Scavenger Hunt!

1) What is the most popular video or DVD in Hindi owned by the NCSU Libraries?
2) Who is the author of the 1973 American poem whose first line is “I make my children promises in wintry afternoons”?
3) How many libraries in the world own the following book?
Borém, Aluízio and Del Gidice, Marcos P. Alimentos geneticamente modificados. Viosa, MG [Brazil]: Universidad Federal de Viosa, 2003.
4) About how many people have cited this unpublished technical report?
L. Page, S. Brin, R. Motwani, and T. Winograd, The Pagerank Citation Ranking: Bringing order to the web, technical report, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 1998.
5) About how many items did The New York Times mention Osama bin Laden between September 10, 2000 and September 10, 2001?

Campus Book Delivery

It’s always so difficult to get not just information, but information ABOUT information to the right people . . . it is in fact the case that you can ask for books (and maybe journals, too? I can’t tell) to be delivered to DH Hill from other libraries, such as the Natural Resources Library and the Vet Med Library, through TripSaver. It’s called “Campus Book Delivery.”

On the other hand, they have rocking chairs in the Natural Resources Library. It’s a nice place to visit. Even though once, several years ago, an eighteen-inch-long Egyptian Monitor Lizard was loose in the building for awhile.

Course Evaluations

Course evaluations are now online. (I for one am glad, although some people are worried about the same issues that always arise with moving from print to digital, such as protecting the privacy of the information.) Please visit between Monday, April 16 (today) and Sunday, April 29. For help, e-mail Thanks.

Information Scandals

In class, look up one of these “information scandals” on the web and/or in a database using these keywords. (You can change the keywords as you search.) Find the best source you can and post the full citation information (author, title, date, other info, link if possible), plus your original keywords, as a comment to this post.

  • Stephen Glass and the New Republic
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin and The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys
  • Stanley Pons, Martin Fleischmann, and cold fusion
  • Alan Sokal and Social Text
  • Woo-Suk Hwang and cloning
  • Nicholson Baker and Double Fold
  • Ellen Roche and Johns Hopkins University
  • Antonio Arnaiz-Villena and Elsevier
  • The CIA, the GPO, and Indonesia
  • Jayme Sokolow and Eros and Modernization
  • Dichloroacetate (DCA) and cancer
  • SCIgen and the World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics, and Informatics (WMSCI) 2005
  • Martin Luther King and “Comparison of the Conception of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman”
  • Bryan Le Beau and commencement speech
  • Hugh Trevor-Roper and the Hitler diaries

Plagiarism Thoughts

I have these further comments on plagiarism and patchwriting, important and therefore in bold.

  • Copying someone’s words is not always “wrong” in the sense of “immoral”; it depends on the context, the intent of the copier, and the viewpoint of the original author.
  • In the academic context, there are (or should be) two kinds of plagiarism: deliberate plagiarism, which is wrong in the sense of “immoral,” and patchwriting, which is wrong in the sense of “mistaken.”
  • Patchwriting is a mistake caused by being unwilling to use your own words. Unfortunately, sometimes it is also a mistake to use your own words: words that feel like “your own” are often too informal or too awkward for academic writing. It is also a mistake to quote too much.
  • Commit those three mistakes in this order: 1) Use your own awkward words. 2) Quote too much. 3) Patchwrite, with full citation information.

More plagiarism investigation

Googling the first sentence of the Medium Blue article (“Many businesses recognize that search engines can bring volumes of highly targeted prospects to their website, typically at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing.”) produces 468 results, of which Medium Blue is the second in the list. The results include the following:

I plugged the sentence in to Google and told it not to look for “Buresh” (-Buresh) and got 459 results. Then I added the keyword “Buresh” (+Buresh) and got 54 results. I also searched for various years (2003, 2002, 2001, & 2000); the earliest example of the article I could find was that first Google result, which is dated January 2003. Searching on the last sentence of the article only brought up two results, both credited to Buresh. The first few sentences of the article were reproduced far, far more often than the later parts of the article.

Googling the first sentence of the Able Webs article (“Search engines are the vehicles that drive potential customers to your websites.”) produced 508 results, with Able Webs sixth. The results include the following:

  • Add #363 – Search Engine Keywords Selection — Ta da! Presto! Open Sesame! The first result in Google for this sentence is from the SAME COMPANY NEWSLETTER that published the article we read on Medium Blue. The author is given as “Rajkumar,” and the date is October 2005.

The same newsletter has published the same article twice, in other words. Literally in other words — but not that other. Searching on the sentence plus “Rajkumar” produced only 4 results.

Most of the class thought that Able Webs plagiarized Medium Blue; I think that “the wisdom of crowds” has proven to be real wisdom yet again. I am confident that Scott Buresh was the one who actually wrote the article, the one that appeared on Medium Blue, way back in 2003. Of course, there might be other versions of the thing floating around that I haven’t found yet! Feel free to research it yourself.

Also, Dylan’s question led to an interesting experiment: in my version of MS Word, there’s a feature called “Compare Documents” under Tools –> Track Changes –> Compare Documents. I made Word docs out of both sites, compared them, and lo and behold — MS Word can’t tell that one of them is plagiarized. It sees them as completely different from one another, even though the similarities are very obvious to all of us.

Plagiarism Links

Below are two web pages with suspiciously similar language. Examine both, and answer the questions below.

  1. Which one was plagiarized from the other?
  2. How can you tell?
  3. Is the plagiarism deliberate or accidental? In Howard’s terms, is it plagiarism (deliberate) or is it patchwriting (accidental)?
  4. Choose two sentences, one from each source, that are very similar. Underline the differences and circle the similarities.
  5. In general, what are the differences between the two sites?
  6. Is there any ethical difference between this example of plagiarism and deliberate plagiarism of a scholarly source? Explain.
  7. Take the Conclusion paragraph from the “Medium Blue” site and rephrase it in your own words.