The celebrity psychiatrist Raj Persaud was suspended from practising for three months today for passing off other scholars’ work as his own. [...] The psychiatrist claimed he was in a confused mental state at the time due to the stress he was under to meet publishing deadlines.
(GMC suspends Raj Persaud for plagiarism, David Batty and agencies for guardian.co.uk, Friday June 20 2008)
If only he’d called a librarian. If he’d done so early on, they could’ve given him tips about how to keep track of his references, whether using old-school methods (e.g. index cards) or super-duper Web 2.0 citation sharing (e.g. CiteULike). They could’ve also reminded him of the researcher’s golden rule: if you’re copy-and-pasting something, always put it in quotation marks. Ok, later on you might have a nightmare finding out where the quote came from, but at least you’ll remember not to pass it off as your own writing!
Even at the last minute a librarian might have been able to save the day by finding out where those obscure quotes came from and filling in the gaps in his bibliography. I’ve done this myself to help out anxious authors who forgot to write down the place of publication of a book so obscure Amazon doesn’t stock it (!), or, on one memorable occasion, which page in that three-volume monster history epic their two-line quote came from. It’s a bit of a pain tidying up after someone else’s disorganisation, but I much preferred doing the legwork to contemplating the idea the author might turn in their monograph with plagiarised content!
So, Raj, if you’re reading, why not spend some of that three-month enforced holiday getting to know your university’s librarians?