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.


Anonymous said...

This blog is a tragi-comedy that I cannot stop reading; it is fascinating in a "holy crap, it's an unavoidable car wreck" kind of way.

My experiences with plagiarism while working as a university composition instructor pale next to these cases, and I love that someone is tracking the egregious oversights. Though I doubt little can be done to stem the wave of "text borrowing," the public shaming of inept faculty and a corrupt institution does make me feel as though there is some repercussion for being a lying, cheating nit.

Your blog is now on my favorites list!


Tom Matrka said...


Thank you very much for your interest. It is great to know that others care about Ohio University's mess.

I have many more examples of "egregious oversights" to post as I find the time.

One thing that really bothers me is that Ohio University appointed a professor who has a history of approving obvious plagiarism as their chairman of the Academic Honesty Hearing Committee.

As the chairman, Dr. Ingram approved the revocation of one degree that was given to a Saudi Arabian student, and a few months later he allowed another cheating student to republish a thesis rewrite that still contains pages of plagiarism (the student did not even spell his own name correctly on his thesis title page). Then there is the case of Dr. Ingram approving his own student's dissertation that also contains page after page of plagiarism.

Five years into the process, Ohio University is far from getting it right. I have tried to reason with them numerous times, but all I can do now is try to shame them into doing the right thing.

Thanks again for your comment.

Dave said...

Hey Tom. I have to commend your dedication to keep a cause alive that few if anybody really cares about.

I shall explain...

Do you really think the community that pioneered the greatest IP theft tool in the history of the world, Napster, would be very much concerned about the theft of IP from a few obscure engineering papers?

The same community that features a stunning lack of outrage over the apparently deliberate doctoring of climate data at East Anglia.

Accented by a society that values only the ends. It views educational certificates as job qualifications. Bails out bankers who gambled and lost. And seeks to make the labor of health practitioners free to all through legalized theft.

The real concern we should have here is - how much longer can we survive the means?