Is this plagiarism?

+10 votes

I see this often.

The profile for William Stone contains many sections taken as copy & paste from the work of Jack E. MacDonald. 

Each time, there is a citation at the end of the paragraph, but nothing to let you know it is a direct quotation - no indentation, no quotation marks, no blockquote tags (recommended). 

One section, 1628 Stone Settles on Eastern Shore of Virginia, does have quotation marks (and even the footnote number).

Then we get into the problem area.  For Decision to Leave Virginia, see page 19 of MacDonald.  Negotiations with Maryland picks up the next two paragraphs.  Immigration to Maryland is the next paragraph (still page 19).  Conflict between Maryland and Puritans is the first two paragraphs of page 20.  1655 Battle of the Severn still on page 20.  Residence in St. Mary's City next paragraph on page 20.   Will and Death the first line is original, then the next paragraph is a copy of the last paragraph on page 20. Then there is the Unsourced Statements section.  Chances are some of that is Copy & Paste.

No blame.  This stuff just happens.  One person grabs it, thinking they will edit later.  Another cleans up after a merge and removes quotation marks, or indentations ... on and on.

So, back to the original question, is this plagiarism?


* MacDonald, Jack E., (27 February 2014)  The Stone Family of England, Virginia, and Maryland Part One. ( Pages 19-20.

Edit: 16 July 2016 - added blockquote tags to copy & paste

WikiTree profile: William Stone
in Policy and Style by Cynthia B G2G6 Pilot (140k points)
edited by Cynthia B
To my mind it probably is or a violation of copyright. I'm no expert, however.
Yes,  - but maybe a misunderstanding on someone's part. They did credit it, but neglected to put quotes around it. Anyway, it's way to much quoting of a copyrighted work, to be used on a Wikitree profile.

3 Answers

+5 votes
Plagiarism has a number of definitions: theft, piracy, taking another's words as your own without giving credit. It even includes changing the words but using the same thought or sentence structure without giving credit.

Whatever the definition, using the words of the author without crediting is plagiarism.
by Vic Watt G2G6 Pilot (361k points)
+6 votes
As a follow-on, a question:

Do we think Wikitree come under the definition of 'personal research' or 'academic purposes' in the context of copyright?
by anonymous G2G6 Pilot (282k points)

In my view 'personal research' precedes publication or broadcast, and I consider my postings on the WikiTree to be published.

Regarding 'academic purposes', --- I am not a scholar.
I think you raise an interesting question, which deserves wider discussion. I'm going to put up a separate question in the hope of more input.
+3 votes

Would Jack E. MacDonald view the profile as plagiarism?

Not being familiar with Jack E. MacDonald's PDF document under discussion, and thus relying on your detailed observations, I personally conclude the author and website broadcaster would be justified in considering the profile's content plagiarized. So in my opinion the WikiTree biography of William Stone should be rewritten. Nonetheless, I appreciate the sincere effort of the profile's contributors.

As a non-professional researcher and biographer, I have and continue to make mistakes in my WikiTree contributions. I depend on the community to critique and correct my work.

(Perhaps someone could ask Jack E. MacDonald for permission to use his material. Further, if he became a WikiTree collaborator on the profile, there would be no issue regarding plagiarism.)
by George Blanchard G2G6 Mach 9 (97.7k points)

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