Reading this blog entry at the Little Professor put me in mind of all the times I have seen articles and papers (and not just by students) that offer a quotation from an author and then source it by saying “quoted in” X (where X is some other book).
Is this plagiarism?
Whether or not it is plagiarism it is indicative of intellectual laziness. If I say:
“disease is no longer a pathological species inserting itself into the body wherever possible; it is the body itself that has become ill” (Foucault 1973, quoted in Rose 2007: 43)
you will know I have not looked at the original. This gives license to the reader not to take what I write too seriously.
But what if I use the quote but don’t say “quoted in”? The LP argues, correctly I think, that if (say) Rose altered the quotation here for his own argument and then we quoted that altered quotation without citing it, this in fact does constitute plagiarism. An equally serious case is where we derive a quote from a source and just use original quote without consulting that original source: that is blatant plagiarism and bad scholarship.
I think LP’s last point is a good summary(it happens to mention Foucault but that’s not important):
More to the point: aren’t most of us trained to reserve “qtd. in” for emergent occasions, to deal with texts that we have no chance of seeing? Medieval manuscripts in Icelandic monasteries are one thing; Michel Foucault is quite another.
This issue has another angle: what if by reading Rose I discover a text by Foucault I wasn’t previously aware of. Am I obliged to cite Rose as well to avoid “citation plagiarism”? Consensus opinion would probably be “no.”
LP links to this blog entry at the Language Log which discusses how this got started, namely the dispute between Finkelstein and Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, a rather unlovely man who allegedly interfered in Finkelstein’s tenure process.
References serve a number of purposes:
- They provide authority for the statement cited.
- They allow the reader to check the accuracy of the citation.
- They allow the reader to obtain further information about the cited point.
- They point the reader to a potential source of additional references.
- They demonstrate that the author is aware of the source.
- They give credit to the originator of the idea or words.
The author who obtains a reference via an intermediate source and does not alert the reader to this fact does not thereby fail in respect of any of the above. In all of these respects, the reader obtains precisely the same benefit from the reference. Furthermore, the source of the words or ideas receives the credit for them.
I would tend to agree. Additionally, we’re taught not to cite texts unless they have a direct bearing on the argument or are themselves quoted from. But quoting another text “through” an intermediate text without acknowledgment [added: and without consulting the original text] is clearly wrong, not because it is plagiarism (which it is) but because it is bad scholarship.
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