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Experts Analyze the Trouble With Plagiarism

A Michigan State University Education Policy Center official said that accusations of plagiarism in a study it conducted on the financial impact of consolidation of school districts doesn't impact the integrity of its findings.

Robert Floden, co-director of center, said the concerns about the study that received statewide media coverage were only due to improper attribution of sources. The study was done by Michigan State University professor Sharif Shakrani.

"This is nothing that bears on the substance of the study he did," Floden said.

But ethics and plagiarism experts said plagiarism itself puts a study in question.

"Dishonest conduct in the form of plagiarism undermines the credibility of the author and therefore the study, even though the study might have been considered brilliant if the author had given proper attribution to its source material," said Alec Rothrock, a legal ethics lawyer in Colorado, in an email.

Jonathan Bailey, a copyright and plagiarism consultant in New Orleans, stated that plagiarism impacts the validity of a study in two ways.

"First, it calls into question the ethics and integrity with which the study was carried out," Bailey wrote in an email. "Even if the other material and the results are valid, serious questions about the quality of the research and the honesty with which it was carried out have to be raised."

"Second, much of the validity of a study is determined by the sources it cites and references it makes. Plagiarism damages the ability to properly source where information in the study comes from, making it difficult, if not impossible, to gauge the authenticity of the previous works it is built upon."

"In short, in cases like this, even if the research is valid, so many questions are raised about it that using it or citing it down the road is almost impossible. So even if the findings are valid, they will be almost impossible to trust, which is unfortunate at times but a necessary part of the academic and scientific process."


See also:

MSU Investigating Charges of Researcher Plagiarism

Possible Plagiarism in MSU/Newspaper Report on School Consolidation

School Consolidation Is No ‘Silver Bullet’


Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.