With modern technology, copying people's work and passing it off as your own is easier than ever--but it is also easier to get caught. Punishments for plagiarism can be severe, yet students are often given little advice. Lynn Eaton investigates
Copying someone else's work is never a good idea, as Prime Minister Tony Blair found out last year when, to everyone's amazement, his government used a previously obscure Californian graduate's doctoral thesis as some of the basis for going to war with Iraq.
In February 2004, Downing Street had to admit, somewhat sheepishly, that it had copied the thesis, written by Ibrahim Al Marashi and colleagues, warts and all, and used it as part of the justification for the war. Journalists knew it had been copied because, although changes had been made, it even included basic spelling and grammatical errors.
When the blatant copying was pointed out, a number 10 spokesman confessed that the government should have credited the authors of the articles it used in the document and told Channel 4 News, who broke the story, “We all have lessons to learn from this.” (www.channel4.com/news/2003/02/week_1/07_dossier.html)
The incident was not