violated. Sometimes institutions may be unwilling or unable to respond to an ethical transgression in the way the scientific community would desire. Researchers might then have to decide the extent to which they are willing to impose and enforce sanctions themselves.


A broad spectrum of misconduct falls into the category of plagiarism, ranging from obvious theft to uncredited paraphrasing that some might not consider dishonest at all. In a lifetime of reading, theorizing, and experimenting, a person's work will inevitably incorporate and overlap with that of others. However, occasional overlap is one thing; systematic use of the techniques, data, words, or ideas of others without appropriate acknowledgment is another.

A person's background can play a role in considering episodes of plagiarism. For example, what if May had never been taught the conventions and institutional policies governing the attribution of other's work? Should she then have been treated more leniently?


Francine's most obvious option is to discuss the situation with her research advisor, but she has to ask herself if this is the best alternative. Her advisor is professionally and emotionally involved in the situation and may not be able to take an impartial stance. In addition, because the advisor is involved in the situation, she may feel the need to turn the inquiry into a formal investigation or to report the inquiry to her supervisors.

Francine should also consider whether she can discuss the situation directly with Sylvia. Many suspicions evaporate when others have a chance to explain actions that may have been misinterpreted.

If Francine feels that she cannot talk with Sylvia, she needs some way to discuss her concerns confidentially. Maybe she could turn to a trusted friend, another member of the faculty, someone on the university's administrative staff, or an ombudsman designated by the university. That person can help Francine explore such questions as: What is known and what is not known about the situation? What are the options available to her? Should she put her concerns in writing, an action likely to lead to a formal investigation?

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