Ann Lane's Dissertation





Mr. Williams is an intern at HNN.

EDITOR'S NOTE

After the Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose stories broke earlier this year, HNN received an email from a reader about a historian who had allegedly plagiarized parts of her dissertation at Columbia University some thirty years ago. The historian was Ann Lane, who currently is the director of the Studies in Women and Gender program at the University of Virginia. We investigated and discovered that questions had indeed been raised about Lane's dissertation a short time after she had received her degree, though no official body had ever concluded that she was guilty of plagiarism. The historian herself admitted inadvertently copying passages from others, but insisted it wasn't plagiarism.

After gathering some basic facts, we decided to go ahead with the research for an article, thinking that the public would benefit from a story that explored the question of copying by an academic in a monograph, which raised different issues than the stories about copying by popularizers like Goodwin and Ambrose, which were being fully explored on HNN and in the media.

Several questions seemed salient: Does the academy take copying in a dissertation seriously? What are the penalties for an academic who is found to have copied passages in a dissertation? Do dissertation advisors read their students' work closely enough to pick up evidence of copying? Do historians who discover copying in a dissertation have an obligation to alert the institution that awarded the student a degree? What should the response of that institution be when informed of such a transgression?

Because our goal was not to embarrass Lane we decided to keep her identity secret. But shortly after we reached this conclusion, we learned that she had alluded to her own story at a panel discussion during the April 2002 annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians. She herself linked her case explicitly to that of Doris Kearns Goodwin. Upon learning this, we decided to name her. It seemed absurd at that point not to name her since she had named herself at a forum in a public setting.

illustration by Curtiss Calleo

According to the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University:"In a 1999 survey of 2,100 students on 21 campuses across the country, about one-third of the participating students admitted to serious test cheating and half admitted to one or more instances of serious cheating on written assignments."(1) While some readers may find this statistic shocking, to teachers it is depressingly familiar. Yet, according to the center,"In a 1999 survey of over 1,000 faculty on 21 campuses, one-third of those who were aware of student cheating in their course in the last two years, did nothing to address it."(2) A pressing question raised by these figures is that if professors are reluctant to report students for unethical academic activity, how likely are they to report plagiarism within their own ranks?

While academics have rushed to ostracize Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin, pop historians are much easier targets than"peers." The extent of plagiaristic activity by academics may be impossible to ascertain in an environment as self-protective as the academy, but HNN has found a fascinating example of alleged text borrowing by a serious historian at a major university. Whether a barometer of a significant trend or merely an isolated incident, the story of this historian shows that regardless of how widespread it may be, copying in the academy produces far from uniform responses.

THE STORY

In 1971, Seth Scheiner, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, was reviewing the galley proofs of a manuscript by an assistant professor named Ann J. Lane. Lane, who taught at Douglass College, the women's school at Rutgers, was regarded as a promising candidate for tenure. A recent Ph.D. graduate of Columbia University, she was well-connected, having studied under John Hope Franklin, David Donald and Richard Hofstadter; though now divorced, she had been married to Eugene Genovese, who previously had held a faculty position at Rutgers. Recently, she had received a contract to turn her dissertation, which was about the Brownsville affair of 1906, into the book Scheiner was now reading in manuscript form.

Under the process then in effect, a candidate for tenure at Douglass had to be approved by the Rutgers coordinating history department, informally called the"New Brunswick" department, which oversaw the history departments of the individual colleges. In the course of Scheiner's perusal he noticed distressing similarities between Lane's words and his own from an article he had written a decade earlier:"A clause caught my eye," he told HNN in an interview conducted recently."This led me to check an article I had published in the July 1962 issue of the Journal of Negro History. I was struck by how closely her wording matched or compared with mine."(3) That evening Scheiner called the historian who had given him the proofs, Gerald Grob. Grob, then at Douglass, had made a mental note of"violent changes in style,"(4) but passed the manuscript on to Scheiner without comment to Lane or the department. After consulting Grob, Scheiner decided to inform Peter Stearns, the chair of the"New Brunswick" Department, of his findings.

At this point, the various accounts begin to differ slightly. Grob remembers that a New Brunswick committee was appointed to examine Lane's manuscript, and that Lane appeared before it and blamed the copying on muddled notes. Scheiner recalls that a department meeting was held and at this meeting"Ms. Lane spoke of personal problems as well as carelessness in note taking."(5) Stearns, the chair, remembers that after personally examining the findings,"We had a number of anguished discussions and at least one faculty meeting on the subject. Professor Lane was invited to comment [and] she explained how in the press of her research, amid some personal problems, she did not recall her exact methods of transcription."(6)

Lane herself attests that Scheiner,"having discovered [the copying], told his department chair, who told my department chair, Maurice Lee, who called me in and told me to disappear for the rest of the year."(7) She also recalls that she herself called for an open meeting of the three college history departments to discuss the accusations and at that meeting"began that presentation to the Rutgers history folks with a statement from my lawyer-brother, then a very famous activist lawyer [her brother is Mark Lane], by saying that plagiarism is defined as malicious intent, and if anyone ever used the word again to apply to her, that person would be sued." Lane told HNN that she never actually intended to sue.

Following her threat the department dropped any effort to brand her as a plagiarist, but her case for tenure was derailed. Stearns states that he and the department felt that"Lane should be asked to withdraw her case and in consequence terminate her association with Rutgers University at the end of that academic year," though he felt it was inappropriate to notify Columbia.(8) Before the end of the academic year, Lane was hired by John Jay, which was in the process of becoming a full-fledged university and had just formed a history department. Soon after, Kenikat Press published her book, The Brownsville Affair: National Crisis and Black Reaction, with the copied passages removed or correctly cited.

The book found little success. Its reviewer in the the Journal of American History was Emma Lou Thornbrough, who found distressing similarities with her own prior work, specifically an article from 1957 in the Mississippi Valley Historical Review. Thornbrough mentioned the discovery to friends and colleagues, but made no public accusation in her scathing review, though she left a subtle hint:

The book by Ann J. Lane, which is a revision of her doctoral dissertation at Columbia University, goes over much the same ground as the two articles [mentioned previously, one by Thornbrough herself] and adds little to them.... She uses some of the same quotations as those in the Thornbrough article [and] her interpretation and conclusions are essentially the same...The book is marred with careless errors.(9)

THE EVIDENCE

In 1968, Ann Lane had been attending graduate school off and on for well over a decade, receiving her B.A. at Brooklyn College in 1952 and her M.A. from NYU in 1958. She was advised by David Donald and later, after Donald departed for Princeton, by Richard Hofstadter. At Columbia she finally completed and submitted her doctoral dissertation on the Brownsville incident. The borrowed passages missed by Hofstadter and whoever else was charged with reading the dissertation are apparent when the Scheiner and Thornbrough texts are examined side-by-side with Lane's.

A comparison of a passage from Scheiner's article and one from Lane's dissertation is included below (copied passages in bold):

Scheiner (pp. 179-180)(10)
Lane (pp. 296-8) (11)
What emerges is that the President was under the influence of Clarkson and Payne from late 1901 until mid-1903; these two men believed that Roosevelt should appeal to the Negroes of the North. An anti-"lily white" policy they believed would win the support of both Negro and pro-Negro southern delegations. Work against the"lily white" state organizations and replace them with pro-Negro groups, concluded Clarkson. Roosevelt followed this advice in his Alabama appointments and in his early opposition to Pritchard in North Carolina; however, he came to the conclusion that he was injuring himself politically with these actions. For example, the"lily whites" in North Carolina were angered; they threatened to desert T.R.'s camp. Roosevelt, it appears, reassessed his position and discarded Clarkson and Payne's policy.Roosevelt had been under the influence of Clarkson and Payne from late 1901 until mid-1903. These two men believed that Roosevelt should appeal to the Negroes of the North. An anti-lily-white policy they believed would win the support of both Negroes and pro-Negro southern delegates. Roosevelt followed this advice for a while, as for example in the Alabama appointments and in his early opposition to Pritchard in North Carolina. He apparently concluded that he was injuring himself politically by these actions. When the lily-whites in North Carolina were angered and threatened to desert him, Roosevelt probably reassessed his position and discarded Clarkson and Payne's policy.
By mid-1903, Roosevelt had abandoned his"fight" against the"lily whites." The retreat had begun in December, 1902 and was complete by March, 1903. At no time after the latter date did Clarkson and Payne exercise any influence on the President pertaining to the Negro question. Roosevelt's concession to the"lily whites" and his final abandonment of the Clarkson-Payne position, can be seen in a letter to Booker T. Washington in 1904:

The safety of the colored man in Louisiana is to have a white man's party which shall be responsible and honest…in which he shall not be the dominant force.

By mid-1903, Roosevelt had abandoned his struggle against the lily-whites. The retreat, begun in December 1902, was completed by March 1903. Roosevelt's concession to the lily-whites, and his final abandonment of the Clarkson-Payne position, can be seen in a letter to Booker T. Washington in 1904:

The safety of the colored man in Louisiana is to have a white man's party which shall be responsible and honest…in which he shall not be the dominant force.

A comparison of passages from Emma Lou Thornbrough's article of 1957 and Lane's dissertation is included below:

Thornbrough (pp. 479)(12)
Lane (pp. 209-210)(13)
Tyler was a part-time journalist and secretary to Robert Wolfe, owner of the Columbus Ohio State Journal and the Columbus Dispatch, both of which were opposed to Foraker. Neither Foraker nor his colleague, Charles W. F. Dick, had been consulted; but, as one newspaper explained, it was a foregone conclusion that they would vote to confirm the appointment"without visible wincing" because there were about 50,000 colored voters in Ohio.[Paragraph break added--editor]

Later it was reported that Roosevelt had changed his mind and would not press the appointment because the proposal gave pain to so many white Republicans in Cincinnati. It was said that his son-in-law, Nicholas Longworth, had protested that the naming of a Negro to such a post in his district would mean his political ruin. The intended appointee himself thought that the President's change of heart was due to the fear that the appointment would hurt Taft's candidacy. He had been informed by his employer, he reported, that Roosevelt did not want to antagonize the two senators and thus make it more difficult for Taft to secure the Ohio delegation in 1908. Tyler did not get the surveyorship, but he was appointed an auditor in the Navy Department in Washington, D.C., where his presence would not offend white voters and where, it was hoped, he would be useful in keeping Negroes faithful to the Republican party.
Tyler was a part-time journalist and secretary to Robert Wolfe, owner of the Columbus Ohio State Journal and the Columbus Dispatch, both of which were opposed to Foraker. Neither Foraker nor his colleague, Charles W. F. Dick, had been consulted; but, as one newspaper explained, it was a foregone conclusion that they would vote to confirm the appointment"without visible wincing" because there were about 50,000 colored voters in Ohio.

Later it was reported that Roosevelt had changed his mind and would not push the appointment because the proposal was opposed by many white Republicans in Cincinnati. It was said that his son-in-law, Nicholas Longworth, had protested that the naming of a Negro to such a post in his district would mean his political ruin.
Tyler thought that the President's change of heart was due to the fear that the appointment would hurt Taft's candidacy. He had been informed by his employer, he reported, that Roosevelt did not want to antagonize the two senators and thus make it more difficult for Taft to secure the Ohio delegation in 1908. Tyler did not get the surveyorship, but he was appointed an auditor in the Navy Department in Washington, D.C., where his presence would not offend white voters and where, it was hoped, he would be useful in keeping Negroes faithful to the Republican party.

In the latter passage Lane neglected even to provide a footnote to Thornbrough and only infrequently did so for the other, longer borrowed passages (at one point using the citation,"For more information, see .…"). Lane frequently took quotes from Scheiner's and Thornbrough's articles and cited them as if she had done the archival research herself.

Lane freely admits to the copying, but maintains--just as she did when confronted at Rutgers--that the errors occurred when a hired assistant took bad notes and made transcription errors:"I had hired a typist to type up the sections of stuff I would need. By the time I got to writing the dissertation I no longer remembered that the quotations marks should have been there."(14) Lane downplays the significance of her borrowing. She noted in her interview with HNN that she had lifted only narrative accounts of the Brownsville incident itself, narratives such as could be found in any newspaper at the time.(15) Yet HNN found that her copying frequently extended to analysis as well, for example:

Scheiner:"Roosevelt, it appears-reassessed his position and discarded Clarkson and Payne's policy."

Lane:"Roosevelt probably reassessed his position and discarded Clarkson and Payne's policy." (No citation.)

The passages are rarely copied exactly, undermining Lane's assertion that they are merely improperly cited quotations from the articles. Rather, as can be seen above, there are frequent changes of a word or two such as the frequent substitution of"Negro" for" colored," reflecting the different times in which Thornbrough and Lane were writing. Lane lifted passages from nearly every page of Scheiner's article and at least a quarter of Thornbrough's, though it is worth noting that the actual number of borrowed words (about a thousand from Scheiner and more than 2,000 from Thornbrough) was minor compared with the tens of thousands of words that are included in her 400-plus page dissertation. Nevertheless, the"violent changes in style" that Grob observed are plainly visible throughout most of the dissertation.

THE PERSONAL

Gerald Grob remembers Ann Lane as a"delightful colleague."(16) Lane looks back on Grob as"the nastiest guy of them all."(17) Seth Scheiner has not read any of Lane's subsequent writings, saying he"avoids eating a second meal at a bad restaurant."(18) After being accused by Scheiner, Lane called him, directly asking"What kind of person are you?" He promptly hung up.(19) Lane thanked both Grob and Stearns in the forward to her book for their attention to accuracy. Peter Stearns, now at George Mason University, fondly recalls Lane's"obvious talent, teaching success, and intellectual vitality."(20) In a recent interview Lane was unable to remember his name.

Lane told HNN that the ordeal was especially difficult:"I was devastated, terrified, confused, embarrassed….Getting a position at Rutgers was enormously lucky, and I blew it." But was she treated fairly?

Sandi Cooper, who taught at Douglass from 1961 to 1967 and maintained personal relationships with members of the Rutgers faculty and Lane throughout the period of accusation, speculates that Lane was driven out of Rutgers because of her gender. She attests that female faculty members were often treated differently:"The men's College faculty at Rutgers regularly amused themselves by joking about the Douglass faculty as a batch of tea serving ladies in white gloves. There was considerable arrogance, disdain and snobbishness in their attitude towards us."(21) She says that she and other women on the faculty were"treated in a patronizing way by older male colleagues, a few of whom assumed that my bottom was free pinching territory."(22) According to Cooper, the overall attitude toward women could be summarized as"generic contempt." Until the Lane incident, she felt such attitudes were primarily those of the older set. Having known Scheiner, she was"amazed at Seth and very disappointed."(23)

Lane, however, says that her gender was irrelevant:"Perhaps my gender made it easier to do, but I don't think that was a major issue, if it was one at all,"(24) though she is quick to point out that her lone defender at the time was a non-tenured female historian, Mary Hartman."Maybe," Lane says,"there is something in the water in the department bathrooms-boys bathrooms, that is."(25)

If her gender was not a factor in the outcome at Rutgers, what was? While Lane readily admits that she herself was at fault, she insists that both personal and political circumstances shaped Rutgers' response."I think my greatest crime was that I had been married to Gene Genovese, though long divorced, and Warren Susman, was a dear friend. Although Warren was not a communist as Gene was, he was a lefty of sorts."(26) Genovese was gone by the time Lane arrived at Rutgers, but remained a powerful symbol of the left and the anti-war movement. In 1965 Richard Nixon called for Genovese's dismissal after the historian stated,"I do not fear or regret the impending Vietcong victory…. I welcome it."(27) Genovese was not fired, but soon resigned after becoming, in his words,"a second class citizen in terms of salary" at Rutgers.

Lane feels that her most ardent critic, Gerald Grob, was motivated by pure politics; she recalls that at one point he screamed at her on the phone,"I am going to drive you out of the profession."(28) Grob insists that he was"never aware" of Lane's politics (though ostensibly he was aware of her marriage to Genovese) and never spoke to Lane personally, on the phone or otherwise, during this period. He observes that"80-90%" of the Rutgers faculty was on the left anyway.(29) Still, after the Lane incident, he became a leader in subsequent plagiarism cases at the university. He felt that"academic freedom confers an obligation to police yourself," and that if you plagiarize you"do not deserve to be in the field."(30)

Confounding expectations, Lane was not driven from the field. Her friends took care of her, leading to the suggestion that she had been protected by friends with similar political sentiments. Sandi Cooper's current husband, John M. Cammett, was Dean of Faculty, and later Provost, at John Jay and readily admits, as does Lane, that the two were friends. According to Lane, Cammett was extremely close to Genovese when both were at Rutgers and she herself remained close to Cammett after her divorce. Cooper claims that Cammett was severely mistreated at Rutgers because of his left-wing politics. Since John Jay was in the process of forming departments, Cammett says that he had"more authority than usual because we weren't yet on the procedural role," though it was"not an exclusive authority." Cammett knew of the accusations and read enough of the texts to convince himself that"it was an egregious error and wrong." Still, he felt he should hire based on capability:"The reason I didn't let that judgment prejudice me was that I knew she was a good scholar and that it was an unmediated error."(31)

The University of Virginia, which currently employs Lane, has one of the most stringent honor codes in the nation. The only penalty for lying or cheating in any form is permanent dismissal. In the 2001-2002 school year, 18 students were found guilty at honor trials, with nearly twice that number leaving school admitting guilt. As at most universities, plagiarism is defined as the act of copying regardless of the motive:"Copying a passage straight from a book into a paper without quoting or explicitly citing the source is blatant plagiarism."(32) Though the honor trials are juried by students, Lane does not support such a harsh policy, calling it"pretty stupid."(33)

Lane says that when the plagiarism allegations against Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin surfaced this past year she informed one of her classes of her own history of copying. At a panel of the Organization of American History this past spring she rallied to the defense of Goodwin, insisting that Goodwin's offenses did not merit public banishment.(34) Yet she attests,"My little situation of a couple of pages in a book that did not make me famous is quite different from the multitudes of publications by Doris Kearns Goodwin and Ambrose and the others."(35)

Lane's explanation, at least her version of it, is well-known among a small group of friends and apparently some of her students. In the larger academic community there have long been rumors that something had happened to her at Rutgers, though few were sure exactly what, as Lane discovered when she interviewed for a position at Colgate in 1983. By the time she applied for her job at Virginia, however, Lane admits she was never asked about the controversy and as a result never told anyone in the administration about it.

Is it better for everyone that the story stay buried? Lane admits she would have preferred that HNN not run this piece. But she said she's old now, in her seventies, and what's past is past. She at least is at peace with what she did even if others are not.

1 http://www.academicintegrity.org/cai_research.asp
2 Ibid.
3 Email: Seth Scheiner to Rick Shenkman, May 8, 2002.
4 Interview with Gerald Grob, June 27. 2002.
5 Email: Seth Scheiner to Rick Shenkman, May 8, 2002.
6 Email Peter Stearns to NW, July 15, 2002.
7 Email Ann J. Lane to NW, August 4, 2002.
8 Peter Stearns to NW., July 15, 2002.
9 Emma Lou Thornbrough, Review of"The Brownsville Affair: National Crisis and Black Reaction," Journal of American History (June, 1972).
10 Scheiner, Seth M."President Roosevelt and the Negro, 1901-1908." Journal of Negro History (July, 1962).
11 Ann J. Lane,"The Brownsville Affair" Columbia University dissertation (1968).
12 Emma Lou Thornbrough,"The Brownsville Episode and the Negro Vote," Mississippi Valley Historical Review (December, 1957).
13 Ann J. Lane,"The Brownsville Affair" Columbia University dissertation (1968).
14 Email: Ann Lane to NW, August 4, 2002.
15 Interview with Ann Lane, May 21, 2002.
16 Interview with Gerald Grob, June 27, 2002.
17 Email: Ann Lane to Rick Shenkman, June 19, 2002.
18 Email: Seth Scheiner to Rick Shenkman, May 8, 2002..
19 Interview with Ann Lane, May 21, 2002..
20 Email: Peter Stearns to NW, July 15, 2002.
21 Email: Sandi Cooper to NW, July 2, 2002.
22 Ibid.
23Ibid.
24 Email: Ann Lane to NW, August 4, 2002.
25 Ibid.
26 Ibid.
27 Jonathan Wiener,"Radical Historians and the Crisis in American History, 1959-1980," Journal of American History, Vol. 26. No. 2. (Sept. 1989), p. 416.
28 Ibid.
29 Interview with Gerald Grob, June 27, 2002.
30 Ibid.
31 Interview with John Cammett, July 11, 2002.
32 University of Virginia Honor Committee website: http://www.student.virginia.edu/~honor/proc/fraud.html
33 Interview with Ann Lane, May 21, 2002.
34 Ibid.
35 Email: Ann Lane to NW, August 4, 2002.

 

 


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Shawn McHale - 8/5/2005

I find it ridiculous to see historians DEFENDING plagiarism.
As if I really care that it was so difficult to take notes correctly back in the prehistoric 1970s.

I still often take notes by hand, for the simple reason that it is faster to write notes from Vietnamese (which I use in research) by hand than by typing. Somehow I don't seem to have the problems that Ms. Lane did.

Finally, one can try to make a distinction between knowingly and inadvertently plagiarizing. But it is still plagiarism.

Christ, I am getting tired of apologetics for screwing up . . .


Shawn McHale - 8/5/2005

I find it ridiculous to see historians DEFENDING plagiarism.
As if I really care that it was so difficult to take notes correctly back in the prehistoric 1970s.

I still often take notes by hand, for the simple reason that it is faster to write notes from Vietnamese (which I use in research) by hand than by typing. Somehow I don't seem to have the problems that Ms. Lane did.

Finally, one can try to make a distinction between knowingly and inadvertently plagiarizing. But it is still plagiarism.

Christ, I am getting tired of apologetics for screwing up . . .


Nathan M Williams - 3/6/2004

If only in my research I had bothered to search HNN itself!


James Jay - 1/22/2004

I couldn't help by notice that Ann Lane weighed in with her own opinion (in the History News Network) about Joseph Ellis's fabrications a year or so before the item ran on her plagiarism. You can see it yourself by checking out the Historians in Hot Water section of HNN. Here's a copy (below) of what she said:


I DON'T THINK THE LIES THAT JOSEPH ELLIS TOLD ARE GOOD OR WISE

But I do not think he should be punished in the way Mt. Holyoke has chosen to punish him. He should not have done what he did but his deceptions are hardly uncommon. We will forego the list of political figures who have created awards, distinctions, heroic behaviors. Most of the books politicians/statesmen claim to write they did not.

Is the academy different? No, but it is assumed it should be, and worse, it is assumed that is is. The academy in many ways defines excellent teaching as mesmerizing lectures that students adore hearing. In my 35 years of teaching in colleges and universities I think I can fairly say that those who excell in this show-biz version of education are in general men.

One of my colleagues was enraged with Ellis' behavior, condemning it largely because it will create a spirit of disillusionment among our students. I think that is probably a good thing. Professors are, alas, no more virtuous than any other group of citizens.

Ann J. Lane

Professor of History, University of Virginia

Director, Studies in Women and Gender, University of Virginia


Nathan Williams - 2/12/2003

Mr. Hayhow is correct. E-mails to the editor are not normally posted. The comments included here are of a bulletin board format.

I hope Mr. Goodrich is not so discouraged as to refrain from re-posting his comments.

Thanks,
Nathan Williams


Van L Hayhow - 1/29/2003

To MR. Goodrich:

If you have a post, just send it again. My understanding is that this website is run like a bulletin board and the people in charge do not "screen" posts. Usually, mine appear within ia few seconds, not enough time for the fastest reader to screen it. If you sent a post that did not get posted, it was probabley just a technical glitch. Send it on and it will probably appear.


Michael Goodich - 1/20/2003

I am curious as to why my e-mail aboutt the Ann Lane affair has not been posted.
Thank you,
Michael Goodich


Rob Perelli-Minetti - 12/11/2002

When I was a graduate student in intellectual history in the early 1970's, one did indeed take notes on little cards, I used both 3x5 and 5x7 cards for research. The advent of copy machines was a great help to accuracy. By 1972, whenever it was possible, I was making a photocopy of every passage I intended to quote or that I thought especially salient. Not everyone did this, but many of my colleagues did as well.

I am sympathetic to an historian who makes a mistake or two in his or her footnoting, but in Ms. Lane's case it seems to have gone beyond that.

In the current era of electronic media, there is NO reason an historian cannot scan in virtually any document being used in research. I would like to see historians trained to use handheld scanners as part of their freshman major serminar.


Clayton E. Cramer - 11/20/2002

"Editors of scholarly journals generally check out each and every footnote in an article about to be published." I wish this was true. Much of the focus in the recent Bellesiles scandal has been on his book _Arming America_, but some of the false claims (not wrong, but falsifications) appeared in a 1998 Law & History Review article as well--and pretty clearly, the editors didn't bother to check those footnotes.

I understand that it is impractical to check for plagiarism and falsification with the industrial assembly line approach to historical scholarship and graduate training--but let's not delude ourselves that someone else is doing the job for us.


Van L. Hayhow - 11/20/2002

Could E.T. Sturbridge provide some support for the sweeping allegations contained in this post? How does E.T.know that plagerism, deliberate or by mistake, is endemic? How does E. T. know that universities are churning out Phd's that are a discredit to the profession? How does E.T. know that Phd candidates are routinely making up sources in footnotes? The few cases that have been discussed on this website are hardly indications of the wholesale fraud E. T. is alleging. If E.T. cannot provide support for that post E.T. should ask that it be withdrawn.


Van L. Hayhow - 11/20/2002

Could E.T. Strbridge provide some support for the sweeping allegations contained in this post? How does E.T.know that plagerism, deliberate or by mistake is endemic? How does E. T. know that universities are churning out Phd's that are a discredit to the profession? How does E.T. know that Phd candidates are routinely making up sources in footnotes? The few cases that have been discussed on this website are hardly indiccations of the wholesale fraud E. T. is alleging. If E.T. cannot provide support for that post E.T. should ask that it be withdrawn.


E.T. Strobridge - 11/17/2002

Enough Ms Schulz! There are enough apologists now for the failures of members of your profession to keep from purloining the work of others. By minimizing what Ann Lane has done by claiming "inadvertant plagairism" 40 years ago does not help solve the problem. You are naive if you believe the aliby Lane has come up with as being truthful. It is no more than a cop-out.

If you are responsible for approving MA theses and/or doctoral dissertations then you have a a responsibility to know that they in fact are true and original works of the authors. You are naive if you believe that the so-called mutual trust between student/supervisor is enough with out verifying the sources and you have failed as a supervisor. Your profession is full of Stephen Ambroses and Michael Bellesiles and until the non-academic critics exposed these two (any many others) for their disonest writing Universities keep churning out Phd's who are a discredit to your profession. It is bad enough that this has become endemic in your profession but I am apalled that you pass off your responsibilities because your student "becomes the expert" and you and your collegues "do not have the time or energy" to check out the footnotes. Too bad, you would find that too often the reference does not exist and those that do often will provide the source of any plagairized material. You only have to be curious Ms. Schulz, not a PhD to be able to accomplish that. I suspect the protection of tenure too often provides the veil behind which to hide.

ets


dfgfhf - 11/17/2002

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Sister Mary Elizabeth CHS - 11/15/2002

In the discussions of plagiarism that I have read, there is very little emphasis upon how to take notes to avoid the problem (Assuming, of course, that avoidance is an objective.) I do not have a number of publications of my own to refer to, but I had every reason to expect, in my student years, that historical research would be a primary focus for me. At the University of Buffalo, I had Julius Pratt and Selig Adler as mentors. At the University of Chicago, William Hutchinson and Avery Craven among others. I wrote BA and MA theses and produced a dissertation which was commended by my advisors who recommended publication. That never happened because I was already a member of my present religious community, nor was it possible for me to continue the research and writing which I loved.

However, in all the writing at both universities, I wanted to be sure that I knew exactly what various writers said. I was afraid that at some point, I might reproduce phrases or even sentences that had impressed me, and I wanted to avoid that. The result was use of a system that depended upon an electric typewriter, pads of 5x8 blank paper, and file boxes to take such memos. My notes were almost exclusively verbatim. I used quotation marks, but in the very occasional note which did not have such marks, I ordinarily assumed the information was verbatim or close to it. There could be no mistaking plagiarism in such circumstances -- it had to be deliberate if it occurred at all.

In teaching, mostly at the high school level, but also in college and university, I strongly recommended such a system to the students I encountered. It does require typing, but it also supplies enough practice to result in reasonable speed. The problem of typos is simple: if the typo is in the original source, use [sic]; if there's no such entry, the typo is probably your own.

I wonder how much slipshod work is due to aiming primarily at the value to one's resume and career rather trying to produce the best work one can do. There is real satisfaction in knowing that something has been well done. If nothing more comes of it, it is still well worth doing.


Constance B. Schulz - 11/13/2002

Although the focus of the article on Ann Lane was on her own responsibility rather than on that of her dissertation advisors, I think it is worth responding to the question asked early in the article about whether graduate school faculty act as "enforcers" in catching and preventing plagiarism - deliberate or inadvertant, i.e. "Do dissertation advisors read their students' work closely enough to pick up evidence of copying?" (1st paragraph of article.)

As a faculty member at a large university with a substantial graduate program in history, in which I am responsible for reading and approving anywhere from 5 - 10 MA theses and at least one (frequently more) doctoral dissertations annually, I can assure all the graduate students out there that I read all of these carefully. I am reasonably sure that most of my colleagues do so also. In fact, in reading as a supervisor the "first public draft" stage of theses and dissertations passing through the several stages of revision that characterize historical writing, I often find myself reading so carefully in terms of style, grammar, and language (serving in effect as a copy editor) that I must consciously force myself to step back from the details of the manuscript to examine and comment on its content and ideas. While I advise students in areas of history about which I know a great deal, I also direct theses and dissertations in which I have a much more limited expertise. In either case, unless the text being plagiarized is one that I wrote myself, or with which I have been closely involved in my own research, it is unlikely that I would recognize copied material if it was relatively short in length, and not radically different from the student's "style." Editors of scholarly journals generally check out each and every footnote in an article about to be published. I fear that most faculty supervising dissertations do not have the luxury of the time or energy to do that - and even then I am not sure we would catch the kind of copying this article describes.

The student/supervisor relationship is one built to a certain degree on mutual trust. In the course of a graduate student's research, he or she becomes the expert on the particular subject or issue in the dissertation/thesis, an expertise that graduate dissertation directors welcome and guide by asking incisive questions, raising issues or avenues not thoroughly explored, and pointing the way to resources and methods to carry out that exploration. We trust the students to be honest in their work, just as they trust us to be fair in our evaluation of that work and supportive of the long process of their completing it.

That said, I would also remind younger scholars of the very different means of capturing information during research which the advent of copying machines and the internet have made possible. In the 1960s one really DID scribble notes and copy passages from primary and secondary sources onto little scraps of paper, into notebooks, onto hundreds of 3x5 or 4x6 or even 5x7 cards. Carelessness on one's own part - or worse on the part of a research assistant - in putting in sets of quotation marks was (and is for those still using these oldfashioned methods) a hazard. With several thousand such cards in front of one, gathered over several years of work, it is difficult often to tell without the " " whether one wrote those words ones' self, or copied them from a source. This does not excuse the inadvertant plagiarism that it seems to me fairly clear Ann Lane committed - and to which she openly admits. But it might help understand how it could have happened. What is needed 40 years after the fact is not so much "blame" - but rigorous education of the new generation of scholars about how such things can happen, and ways to guard against it in their own work.