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So, a piece of mine is in a book

How to Write Anything: A Guide and Reference with Readings, 5/e by John J. Ruszkiewicz and Jay T. Dolmage

This piece:

A most unkind thing to do is to take someone’s arguments seriously and then ponder what could be done to solve the problem being described. The Black Lives Matter movement says the United States is a structurally racist and divided society and that we ought to do something to remedy this situation. OK. Let’s do that.

Take the wealth gap, for example. It’s entirely true that black people have lower average household wealth than do white people. Accidents of birth for both of us and John Rawls’s veil of ignorance insist that we do something about this. Great. Let’s abolish rental housing subsidies. If this generation lives in subsidized rental housing, the next won’t inherit housing equity. For all but the top 10% of our society, housing equity is by far the largest portion of familial wealth. This actually explains a large part of the wealth gap. Yes, there were redlining and horrendous mortgage contracts forced upon black would-be homeowners. But it is also true that we’ve been subsidizing rentals and keeping black people from gaining housing equity for the past 60 years or so. Stop doing that, and in a generation’s time, the situation will be improved.

Just been asked to grant rights for a reprint of it. Which is fun, ‘coz I can’t recall ever being asked for rights on the original.

But, you know, trivia.

Which leaves just one little question. Am I used as an example of how to write anything, or as how not to?

18 thoughts on “So, a piece of mine is in a book”

  1. I suppose it’d depend on how woke those using you as an example are Tim. But if they’re paying you, they are probably inclined to agree with you.

  2. A tad off topic. I was doing some literature research before Christmas and came across an old Masters of Engineering thesis from the late 1980s, back in the day when they were typed and bound, and online editions are scanned and not editable.

    I noticed that numerous figures were very familiar and, on closer examination, so were large amounts of text. In short, a lot of the MEng thesis was from my PhD thesis. The MEng thesis was not from the same university, not even the same continent, the connection being a research fellow who had helped me and is credited in my thesis for his assistance. Obviously, I don’t appear in the references of the MEng thesis.

    I’m not really sure what to do. The guy subsequently got a PhD and rose to eminence within the mining industry. Do I just ignore it given that it was nearly 40 years ago and he’ll not be far from retirement, or is there some greater principle at stake?

  3. I once found an important chunk of plagiarised stuff in a PhD thesis I was examining. The candidate had stolen it from the thesis of one of my own research students. I failed him but also demanded a meeting with the Head of Department.

    The crime turned out to be associated in some way with some complicated dirty politics within that department under the previous Head. Happily I can’t remember much of the detail and I shredded the paperwork long ago but I do have a vague memory that, added to the fun, the student’s supervisor had had what are now called Menl Elf Ishoos.

  4. For a lot of essays and papers there is now a scan of other digital and digitized papers to look for plagiarism. One wonders if we do a historical search how prevalent this would be from back before these things were widely available.

  5. Presumably “AI” like chatGPT will either render plagiarism redundant or be able to disguise it sufficiently.

  6. “The average Ph.D. thesis is nothing but a shifting of bones from one graveyard to another.” J. Frank Dobie

  7. I knew a chap part of whose PhD thesis was, he said, plagiarised … from a couple of papers he’d published – because he couldn’t find his original notes, plots, and printouts. What a tease, eh?

  8. Having done a MA relatively recently (2014-2018, it was an on-the-job degree) every submission from essays to dissertation went through Turnitin software which searches for plagiarism. Being a Good Chap I made sure that everything I lifted from anywhere else was referenced and cited, of course.

    Before that, the MSc I did 2000-2003 was not far off what DocBud described: word processed not typed, but then printed (and for the dissertation, bound) and it was the paper copies that went in to be assessed – so, no electronic way to check if it was lifted from elsewhere…

  9. “I knew a chap part of whose PhD thesis was, he said, plagiarised … from a couple of papers he’d published – because he couldn’t find his original notes, plots, and printouts. What a tease, eh?”

    One of my PhD chapters was loosely adapted from a journal article I’d published the year before. I inserted a footnote at the start of the chapter pointing this out, but felt compelled to mention it again to the examiners at my viva. They both looked at each other while humming and hawing, before one of them turned to me and said that he wasn’t sure if this constituted plagiarism or not. I was all set to protest most vigorously, but was interrupted by an explosion from the invigilator, who told them both (in effect) not to be so bloody stupid. And that was that.

    In response to DocBud: I would just leave it – let sleeping dogs lie and all that. I’d actually be pretty chuffed if somebody thought my thesis was valuable enough to purloin huge amounts of information from it.

  10. I should also say, in reference to the above, that my thesis went through Turnitin as well. Presumably it caught the occasional phrase repeated from my journal article, but perhaps it decided (like my invigilator) that self-plagiarism isn’t really a thing. As it happens, the chapter ended up being a lot longer than the article and therefore quite different anyway, so it may well just not have mattered in the end.

  11. Is BoogerBoy really that blind?

    If drugs were legal and you knew what an OD dose was and still chose to die, doesn’t that say a whole lot about capitalism’s failure to provide happiness?

  12. Do you/ did you like him?

    Sorry for delay, Tim, my comment was the last thing I typed before I went to bed.

    I haven’t seen the research fellow since my PhD days and never met the plagiarist. The research fellow was nice enough, he was a refugee from Iran, I think his dad was something in the Shah of Iran’s government. He drove a TR7 back in those days. I assume he was complicit in the plagiarism as he was the supervisor. Reference in detail to a case study in the UK without attribution would tend to suggest so.

    Bizarrely, even my (rare) typos are replicated.

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