Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wiser? Probably not, maybe just more cautious

I have been thinking a lot on plaigarism. There is still a considerable amount of discussion on this topic in the media, in blogs and in conversations (see Beattie's Blog, Mary Mccallum's blog and todays Sunday papers). Before I say anything else I want to begin by mentioning that I believe plaigarism is a dreadful thing to do. But...

When writing, based on research, I am incapable of remembering fragments of sentences, let alone complete ones without referring back to the source. My remembery circuitry is a bit rubbish. I therefore struggle to understand how someone can use another's sentences unwittingly. However what if I am the exception rather than the rule? Should we be reviewing our definition of plaigarism and how it is applied? Are we too hard on ourselves? Can any of us say with 100% certainty that we would never commit this error unknowingly? I hope I never do, I will be making efforts not to, but I can't guarantee it with absolute certainty. Maybe I already have and I am just completely unaware (ok, that freaked me out a little) - I won't be casting any stones . I do have high expectations of those in positions of authority however. If you teach at the highest level I think a greater effort should be applied to avoid errors - especially when so many people look to you as a role model. So I guess I'm disappointed...but now a little more circumspect on the issue.

1 comment:

Welshcake said...

This whole subject scares me.

Sometimes I write something and it seems familiar. Then I worry whether I've read it somewhere...

I also worry about knowing where the line is between putting a new spin on something that's already out there and plagiarism.

Philip Pullman says his principle when researching a novel is to "read like a butterfly and write like a bee". But I still worry about crossing that line, somehow.