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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Postgraduate Diary: Plagiarism Happens to the Best of Us

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Further to my previous posts on plagiarism and my warning in the citation guide for this website, it is humbling to learn that plagiarism can be committed by even the best of scholars. The Times Higher Education Supplement this week announces that "Cambridge University Press will issue an apology and correction after The Times Higher revealed that passages in its Cambridge Companion to D.H. Lawrence had been lifted from a 1960s work without acknowledgement." Apparently two Cambridge scholars, Con Coroneos and Trudi Tate, had quoted from Graham Hough's book The Dark Sun: A Study of D.H. Lawrence without acknowledgement. Thankfully, according to Kevin Taylor, director of intellectual property at CUP, the plagiarism appears to have been due to unconscious error: "The co-authors made notes before writing up their chapter, and Con Coroneos made notes on Dr Hough's book without annotating them, which he later took to be his own words."

Though in my earlier comments on the subject I have admonished those visitors to The Pequod who may deliberately represent my work as their own, plagiarism of the passive sort is certainly the more insidious, and perhaps even the more serious. For my own part, I am sure that in my 100 000 word thesis, some concepts will be paraphrases or - horror - direct quotations of authors I have read, and that some will slip through the net of my referencing due to my shoddy scholarship and less than meticulous methods. Though I try to keep my bibliographic databases up to date, and in all my writing make footnotes referring in brief to the full Reference Manager record, in many cases in which I was desperate to get the flow of my thoughts on page uninterrupted I have digitally scribbled an "xxx" instead of an author's name. Like pornography or weak Australian beer, these letters indicate something nasty lurking beneath my thesis. I hope that as I start to edit and proof over the coming final year, the xxx's resolve themselves into proper names and books, and remove any risk of my having copied the work of others without acknowledgement.

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Posted by Alistair at 2:51 pm


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