Take a look at the following article from the Miami New Times Blog about alleged acts of plagiarism by author Gerald Posner:
So where did Posner go wrong? Let’s start by examining his explanation of events:
“I’ll relook at this chapter and try to determine from my own notes and archives how it was sourced and put together. I have to go back to interviews more than three years old in some instances, and the same for handwritten files.”
If anything, this statement reaffirms the need to be diligent in your note taking, and that those notes should make clear reference to the source of the materials. It’s very tempting in the digital age to copy and paste content into your own notes, but if you do this, make sure to grab the source information as well!
“Babylon is the first book I did with trailing endnotes, in which a few words of text are taken and then a source is provided. In other books, I used the more traditional numbered source notes.
There just aren’t as many trailing endnotes as there are numbered ones. For instance, Babylon is 385 pages and has 740 endnotes. In Case Closed, which is 472 pages, there are 2,175 endnotes. In Killing the Dream, a smaller book at 339 pages, there are 1,739 endnotes. ”
Posner seems to argue here that the inherent differences between the two citation styles is, in part, reason for the discrepancy between the number of sources cited in his two works. But this argument is invalid, because regardless of which citation style you use, you always need to cite your sources. Claiming ingnorance is no excuse! (BTW, Posner could of benefited from contacting the library and seeking instruction or explanation of the style in use.)
“I’ve met Frank Owen, count him as a Facebook friend, and have told him that I thought his work was the best of that Paciello period.”
Familiarity with the source or a friendship with the author is no justification for plagiarism. Even if the content originates from some form of personal communication, it needs to be attributed to the original author or creator. If Posner really wanted to praise Owen’s work as the “best of the Paciello period”, then he should have cited him frequently in his book!
So is Posner guilty of multiple instances of plagiarism? While the mounting evidence looks damaging, this case looks to be ongoing, so we’ll forgo judgment for now. What Posner is guilty off is leaving the door open for the smell of plagiarism to enter the room and leave its rank odor. Had Posner followed the simple rule, “When in doubt, cite the source” then this dispute would have never been.