What is plagiarism?

Based on the continued conversations amongst genealogists and the revelations of professional writers (who ought to know better) committing plagiarism, the adage, “I’ll know it when I see it,” does not seem to apply.

To improve my ability to avoid plagiarism in  my own writing and to recognize it in others, I did a little online research and found a great resource which may help with both.


This resource is provided by Indiana University  for its students.  I had taken the short quiz a few months ago and did not do well.  At that same time I started the long test but didn’t finish it. Today, I took the short quiz and i did substantially better! I even like the decision model, but recognize that the citation model used is not that recommended for genealogists.

I discovered there are multiple facets that must all be in place for plagiarism to not exist.

  1. Words should not be copied without quotes, otherwise it looks like your original thought;
  2. Words, ideas, and illustrations should not be used without proper citations;
  3. Words, ideas, and illustrations should not be used without a bibliographic entry.

NGSQ and authorities in the genealogical field use the “rule of three.”  Three words exactly copied from another’s work requires quotes and attribution.  Three paragraphs copied from another’s work requires the author’s permission (in addition to quotes and attribution).

So,  take the quiz and the test to see how you do.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: skied two days, celebrated my birthday with my family, coordinated with the other ProGen discussion leaders to make sure we understood our roles and responsibilities, including the use of the technology associated with conducting virtual study groups. Also, ordered a book from the library on indexing, which I had problems with during the publication of the SGS Bulletin. To do: complete the plagiarism test.

Wikipedia, “Potter Stewart,” quoted from concurring opinion, US Supreme Court, Jacobellis vs. Ohio, referring to the identification of pornography.

School of Education, Indiana University, “Understanding  Plagiarism,” https://www.indiana.edu/~tedfrick/plagiarism/ accessed 30 December 2012.

3 comments on “What is plagiarism?

  1. I just have to ask – which book on indexing did you order? I hope you’ll review it later – and mention any others you’ve found useful.

    • jkmorelli says:

      The book is Indexing Books by Nancy C. Mulvany. I’ll let you know how it is. I am in the first chapter.

      • Thanks! I would like to look at “Indexing From Thesauri to the Semantic Web” by Pierre de Keyser (2012) too, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a practical book.

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