Against Plagiarism

in academic writing

Taking shortcuts in research is dishonest

A typical scholarly article includes a literature review, in which the author summarizes related work from earlier articles. Some students copy these summaries for use in their own academic papers. That is plagiarism.

Consider this example from Deuze (2003):

"[S]tudies show convincingly that a vast majority of journalists in, for example, Southern Europe (for France, Spain and Italy see Hopscotch, 2002), the Netherlands (Pleijter et al., 2002), Germany (Luege, 1999; Luenenbuerger-Reidenbach et al, 2000), the US (Middleberg and Ross, 2002), and Australia (Quinn, 1998) are now using the internet regularly in their daily work."

Mark Deuze, the author of the article, found and consulted six different sources cited in that paragraph. A student who copies that paragraph and drops it into his or her own research paper is telling the biggest lie of all -- the student is claiming to have consulted those six articles. In such a case, the sheer magnitude of the dishonesty compels a professor to fail the student for the course.

In a different article, Knobloch et al. (2003) wrote:

"An investigation by Zillmann, Knobloch, and Yu (2001) specifically examined the consequences of image incorporation in text on selective exposure to that text. Using the format of Time, Newsweek, and similar magazines, these investigators aggregated articles of general interest in an experimental newsmagazine. With text held constant throughout, half of these articles were manipulated, presenting either images of a particular kind or no images. The remaining articles, some with images and others without, were not manipulated."

An unscrupulous student who copies that text is claiming to have read the 2001 study by Zillmann, Knobloch, and Yu. This is antithetical to the purpose of a literature review, which is supposed to demonstrate that your own reading has informed your own research.


Deuze, M. (2003). The web and its journalisms: Considering the consequences of different types of newsmedia online. New Media & Society, 5(2), 203-230.

Knobloch, S.; Hastall, M.; Zillmann, D.; and Callison, C. (2003). Imagery effects on the selective reading of Internet newsmagazines. Communication Research, 30(1), 3-29.