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Plagarism, Pirating, and Other Improper Uses of Scholarly Materials

At its April 1994 meeting the AAR Board of Directors endorsed the following statement regarding plagiarism. It was developed largely by the AAR Research and Scholarship Committee. The committee consulted similar statements and policies adopted by other learned societies. The statement was first published to the membership in the September 1994 issue of Religious Studies News (page 11).

In recent years, many professional academic organizations have composed statements on plagiarism. Derived from a Latin word meaning "to steal," plagiarism in the most general sense is defined as the use without attribution of another author's work, interpretations, or findings. Whether direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional, plagiarism is an act of intellectual theft that undermines the credibility of scholarly inquiry. Thus it is with good reason that the academic community expresses its abhorrence of this practice.

Of late, moreover, discussion of plagiarism has also focused on less clear appropriations of another's words or ideas. From direct citation without attribution there is a small slip into extensive, unwarranted paraphrase of another scholar's writings. Inadequate or careless use of footnotes can easily slide into plagiarism. Oral reports and conversations--for example, at scholarly meetings, public lectures, conferences, and so forth--provide a problematic arena as well, especially so when a desideratum of many academics is the free sharing of ideas and hypotheses with colleagues. Pirating scholarly work is also an important problem, that is, publishing, republishing, or copying of articles or books without proper permission or in violation of copyright. The appropriation of oral tradition without permission and/or due attribution is also a form of pirating. Finally, the proliferation of the electronic media and electronic communication makes it increasingly easy for one scholar's ideas or words to be borrowed by someone in another place who may never have seen or heard the author or read his or her published works.

Various avenues are available for dealing with allegations of plagiarism, pirating, and so forth, including informal resolution, investigative procedures in place at local educational institutions, civil litigation, and the formal procedures of the American Association of University Professors.

(Board resolution, April 1994)