[FOUNTAIN]Not so original sinsA few years ago, a college newspaper carried a story on three patterns of plagiarism among students.
The first was called the “full camel barbeque” ― copying someone else’s paper from beginning to end. One student’s report started, “In ‘The King and the Queen,’ a television series currently airing on KBS...” Although the series had ended more than two years earlier, he copied a paper absent-mindedly and wrote as if the drama was still on air.
The second type was the “dainties of all lands and seas.” A student presented a paper with ample examples, citations and footnotes. However, he made the mistake of forgetting to number the footnotes correctly. While putting together everything that seemed relevant, he copied even the footnote numbers as they were.
The last case was the “fish heads and animal tails.” The body was entirely copied from another person’s work, but the student added his own introduction and conclusion. It was the worst because the plagiarist cleverly pretended to have written the paper himself.
Plagiarism can be found regardless of time, place and genre. Anne Fadiman wrote that plagiarism was a human instinct in “Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader.” In his 1688 work, “Les Caracteres,” Jean De La Bruyer wrote “We come too late to say anything which has not been said already.” Even that quote was a plagiarism. In 1621, Robert Burton wrote in “The Anatomy of Melancholy,” “We can say nothing but what hath been said.”
A few years ago, the Washington Post introduced software for detecting plagiarism, developed by Professor Lou Bloomfield of the University of Virginia. The program searches and compares papers and defines those that share more than six words in a sentence as plagiarisms. He had 1,500 students submit papers via email, ran the program and found that 122 students, about 8 percent, were guilty of plagiarism. Mr. Bloomfield said he was disappointed because plagiarism was more common than he had hoped.
A team of JoongAng Ilbo reporters investigated 19 papers and books that had been revealed to be plagiarisms by academic circles or by the media since 1990. Nine out of the 10 professors involved are still in office. Those who make an issue out of plagiarism are criticized instead. Some cynically say that it is harder to find an original work than a plagiarism.
What would happen if we run Professor Bloomfield’s detecting program in Korean universities? It is not hard to guess the outcome, but I just don’t want to know. We will not just be disappointed but might end up in complete despair.
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
More in Columns
A cautionary tale
A government in disarray
China’s thin skin
The Korean War from China’s view
Who’s laughing now?