Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant" -Louis Brandeis

It seems that folks are beginning to notice that an Indiana State Board of Education member's dissertation appears to be plagiarized.  Dr. Doug Martin has authored this letter to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.  Doug's letter helped to draw more attention to this matter.  Also, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has published this article on the Purdue investigation of the person in question.  I am now even more confident that Purdue will handle this situation appropriately, given the "sunlight" that has been afforded this apparent case of academic dishonesty.


  1. The person in question is quoted saying she denies copying. I did not expect that as the copying I saw (from at least 2 sources) is quite obvious, and denial show lack of remorse that could limit her ability to later invoke the popular "unintentional plagiarism" defense. Even her DEDICATION and ACKNOWLEDGEMENT pages have copied text from 2 different sources.

    The following copied sentence concluding her acknowledgement of her committee members stood out to me as the redundant writing of elementary or high school student, not the words of a scholar who is fulfilling the requirements for a PhD. "They shared ideas, questioned my assumptions, and asked difficult questions." [Jude Isaacson, 1998 and Gwendolyn G. Adell 2004?????].

    Also, please think about the implications of copying a literature review. It is particularly deceptive as it makes it look like the author did everything the real author did: spend hours and hours reading everything on her subject, making notes, thinking about it, reading again, comparing her work to the literature, drafting conclusions supporting her contribution to the field, organizing the material for clear presentation to readers, searching deep in the stacks for overlooked ideas, going to other libraries, editing drafts, organizing a bibliography, writing final drafts, etc.; but in reality, this key element of doctoral work that can take several years is done with a mouse click without ever setting foot in a library or opening a book. She was probably laughing at the ease with which she completed her literature review while her classmates who carried backpacks loaded with books never had time for anything besides reading and writing.

    Purdue owes an honest resolution to the world; it is unfair to everyone to allow someone to enjoy the benefits of a doctoral degree without having done the work.

  2. Hello Tom,

    Thanks for the information and I agree completely. It is impossible to do original research without first having conducted a genuine review of related literature. If one simply copies and pastes from other sources, there is no way that the study will have the academic foundation needed to be valid. To some extent, of course, this is the fault of her committee in not calling her to account during the dissertation process. However, the ultimate responsibility lies with the subject herself. It is quite sad that, even when confronted with the obvious facts, she will not own up to this. I will be updating the blog soon to include the links to the various entities now carrying this story since the AP picked it up. I am hopeful that something consequential will be done. It is simply incomprehensible to me that she will be able to continue in her role on the Indiana State Board of Education. However, crazier things have happened.

  3. Law profs plagiarize, too:

  4. Hello Anonymous,

    Thanks for the link! . . . This is very interesting.

  5. I looked a little deeper into the 2004 Purdue dissertation, and I found significant plagiarism in Chapter IV Research Findings. This chapter includes discussion about interviews Dr. Adell conducted for her research. Dr. Adell quotes one interviewee as shown below in text that I copied from page 65 of Dr. Adell's 2004 Purdue dissertation.

    ‘F.L., Administrator 2, shared that she is very outgoing and people oriented. "I always accept a challenge. I felt within myself if somebody else can do it, so can I." "Nobody told me that I couldn't learn, so I grew up thinking if you can do it so can I.".’

    Identical quotes were published years earlier in a 1998 Virginia Tech thesis. The Virginia Tech graduated attributed the quotes to her interviewee with initials M.A. Copying an interview

    The Purdue graduate not only plagiarized extensively, she falsified research data to meet the degree requirement. Contrary to Dr. Adell's denial of plagiarizing, the evidence indicates a propensity to engage in both academic and research misconduct. Consequently, one must consider the likelihood of a long history of similar misconduct.

    Purdue was used as a means to obtain the title, doctor, but there was no desire for learning and growing to become a scholar that usually accompany me to the store. Thus, deception and cheating are the tools to get the title. An unqualified graduate who appears to be qualified is one possible outcome that will be investigated tomorrow. Inability to perform at the doctoral level is one good reason why a student would choose a path of deception The Purdue investigators are left with no choice other than degree revocation.

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