Is It Plagiarism?

Professor Lee is writing a proposal for a research grant, and the deadline for the proposal submission is two days from now. To complete the background section of the proposal, Lee copies a few isolated sentences of a journal paper written by another author. The copied sentences consist of brief, factual, one-sentence summaries of earlier articles closely related to the proposal, descriptions of basic concepts from textbooks, and definitions of standard mathematical notations. None of these ideas is due to the other author. Lee adds a one-sentence summary of the journal paper and cites it.

  1. Does the copying of a few isolated sentences in this case constitute plagiarism?

  2. By citing the journal paper, has Lee given proper credit to the other author?

the worst violations of scientific standards because they undermine the trust on which science is based.

However, intent can be difficult to establish. For example, because trust in science depends so heavily on the assumption that the origin and content of scientific ideas will be treated with respect, plagiarism is taken very seriously in science, even though it does not introduce spurious results into research records in the same way that fabrication and falsification do. But someone who plagiarizes may insist it was a mistake, either in note taking or in writing, and that there was no intent to deceive. Similarly, someone accused of falsification may contend that errors resulted from honest mistakes or negligence.

Within the scientific community, the effects of misconduct—in terms of lost time, damaged reputations, and feelings of personal betrayal—can be devastating. Individuals, institutions, and even entire research fields can suffer grievous setbacks from instances of fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism. Acts of misconduct also can draw the attention of the media, policymakers, and the general public, with negative consequences for all of science and, ultimately, for the public at large.

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