So I'm back at the local coffeeshop, and the coffee was better today (I think they may have cleaned the machine? or perhaps it was just because I forgot to specify skim milk, so I got the full-fat kind? mmmmmmm). And I ordered my usual peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich (yes, I have such sophisticated tastes), and got three slices instead of two (I think the girl making it screwed up). Not like I really need the extra calories, but hey, extra food. I love the way the honey melts on the toasted bread and dribbles and drools all over the plate, and down my arm.
I am here, in theory, to work on the eternal paper that won't get finished, although I've been here about an hour and all I've done yet is read blogs (hey, you can't actually work when your fingers are covered in honey). But I'm going to start as soon as I finish this post, really I am. I'm still slogging my way through the penultimate revision - this is where I go through and add the bits I've determined that I need to add, re-consult the scholarship so I can fill in all those footnotes that say "CITATION??", and try to make it as complete as possible. Then it's time to print out the whole thing and polish, polish, polish - that will be the ultimate revision. And then it will go in a big envelope with a nice polite groveling letter, and fly away to the journal editor. Who, thankfully, is not the same person to whom I once wrote about the plagiarism I detected in an article from said journal, who did not agree that it was plagiarism. Well, okay, but let me just say that if one of my students had handed in a paper that paraphrased as sloppily as did this article, I would have handed them their ass. But who am I to say?
Since there seems to be a plagiarism theme in my recent posts, let me leave you with my favorite plagiarism story. In my last year at Rural Utopia, I had a student who decided to do her senior project on Robin Hood. She'd taken a class with me in which we'd read Maurice Keen's The Outlaws of Medieval Legend (originally published ca. 1960), which got her interested. Well, I should point out that she was an EXCELLENT student, and being thorough and dedicated as well as smart, she went searching through WorldCat, where she found someone's early-1970s dissertation on outlaws, and inter-library-loaned it.
When it arrived, she brought it to a meeting with me to show me that it was a word-for-word copy of Keen's book.
Anyway, I e-mailed the DGS of the university that had granted the degree, who was HORRIFIED. Given the dates, the DGS hadn't been there when this person had submitted the dissertation, nor were any of the committee members still there (hell, some of them are probably dead). But he promised that he would look into the matter and that they would begin the process of revoking his degree. I didn't think much of it for the next few months, until I finally got another e-mail saying that they had managed to track down the offender, and forwarding me the e-mail that the offender had written.
It was one of the saddest things I'd ever read. Apparently the man's father had died while he was supposed to be writing the dissertation, and he talked about being panicked because his only opportunity for a job (the early 70s not being the best time to be on the market) depended on his being done. He didn't try to justify this, mind you, he was just explaining what his thought processs had been. (And I don't think that job even did work out, as there was no evidence that this guy had stayed in academia - there were no traces of academic affiliation, nor did he have any publications [unsurprisingly, I guess!]).
But that's not really the sad part - the sad part was him talking about how he was actually kind of relieved, that he had felt guilty about this since he'd done the deed, and how he had now had to explain to his wife of thirty years what he had done. (Can you imagine?? "Hi, honey, how was your day? oh, and by the way, you know that Ph.D. I'm supposed to have...?")
Of course, the immediate question this raised for me was: what the HELL was his committee doing?? Now, I suppose I can't really blame them for being unaware of Keen's book (though, of course, really I do), as I'm sure we all supervise stuff outside our own narrow specialty, and have to be able to trust that the student is well-trained enough to be able to cover the central works in his/her area. But clearly they weren't interested in seeing, you know, DRAFTS, or process, or anything like that - because otherwise, how would they explain the going from nothing to fully-formed-and-polished-something inherent in copying a book word for word?
Anyway, that's my "my student caught a plagiarist" story. Hmmm, maybe it's worth using as cautionary tale in my classes in future...
Okay, the post is finished, the sandwich is eaten, and I've washed all the honey off my fingers. To work!