Sunday, October 25, 2009

Extensive Plagiarism Undetected by

Back in March 2007 Ohio University announced the conclusion to their plagiarism investigations with the revocation of one degree and a quote from Dr. Koonce: "I see no need to investigate further." In that same article, Ohio University also claimed to have examined all of the theses and dissertations approved by Drs. Mehta and Gunasekera. What Ohio University did not tell the public however, is that their Research Integrity Committee relied solely on plagiarism detection software for that examination.

It took months for Ohio University to return all of the cleared theses and dissertations to the catalog, but when they did, I began to discover numerous cases of plagiarism that were missed by their review. To show you how ineffective is at detecting plagiarism in engineering theses, I have highlighted page after page of copied text from a thesis that was cleared by and the Russ College Research Integrity Committee. You can download the plagiarism examples here. Text highlighted in blue is copied from the paper "Finite Element Simulation of the Electrochemical Machining Process" by H.A. Nied and E.M. Perry. Text highlighted in pink is copied from the book "Principles of Electrochemical Machining" by J.A. McGeough.

This is just one more case that demonstrates Ohio University's inconsistent enforcement of their policies and their willingness to sacrifice the credibility of honest students and alumni. It is incredibly deceptive for Ohio University to lead the public to believe that they checked the theses when they did not even bother to read them. Had they read the theses, they could have easily detected issues that should have warranted additional questions. Any reasonable and/or competent professor would have questioned how the student wrote with the expertise and eloquence of a professional who had years of experience in electrochemical machining.

Ohio University leaders obviously have no respect for their university, their students, their professors, and the public. They are even unfair to the cheaters. They should apologize to the student whose degree was revoked for not holding all cheating students accountable. Likewise, they should apologize to Drs. Mehta and Gunasekera for singling them out when other professors also approved theses with blatant plagiarism.

There are two other facts about this case worth mentioning.

After plagiarizing in his master's thesis, the student went on to earn a doctoral degree from Ohio University. It should not be any surprise that the student also plagiarized in his doctoral dissertation (which was approved by Dr. Alam). To show you, I highlighted some of the copied text from the dissertation in orange. The source of the copied text is the article "Why you should consider object-oriented programming techniques for finite element methods" by J.T. Cross, I. Masters, and R.W. Lewis.

The other fact of interest is that another doctoral student advised by Dr. Gunasekera submitted some of the same copied text in his master's thesis. When I complained about the plagiarism to the Ohio Board of Regents in December 2004, I enclosed excerpts of plagiarism from both theses with my letter. It should not come as a surprise that the Board of Regents did not take any real action. They did not even plan to respond to me, but they were forced to write me when Suzanne Wilder from The Post began asking questions months later. Later in 2005 Dean Irwin claimed that I had "not offered to provide other examples [of plagiarism]" when he was interviewed by Inside Higher Ed. Dean Irwin lied. I did offer to provide examples of plagiarism on September 13, 2004, but he sent me away with a threat of a lawsuit. I also know that he saw my letter to the Regents because he and Ombuds, Elizabeth Graham, reprimanded me during our January 2005 meeting for sending the letter. They both tried to assure me that student plagiarism was not my concern. President McDavis followed suit when he was interviewed by Carrie Ghose of Columbus Business First. Even though I copied President McDavis on my letter and it was distributed from his office, he "said he doesn't recall seeing it."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ohio University Is Breeding Legacy of Cheaters

In June 2007, Ohio University professors in the College of Education approved a dissertation that contains plagiarism. The dissertation can be downloaded from the following link: .

The doctoral graduate copied from the dissertation of another student and he copied from other articles. I marked two pages to show you. The source copied on page 47 of the dissertation is here. The first copied paragraph on page 128 is from this source. The second copied paragraph on page 128 is from this source. It is pretty pathetic when a doctoral graduate has to copy his method of experimental analysis from someone else's article.

The student's dissertation also has pages of text that is the same as another article available online. This article was published 8 years before the dissertation. Compare pages 15 to 17 of the dissertation to pages 3 and 4 of the online article. It is interesting to note that within the duplicate text the student added 5 citations for the World Factbook, but the online article has no citations.

This very recent case of plagiarism by an Ohio University education graduate raises some important questions. Do professors in the College of Education condone plagiarism? Were the approving professors and student aware of all discussions of academic honesty at Ohio University during 2006? Is this doctoral graduate still cheating?

Ohio University and Its Graduates Can't Be Trusted

Someone who calls him/herself "Caveat Emptor" left a very poignant comment to my earlier post about blatant plagiarism in an Ohio University Physics doctoral dissertation that was approved by the professor appointed as the Chair of the Academic Honesty Hearing Committee. I am hoping that the comment is read by many people, so I am re-posting it here.

"Caveat Emptor said...
This sort of contagion is just what you’d expect with rewrites, which seems to be Ohio University’s blanket approach to dealing with essentially all of its plagiarists (the number of known or suspected plagiarists is now well over fifty and still climbing but only one degree has been revoked since OU’s plagiarism scandal went public in 2005).It will eventually occur to other universities that they can protect themselves from being contaminated with OU plagiarists by simply (and tacitly) not hiring any OU Ph.D.s onto their faculties and not admitting any OU masters degree holders into their doctoral programs. After all, why should any faculty search committee (or graduate admissions committee) needlessly risk the possibility of hiring (or admitting) a plagiarist from OU when there are plenty of reputable candidates available from better schools? And whenever this happens, it will be an unspoken “plagiarism tax” unfairly borne by all honest OU alumni.So eventually the reputation and fortunes of all OU graduate degree holders will suffer as will the reputations of those schools that inadvertently hire/admit OU plagiarists because they aren’t vigilant (because of their well-intended but misplaced trust in the academic integrity of OU). In concert with all this, graduate enrollment at OU will likely fall and/or the quality of its graduate student intake will worsen and this will fuel retrenchment in graduate study there.The most effective and direct way to disrupt this pernicious hiring/admissions spiral is for OU to revoke the degrees it has mistakenly awarded. But so long as OU can keep its plagiarism problem quiet, it can continue to surreptitiously propagate its “repaired” (rewritten) ersatz (inferior) masters and Ph.D. degree graduates into higher education. The longer this weary and disturbing hiring/admissions syndrome continues, the more easily the perception of OU as a diploma mill will come to mind. And as OU’s plagiarists infect other universities, plagiarism will likely expand into a repeating cycle of pollution beyond OU.At the end of the day, as a result of OU’s misguided plagiarism rewrite approach to dealing with its plagiarists, the biggest loser will be OU itself and the rest of higher education will be diminished as well."

Caveat Emptor very nicely explains many of the issues that arise when university leaders start creating exceptions to the most basic rules of academia. Eventually more and more people are going to realize that Ohio University will award advanced graduate degrees to anyone, even blatant cheaters. Consequently, the value and credibility of an honest degree continues to diminish, and no one will know who they can trust. Why would a university do this? Why haven't more alumni and professors expressed outrage? Are they hiding something too? This is a huge issue. I'm going to keep trying to get answers.

Thank you Caveat Emptor for assessing the problems here with eloquence.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Plagiarism by Ohio University Education Graduate

In August 2002, professors in Ohio University's College of Education approved a doctoral dissertation that contains at least 9 pages of verbatim plagiarism. There is probably much more.

The student copied at least two different sources. Pages 31 to 34 are copied from a 1995 research report for the Saskatchewan School Board Association by Rick Sawa. I have noted the copied parts here. The report can also be downloaded from

Pages 34 to 40 are copied from a 1986 ERIC publication written by Joan Barrett. I have noted the copied parts here. The publication can be downloaded from

I hope that someone from the College of Education will be good enough to explain what is going on there. We know from the court testimony of Dr. Robert Williams, "that in the mechanical engineering department it is accepted practice for the introductory section of a student’s thesis to contain historical or background material that is not the student’s original work" (see page 6 of the decision in the Mehta v. Ohio University case ). Does the College of Education share this same view? Do they allow all students to copy their literature review (citations and all)? What is the College of Education going to do about this case? Will they inform the employer of this student that he cheated to meet his degree requirements? Will they revoke the degree or will they play the rewrite game? Who will judge the case? Can we trust this doctoral graduate of education to properly teach his students?

One other item of importance is that this student, in his acknowledgements, claims to have earned three graduate degrees from Ohio University. Is anyone going to verify the legitimacy of those degrees?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Blatant Ethics Violation by Electrical Engineering Professors

As I have mentioned before, most people might think that Ohio University's plagiarism problems are isolated to the Mechanical Engineering Department. Today I want to show you an example of obvious plagiarism from a published Electrical Engineering thesis. The source of the copied text is

This case is very important since there are obvious tell tale signs of plagiarism. The most obvious sign is the change in citation style used by the student. Other signs of plagiarism include: cited sources are not included in the references, vocabulary beyond that of typical foreign student, multiple writing styles, etc.

Several months ago I had planned to ask Ohio University leaders to hold the professors who approved this thesis accountable. However, when I learned that President McDavis and General Council Biancamano refeused to investigate the ethics violations by their Honesty Hearing Chairman (and others), I knew I would be wasting my time. I don't know why Ohio University even bothers to have rules on ethics. Nevertheless, I did make a public records request to learn the names of the approving professors. They are: Jeff Dill, Joseph Essman, Voula Georgopoulos, and outside rep. Jeffery Conner. Either these professors condone plagiarism or they did not read the thesis they approved. Either way, they are guilty of ethics violations.

It is also worth noting that the true author of the copied material is aware of this case. .

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Possible Research Misconduct by Professor to Cover Up Student Plagiarism

Back in March 2007, Ohio University publicized an internal investigation into plagiarism in the Russ College of Engineering. The lead investigator, Dr. Koonce, claimed that he checked a so called random sample of 32 theses that were supposed to be representative of the entire lot of theses published by engineering students since 1980 (about 1500 theses). In the Executive Summary of his final report, he wrote, "The number of documents in the sample found to potentially contain plagiarized material was three." In his conclusion he wrote, "at most, three (3) of the documents from the sample of 32 have apparent plagiarism." Dr. Koonce also told a reporter from The Post, Sean Gaffney, that he "found three instances of alleged plagiarism." In other words, the number 3 was used repeatedly.

Over the next year Ohio University began to slowly return theses to the library and I quickly began to discover more evidence of plagiarism. (Note the theses were all removed from circulation for about a year while Dr. Koonce conducted his investigation). Being suspicious of Dr. Koonce's conclusion, I asked legal affairs for the titles of the 29 theses that were cleared by Dr. Koonce.

It took months for Ohio University to fulfill my request, but when they did finally provide the list, they also provided an internal memo stating that really 7 of the theses might contain plagiarism. The number 3 changed to a 7 one year after Ohio University concluded their investigation. It is also worth noting that one of the theses from the list of 32 was published after Ohio University required all theses to be scanned for plagiarism prior to publication. In other words, Dr. Koonce appears to have stacked the deck with at least one thesis that was guaranteed to pass his Turnitin check.

There should be an investigation into Dr. Koonce's actions. How can he report that he found only 3 cases of plagiarism, but there were really 7? Did he fail to detect them all, or did he manipulate he research results to achieve his desired outcome?