News Story

Possible Plagiarism in MSU/Newspaper Report on School Consolidation

A school consolidation study done by Michigan State University's Education Policy Center received significant media coverage around the state. It also appears to contain text that was plagiarized from other sources, according to Mackinac Center Education Policy Director Michael Van Beek.

The report, titled "School District Consolidation Study in 10 Michigan Counties," was done by Sharif Shakrani, senior scholar at the Education Policy Center at MSU and a professor of measurement and quantitative methods. The report was paid for by Booth News Services and got front-page treatment in newspapers across the state.

Van Beek said he noticed similarities between the MSU report and another report on which it was based. The Mackinac Center used plagiarism-screening software and found more than 800 words in the paper that appear to be taken verbatim or nearly word-for-word from several sources, including a 2001 study done by William Duncombe and John Yinger of the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University. In those instances, which appear throughout the study and include entire paragraphs, there was insufficient or no attribution, Van Beek said.

Shakrani said his research involved graduate students and included about 50 different sources, many of which he said were used for background purposes.

Shakrani said they didn't give credit to all the sources he drew upon in the study. He did say he credited Duncombe and Yinger, "the source we relied very heavily."

Shakrani read a passage from his study where it cited where he got the information.

He was asked if he did that for all the sources.

"That may not be the case in all sources," Shakrani said. "There may be a paragraph or two that may be relevant. I'm not sure about that. I've got to check."

"This is for newspapers," Shakrani said. "It is not for a scholarly publication."