Plagiarism - B7

Maurice LaCroix, a postdoctoral fellow at a research-intensive medical school, was asked by faculty member Dr. Frank Hardy to coauthor an in-depth review article on hemolytic anemias for a leading medical journal. Publishing this chapter was important for Maurice because it would establish his credibility in the field and give him professional exposure. Maurice felt that preparation of this chapter would be easy because he would be referring substantially to his own recent research and to that of Dr. Hardy's laboratory. He had all the data and papers on disk.

Shortly after the issue appeared, Dr. Hardy was called by Dr. John Barrett, a colleague and coauthor on many papers that Maurice and Dr. Hardy previously published jointly. "You and Maurice plagiarized me," he said. "You have no right to extract whole passages from our papers without quotation marks, even if you did reference the papers in the text. It's as though my contribution never existed. You should have specifically acknowledged the directly quoted text or made me a coauthor of the review. Besides, you need permission from the publisher to reprint material verbatim."

Maurice was shocked when he heard this. He looked back at the review and papers and found that he indeed had utilized whole sentences from the papers and one whole paragraph describing the methods. However, although the three individuals had collaborated, it was Maurice who actually wrote the sections in question and who submitted the papers in which they were contained. In addition, he had been the senior author on two of the key papers.

Maurice called Dr. Barrett to apologize and indicated that there are only so many ways to say the same thing. Unmollified, Dr. Barrett said that he planned to call the editor of the journal and inform him of the plagiarism.


  1. Was Dr. Barrett's complaint legitimate?
  2. Do you believe Maurice's actions constituted plagiarism?
  3. To what extent were Maurice and Dr. Hardy each responsible for the contents of the chapter? Could Dr. Hardy be partly responsible for the situation that developed?
  4. Assume that Dr. Hardy brought the matter to the attention of the medical school dean. If you were the dean how would you handle it? If Maurice admitted to inadvertent plagiarism, what kind of sanctions would you, as dean, be inclined to consider?
  5. If you were the journal editor and received a letter from Dr. Barrett describing the situation given in the case, what would you do?
  6. Dr. Barrett asked Dr. Hardy to rectify the situation. What would you suggest?


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