An architecture professor at the University of Arizona has been sanctioned — lightly — for plagiarizing from the thesis of one of her masters’ students.
received a “formal admonishment” from the university’s provost after the student accused Dickinson of poaching material from his master’s thesis and presenting it as her own.
Nicholas Johnson, 28, the alumnus who reported Dickinson, said pursuing the matter was an exhaustive effort that ended in disappointment.
In one of the cases he complained about, the UA’s own analysis showed “roughly 20 percent” of a conference paper Dickinson wrote was copied from Johnson’s thesis without citations or footnotes. Even so, the UA ruled no plagiarism occurred in that instance.
Johnson, who works for a local architectural firm, said the situation has left him afraid to publish his thesis, lest it appear that he plagiarized his professor rather than the other way around.
Although Dickinson removed from the web a document containing lifted chunks of Johnson’s work, she was not forced to remove the conference paper. Why? According to the Daily Star, Dickinson’s citation of Johnson’s work in the manuscript immunized her against the plagiarism charge:
Dickinson did include a “one-sentence acknowledgment on Page 2” that Johnson did much of the research the paper discussed, but that didn’t excuse her failure to properly cite material taken directly from his work, the review panel found.
A later UA review found the reverse: that Dickinson’s mention of Johnson’s research role effectively canceled out his plagiarism claim.
“Although the committee found that Professor Dickinson did not cite Mr. Johnson’s work conventionally (i.e. she did not follow common or established practice), it nevertheless concluded (her) use of Mr. Johnson’s work in this context did not rise to level of misconduct – i.e. plagiarism,” [Provost Andrew] Comrie’s decision letter … said.
In a letter of determination, Comrie decreed that:
l. Professor Dickinson, in consultation with the Dean of the College, should develop a series of workshops focused on, among other things, proper citation and attribution as part of the process of collaborative work.
2. In order to clarify Mr. Johnson’s contributions to Professor Dickinson’s Proceedings Paper, Professor Dickinson should send to her publisher an erratum adding Mr. Johnson’s thesis as a fully-cited reference, including the origin of the figures and tables.
As the news account notes:
Comrie’s ruling in the second case runs contrary to what the UA tells its students about plagiarism.
One of its plagiarism prevention websites says a common form or plagiarism involves “using another person’s exact words without including quotation marks *and* citation.” (The word “and” appears in bold type with asterisks for emphasis.)
Indeed. The school’s code of academic integrity also has this to say:
Faculty members shall foster an expectation of academic integrity and shall notify students of their policy for the submission of academic work that has previously been submitted for academic advancement, as well as any special rules of academic integrity or discipline specific ethics established for a particular class or program (e.g., whether a faculty member permits collaboration on coursework; ethical requirements for lab and clinical assignments; etc.), and make every reasonable effort to avoid situations conducive to infractions of this Code.
Read more details from the Daily Star.