When Mistakes happen

By 06/11/2019 Education
1+1=3 mistake image

A Definition

The Oxford University website defines plagiarism as:

“Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition. Plagiarism may be intentional or reckless, or unintentional. Under the regulations for examinations, intentional or reckless plagiarism is a disciplinary offence” (Oxford University, 20119).

A Confession

I write multiple posts at the same time. At the minute I have 27 posts that are at some stage of development. Some of them might never see the publish button being clicked. I will read articles online and want to write on a similar topic, or there may be a comment, point or line in an article that prompts my own thinking.

One of these posts was about blogging – the post was not complete but something unexpected happened. Either I clicked the wrong button or did something without noticing, but the post was published, as a complete post, but was incomplete. Much of the content was plagiarised. There was no reference section – as there will nearly always be in my posts.

This all happened without me noticing. As I said, I will have a focus on multiple posts at any one time (unless it’s a series of posts connected to a theme) and so until the matter was brought to my attention by a colleague – who featured as the unintended recipient of my plagiarism.

An Apology

For this, I apologise unreservedly.

The plagiarism might have been unintentional – I might not have intended to publish the article in its’ current format; I might not have been aware of the article being online, but it still happened. It still appeared to a colleague that I had intended to copy their original content. This was never my intention and for this hurt and offence, I must offer an apology (which I have) and own it publicly.

When it was brought to my attention, I removed the post and any links that are created to social media.

I have since restructured and rewritten the post, included a reference section and cited all the posts that I used for that article, as is my normal process for writing. I have also forwarded a copy of this new post to my colleague as a signal of honest but mistaken intentions.

The Four Types of Plagiarism

Direct Plagiarism

Direct plagiarism is when a piece of writing is copied word-for-word and does not have an attribution of origin and is without quotation marks. Oxford University (2019) state in this case that “It must always be apparent to the reader which parts are your own independent work and where you have drawn on someone else’s ideas and language.”

Self Plagiarism

This is when a student submits their own work, or previous work for more than one assignment in a course. This also requires the permission of both course lecturers.

Mosiac Plagiarism

This is when a student borrows phrases from various sources, or uses synonyms for words used by the original writer, so that they keep the general structure and meaning of the original writing. This has also been called ‘patch writing’ and is generally seen as paraphrasing the original content, which is not the same as writing it in your own voice.

Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism is when “a person neglects to cite their sources, or misquotes their sources, or unintentionally paraphrases a source by using similar words, groups of words, and/or sentence structure without attribution” (Bowdoin, 2019). That there is a lack of intent here may be a redeeming aspect, it is still viewed as seriously as intentional plagiarism. So whether or not it was intended, it still happened, as it indicates a carelessness on the part of the author.

The Need for Greater Care

This has caused me to undertake a systematic review of all my posts. There are some that have references, but are not presented in the way that I usually do (Harvard Referencing) and so I have added these to my to do list. While I am certain that I am not a serial-plagiarist, I equally want to have complete and utmost confidence that my content is original and also that my references and sources are appropriately cited.

I know that, as a lecturer, my academic integrity must be beyond reproach and through this self-review, I can ensure that my content is original, unique and makes clear reference to those sources I am citing.


Michael Johnston

About Michael Johnston

Michael Johnston is a Lecturer in Computing and the Foundation Degree Director in Computing for the Northern Regional College in Northern Ireland. Michael has research interests in the areas of technology enhanced learning, instructional learning design, blended learning and education. Michael currently specialises in the computing areas of web development technologies, cyber security, software development and IoT. Michael has worked in a range of different roles in IT-from teaching roles to running his own web design company, Michael is equally at home working with theory, as he is conducting research, or building a bespoke IT solution. Michael is currently studying a PhD in Cyberpsychology.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: