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 They should apologize to the student whose degree was revoked for not holding all cheating students accountable.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."


Anonymous said...

Well…so much for

Anonymous said...

And so much for OU!

Anonymous said...

Alam’s an ASME Fellow. Go figure!

Post Ghost said...

Suzanne Wilder won an Associated Press award for her coverage of the discovery of plagiarism in Russ College of Engineering graduate student theses. Bravo, Ms. Wilder!

Post staffers receive Associated Press awards (published May 1, 2006)

Anonymous said...

The false citation in his disertation shows intent to deceive. Have any of these professors taken English l0l? This is a very basic principle. You do not take another person's words without fully citing the work.

Debora Weber-Wulff said...

I have tested plagiarism detection software three times (2004, 2007 and 2008) and each time turnitin came out pretty far down the list. If you can read German, the results are at

Tom Matrka said...

Dear Debora,

First let me apologize for taking so long to acknowledge your comment; I have been buried in final projects and exams which just ended today. Nevertheless, I appreciate your comment.

I do not read German so I won't be able to read the results of your studies, but I am not surprised that you have noted shortcomings of

This is very important to me as an Ohio University alumnus because Ohio University leaders relied solely on to judge the legitimacy of 20 years worth of engineering theses (about 1500). It is obvious that Ohio University was not truly interested in uncovering plagiarism, but they were trying to appease their constituents by saying "we checked but really did not find anything." If they had actually wanted to protect the value of their degrees, they would have read the theses. Imagine college professors that refuse to read a thesis; yet declare it to be good because Turnitin did not detect plagiarism. Obviously, the professors and leaders who bought into this ploy have no respect for Ohio University and its students.

Thanks again for your comment,