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Ohio University Accuses Engineering Graduates of Plagiarism

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Ohio University has written to forty engineering graduates about copied material in the research papers for their master's degrees.

This action is a result of an investigation by a former student at the university in Athens, Ohio. In two thousand four, Thomas Matrka was a graduate student in engineering. Mister Matrka was having trouble getting approval for his master’s thesis. So he started to read the papers of graduates to get ideas.

He found that some papers included words or even pages that had been copied from other research work or published books. Some of the papers were written as long as twenty years ago. A number of the graduates now work as engineers and professors.

The former students are being accused of plagiarism. Plagiarism is making it appear that someone else's words or ideas are your own.

Where material came from must be made clear unless the information is common knowledge. Material copied exactly is supposed to appear within quotation marks. Rules can differ about how to note sources in papers. But if copied material appears without credit, it could be considered plagiarized even if you rewrote it in your own words.

All but a few of the graduates in the Ohio University investigation came from other countries. International students can arrive with limited English and limited knowledge of the rules for writing at American universities.

But some of the graduates say they do not think what they did was plagiarism at all because they included the names of the authors. The copied material appeared in the literature review, the part of the paper where students discuss research done by others.

Yet some of the same material appeared again and again. Critics say professors should have recognized the copying and put a stop to it.

A university committee has called for the dismissal of two engineering professors. One of them is now taking legal action. He says statements by university officials have ruined him professionally.

Ohio University says the graduates in many cases have agreed to rewrite their papers. That means they could possibly have to defend their research again before a committee of professors. Others can try to show that they did not plagiarize.

And that’s the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach and available online at I’m Doug Johnson.