Second Chances for Plagiarism
I had an exchange with someone that had plagiarized some work recently. That’s nothing new, and I run into plagiarism constantly as an editor/publisher of information on the Internet.
As a quick aside, if you aren’t sure what plagiarism is, go to plagiarism.org, read Wikipedia, or ask someone. The short answer is, when you write anything, don’t cut/paste from other sources.
This person had copied some sections of a few posts for part of an article they had written. Their work was of good quality, and the plagiarized sections were fairly small. I was actually surprised that these particular sections were copied since they could have easily rewritten them.
In this case, I contacted the person, rejecting the article and chastising them for copying someone else’s work. We actually when back and forth a couple times as this person argued that they had cited the source and their experience in college had been some portions of other work could be used in a thesis. I agreed that portions of work can be used, but they must be cited properly. Quoted or set aside, and footnoted to make it clear that the words used are not the author’s words. Merely adding a note to your article that lists a source is not enough.
The other day I got a note from the author apologizing again, and agreeing that he had misunderstood was plagiarism was, agreeing not to do it again, and asking not to be banned from SQLServerCentral. My policy has been to blanket-ly no longer accept work from someone that plagiarizes since I don’t have enough resources to do extensive checking. However, I don’t often get much of an apology or an appeal of the ban.
I believe in second chances. I don’t think that a mistake, even a voluntary one, should condemn someone forever. We all act poorly at times, we all do things we regret later, or might do differently a second time, and we certainly all make mistakes.
I’ve been reconsidering my ban, and while I think it still makes some sense, I do think that I need to give people second chances at times. I’m unsure of how best to do this, and how best to involve the community. My initial thought is to create some walled area where we post content that needs a plagiarism check. However I’m not sure how to best do this and respect the privacy and reputation of people. If they plagiarize, I’m not against disclosing that, but if the person is doing a good job, I don’t want to bias people against their work.
I wish it were simple, but to me, it’s not. I am open to suggestions.