Plagiarism Discovered in Two Disunion Articles by the Same Author

My high school students are in the middle of their research projects and tomorrow I am scheduled to talk with them about plagiarism. Part of the discussion will involve having them look at examples so they can take the necessary steps to steer clear of what is unfortunately becoming all too common in the professional world. Earlier today the New York Times announced that two essay authored by Karen Abbott, “copied specific language and passages from several books and papers.” The two articles did include references to books from which the passages in question were taken, but without quotation marks the reader has no way of knowing that these are not the author’s own words.

I suspect that people are pouring through what I’ve heard is a very good book by this author on women during the Civil War. A review in The Civil War Monitor by Ashely Whitehead Luskey raised questions about the handling of citations.

As the NYTs notes, the American Historical Association is very clear that this constitutes plagiarism. In fact, it is the most obvious example. It would be much worse if the sources were not included at the end of the article and this does suggest that the author may, in fact, be confused about what constitutes plagiarism.  That said, we shouldn’t dance around this issue and try to avoid calling this for what it is. I don’t see how I can expect my students to take plagiarism seriously if we don’t hold our historians to the same standards.

Unfortunately, it looks like I have another example to present to students tomorrow.

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