Thursday, December 3, 2009

Plagiarism Committees Do Not Read Theses

An astute reader left a comment to my previous post and I would now like to address the comment here.

Referring to Ohio University's sole use of to check past theses for plagiarism, the commenter wrote, "is that all they really use? For such a serious offense, one would hope for a more thorough approach in detecting plagiarism."

I had the same question, and about a year ago (after a few tries), I got an answer. Yes, is all they use. To show you, I scanned an email I received from Ohio University legal affairs back in 2008.

Furthermore, as I pointed out in another post, was the only tool Dr. Koonce used in his FINAL REPORT: An Investigation into Plagiarism in Theses of the Russ College of
Engineering and Technology 1980-2006. On page 11 of Dr. Koonce's report, he discusses the methods he used to detect plagiarism. He wrote: "Detecting external plagiarism was accomplished by comparing documents against the Turnitin database." There is no mention whatsoever in the report that theses will be read. On page 5 of his report, he wrote: "It will be assumed that any document which contains external plagiarism will have that duplicated text detected by the evaluation software employed in the study (The Turnitin R plagiarism detection tool)."

Obviously, Dr. Koonce made a very poor assumption. In fact, one year after Dr. Koonce concluded his investigation, Dr. Prudich identified 4 additional theses that were missed by Dr. Koonce's investigation. Nevertheless, Ohio University continues to stand behind Dr. Koonce's faulty report from which he conveniently concluded, "I see no need to investigate further."

This was a ploy on Ohio University's part to deceive the public. They really did not want to find plagiarism. That attitude goes back to the beginning of their investigations as evidenced by a statement by Jerrel Mitchell, the leader of the Academic Honesty Oversight Committee. As reported in The Post back in 2006, Jerrel Mitchell told the other members of the committee investigating plagiarism, "It is not our charge to go looking for plagiarism cases. The charging person must be very specific, i.e., he/she must tell us who is charged and specifically where to find the plagiarism." In other words, this group of professors only looked at what I gave them, and they ignored plagiarism that I did not outline for them. This is the very reason that a rewrite that contains plagiarism was republished; the student only deleted plagiarism I had identified in 2005, but he republished plagiarism that I did not know about until later. (Note: the republished plagiarism was also missed by a evaluation).

I agree completely with the reader's comment. I too would hope that Ohio University would make an honest effort to clear their library of plagiarism. Unfortunately, Ohio University professors have an aversion to reading.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 Fails Again

From what I have seen is useless when it comes to detecting plagiarism in engineering theses and dissertations.

Today, I want to show you another case of plagiarism that was missed by when Ohio University checked all of the theses and dissertations approved by Drs. Gunasekera and Mehta.

In November 2002, five Ohio University professors collectively approved the doctoral dissertation submitted by Padmasiri Vipul Ranatunga. Later in 2006, after Ohio University finally acknowledged a severe plagiarism problem, they used to recheck Dr. Ranatunga's dissertation. After the second check, the dissertation was cleared and recataloged in the university library. However, when I checked the dissertation, I found page after page of verbatim plagiarism. I have highlighted the plagiarism here. As you can see, Dr. Ranatunga copied copiously from at least three different sources. Two of the sources can be seen here and here. The third source is a book that I did not take the time to go scan and post.

Notice that Dr. Ranatunga acknowledges five professors for serving on his dissertation committee. The approving professors are: Dr. Gunasekera, Dr. Pasic, Dr. Mehta, Dr. Sormaz, and Dr. Gulino. Except for Dr. Sormaz, I have seen the other four professors' names numerous times as committee members for cheating students. There is no doubt in my mind that the professors did not care that the doctoral student submitted copied material.

It is worth noting that Dr. Ranatunga also plagiarized in his 1999 master's thesis (also approved by Dr. Gunasekera). When interviewed by Paula Wasley in 2006, Dr. Ranatunga stated that he intended to challenge those plagiarism allegations. Evidently, he changed his mind as his thesis re-write has been re-cataloged in the Ohio University library. He is probably now working on re-writing his doctoral dissertation.

I find it remarkable that Dr. Ranatunga told Pauly Wasley that the copying in his thesis "is not plagiarism," and when interviewed by Robert Tomsho of The Wall Street Journal, he said "we had no idea of what to put on a thesis when we took material from someone else’s work." These comments certainly explain things: Ohio University has been awarding advanced graduate degrees to individuals who have no idea what it means to write and publish a thesis or dissertation. What's even worse is that (like other Ohio University graduates) Dr. Ranatunga is now a tenured professor himself. How nice it is for Ohio University to confer a doctoral degree in 2002 and then allow the student to actually do the work seven years later. What a joke.