism detectors, which identify only similar strings of words (such as you might find in any text on this subject.  It’s a long way from that to theft of originality, which is the only definition of “plagiarism” that makes sense in the Internet Age..  Still, careers are derailed or destroyed over the machine’s findings.

Biden’s plagiarism alone disqualifies him

Stopping plagiarism is as hard as defining it. As long as certain ideas, themes, personages, etc., remain in the public domain, there will be accusations – but not necessarily dishonesty. Biden’s plagiarism is at a whole different level.



Don’t forget why God made your eyes — plagiarize!

Tom Lehrer, “Lobachevsky”

I’m involved in a fair number of plagiarism cases.   In non-fiction allegations, I typically represent a student who has omitted quotations marks, possibly because he/she was lifting what appeared to be basic background information.  There are very few ways of saying some things with the appropriate degree of precision (especially in legal and scientific writing).

What plagiarism is – and is not

I confidently predict that sometime in the next year, a public figure (or even someone you know) will be accused of plagiarism.  When that happens, read this first:

What plagiarism is — and is not

A brief definition: plagiarism is knowingly appropriating another’s original words and/or ideas and presenting them as one’s own.

As a student, scholar, and professional writer, I have long been familiar with the standards governing academic honesty and plagiarism. I applied these to many academic publications, including my master’s and doctoral theses. I dealt with student plagiarism at various times in my professorial career (1967-1980), and later, as a speechwriter and corporate communicator, I applied these standards to ensure that the content of my work products, including professional articles, was either original or properly attributed. Mindless Machine Requires Human Brain Mindless Machine Requires Human Brain

“We cannot get grace from gadgets.”
J.B. Priestly

The website of cheerily proclaims that “Turnitin helps educators evaluate student work and provide great feedback to improve student learning. The cloud-based service is available at an annual subscription for schools, colleges, and universities.”

Like all tools, this one can be turned to malevolent use. I am a practitioner of forensic linguistics ( ) and every year I get more plagiarism cases. The accused include high school and college students and even law professors, and more often than not, turnitin is the weapon of choice.

On the Quasi-plagiarism of Rand Paul

All of a sudden, Plagiarism Rand Paul gets over 40 MILLION Google hits. But the charge is somewhat bogus.

Plagiarism, in my experience, is one of those charges that is meant to question someone’s basic integrity. Whether true or not (and it’s hard to decide; see below), the mere accusation brings stigma. I have more than once been consulted about a plagiarism charge, groundless upon investigation but meant to be part of a general moral attack. Let’s throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.

When a Lawyer Needs a Linguist…

Linguists and lawyers

When does a lawyer need a linguist?

Roger Shuy, one of the most preeminent forensic linguists, notes that the interpretation and application of the law are overwhelmingly about language. Thus, there are many situations in which the expertise of a linguist – someone trained in the precise description and analysis of language (but not necessarily a person who knows many languages) – can make substantial contributions to a case. The linguist can provide evidence one way or the other. Or he/she can clarify the linguistic principles, problems, and processes that the case involves.

(1) Patent/copyright law.