Food Service & Nutrition - Summer 2017 - 18
Plagiarism & Proper
By Kelley Wadson
Media reports abound with examples of
high-profile cases of the illegal or unethical usage of information, from accusations of plagiarism in Melania Trump's
speech at the U.S. Republican National
Convention1 to the copyright infringement trial of musician Robin Thicke.2
There are also less well-known examples where the consequences have been
severely damaging to the individual's professional reputation. Germany's Defense
Minister resigned in 2011 after admitting to copying from other sources in
his doctoral thesis. Similarly, Hungary's
President stepped down in 2012 after losing his doctoral degree, also because of
We all understand from such cases that
plagiarism and copyright violations can
have serious consequences. But what
does this mean on a day-to-day, practical
level for professionals involved in sharing information with clients? How can
professionals ensure they are providing
accurate information in a manner that is
legally and ethically compliant?
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
In general, plagiarism is understood as
the failure to properly credit the original source of information in any format,
including text, film, and images.
Colleges and universities typically
include definitions of plagiarism in their
official policies for student conduct. At
most educational institutions, plagiarism
is defined as "that which is represented as
one's own work, and has been deliberately
copied from any outside source."4 Examples
of plagiarism may include:
* Copying phrases or ideas from someone
else without attribution
* Failing to put copied words in quotation
* Misattributing or giving incorrect
information about the source of quotation or idea
* Reusing images or other forms of multimedia without attribution and/or
permission of the copyright-holder
Many researchers have found the
Internet has dramatically changed our
experience and understanding of information-sharing. As Lynn Lampert notes
in Combating Student Plagiarism, "today's
society and the young people coming of
age in it are truly facing a complex world
where it is becoming difficult to discern
where information originated and/or its
authenticity."5 We often consume information in online environments, such as
social media feeds, which neglect to provide credit to the original source. In this
sense, technology lends itself to the normalization of plagiarism as it is easy to just
share or "cut-and-paste" rather than track
down the original source of information.
UNDERSTANDING THE CONSEQUENCES
While the public attention and legal
implications of high-profile plagiarism
cases are rare, the consequences of information misuse are not.
Food and nutrition are areas where
information is widely accessible but
prone to inaccuracy. Sensationalism,
misinterpretation of research findings,
and even blatant misrepresentation are
common on the Internet. Consumers can
be easily swayed and manipulated by such
sources.6,7 For these reasons it is vital for
professionals to be able to combat misinformation by following an evidence-based
approach that communicates reliable,
trustworthy information to consumers.
SHARING INFORMATION &
The following are best practices to follow
when sharing information in professional
In simplest terms, to give credit means
providing information about any sources
used to produce written material that would
allow a reader to find it in its original form.
This is typically accomplished by following an official style guide such as
the Publication Manual of the American
Psychological Association (APA) or the
Modern Language Association's MLA
Handbook. Styles guides like these dictate what information is provided and
how it should be formatted. However, all
styles typically answer four basic questions about a source:
1. Who created it?
2. When was it created?
3. What is it called?
4. Where can it be located?
The key to giving credit, as with all
good writing, is to be consistent: choose
one style or format to use throughout
your writing and ensure that it clearly
answers these four questions.
Use Evidence & Present it Accurately
It is well-recognized that an evidencebased approach is key to health and science-based professions.8 This involves
using reliable sources of information to
support factual claims, communicating
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