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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The sincerest form of flattery...

The other day I was enduring the reading of Lotte Hedeager's Iron Age Myth and Materiality. An Archaeology of Scandinavia AD 400-1000 (London 2011), not something I would generally recommend as it is in my view, to use technical academic language, 'absolute bollocks'.  However, as I was writing up my Style I paper, it had to be done.
Anyway, I got to this bit (pp.37-38), which talks about the historiography of the barbarian migrations:
I thought to myself, 'hmmm... all that sounds strangely familiar'.  I am sure I have read that somewhere before.  And indeed I had.  Not least because I had - largely - written it somewhere before.  Here, for your interest and amusement are pp.35-36 of G. Halsall, 'The Barbarian Invasions', in P. Fouracre (ed.), The New Cambridge Medieval History (Cambridge, 2005), pp.35-55.

You might like to compare the bits underlined in the same colours, and the bits shaded in in green. 

All I can say is that, if this were done in an assessed piece of student work (undergraduate or postgraduate) it would be seriously penalised for plagiarism.  The occasional general Harvard-system reference, usually sans page numbers, sometimes with other references included, won't cut it.  Now, there are many ways in which two texts can end up looking alike, independently of copying, especially where telling the same short story featuring the same characters etc. (cp. my retelling of Gregory of Tours' account of the Sichar and Chramnesind "feud" in 'Violence and Society...' with Peter Sawyer's in 'The Bloodfeud in fact and fiction': the two are very similar, in spite of me writing that part of my piece before I had read Sawyer's article - indeed I modified mine slightly to avoid being falsely accused of plagiarism).  There are also ways in which very close notes taken verbatim from a source end up being transferred from notebooks to texts without modification.  If it is the latter that is at stake here (it is certainly not the former), then it speaks of a serious lack of scholarly care and attention at best.  Certainly it rather undermines all the efforts to which one goes telling students not to do this, when archaeology professors at Oslo do.

Or perhaps it is time for Routledge to start running the manuscripts it receives through Turnitin...