Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Professor David Sorkin of The John Marshall Law School observes that "[i]n the practice of law, the wholesale copying of others' words and ideas seems to happen all the time." But he notes that lawyers have an ethical responsibility to "recognize plagiarism, understand it, and learn how to avoid it." And as teachers, we have a responsibility to teach it in a way that will be meaningful for our students.
So here's another great, short article that you can use as a handout for your writing classes. Professor Sorkin wrote Practicing Plagiarism for the Illinois Bar Journal. It was written for practicing lawyers, but as a handout it will work quite well with your students. You can download a copy of the article by clicking here or by going to http://ssrn.com/abstract=1100323. (You can also give the link to your students if you want to save on the amount of copying you have to do.)
The article discusses definitions of plagiarism, questions of intent, copying from cases versus copying commentary from treatises and other secondary sources, using form books, and knowing when to cite.
Here's a sample quote (from the conclusion of the article):
Plagiarism is something lawyers must take seriously. Passing off others' words or ideas as one's own work is unethical and potentially dangerous, even if it's merely the result of carelessness. Understanding and avoiding plagiarism are therefore essential skills for every lawyer.