Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Amulet update and Plagiarism

First, another blogger has picked up my discovery (blogged here) that the Orpheus amulet on the cover of Freke and Gandy's Jesus Mysteries is almost certainly a fake. Readers may recall that Freke and Gandy knew of doubts about the amulet's authenticity, but kept quiet and stuck a picture of it on the cover of their book. Now German blocker Melchior Sternfels has tracked down the original German scholarship and will be letting us know what it says. His initial post on the subject is here.

There are lots of reasons not to acknowledge your sources. Sometimes, like in Freke and Gandy's case, it is so you can get away with misrepresenting them. More usually it is to pass an exam without doing the work. Here's an article in the Daily Telegraph by an Oxford student brought on by the university's admission that plagiarism is rife. That students are getting all their information from Wikipedia need hardly surprise us. After all, it is online, so easily copied and pasted. I thought, though, that this becomes less of a problem as you reach more advanced degrees. I was wrong as special boutiques exist for advanced work. But it does get more expensive. An undergraduate essay for your tutorial is quite cheap off the shelf. A masters dissertation costs quite a bit and a PhD must be a fortune.

One thing works in favour of the honest. Plagiarisers are, by their very nature, lazy bastards. Hence, catching them is not as hard as you might think. I once googled on the Library of Alexandria to update my research. I found someone who had lifted my article wholesale for a school project that they had then put on the internet. Very stupid. I emailed them and I could sense the panic dripping off the reply. University tutors just need to familiarise themselves with Wikipedia and Google. With Wiki, they can amend the article themselves to lay traps for the unwary. By making the article especially relevant to the subject at hand, they might lure the plagiarists. Spicing it with a couple of obscure deliberate mistakes and you can catch them red handed.

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