Top Ten Plagiarism Excuses

Notorious statistics professor (damn!) Ed Wegman has been caught in another case of copying-large-blocks-of-text-without-attribution.

In his defense, he might try stealing inadvertently copying some lines from a famous historian:

I failed to provide quotation marks for phrases that I had taken verbatim, having assumed that these phrases, drawn from my notes, were my words, not his. . . . The larger question for those of us who write statistics is to understand how citation mistakes can happen.

It’s a big mystery, eh? How could these things possibly happen?? Further research is needed, for sure.

In the meantime, here’s my quick attempt at a top 10 excuses for copying-large-blocks-of-text-without-attribution.

10. Someone snuck into my house and edited the file while I was in the shower. So sue me!

9. Out of loyalty to my hard-working graduate students, I refuse to pin the blame on them, even though it’s their fault. I take full responsibility.

8. Even a monkey tying at random, if he were to write more than 160 papers and five books, might occasionally To be or not to be, that is the qjuiosusdfu79lkjew.

7. I didn’t plagiarize them, they anticipated me!

6. If I don’t publish a new article or book this year, a puppy will die. Sorry—that’s just the way it is.

5. Sure, I could’ve copied the original document word-for-word, but that would’ve been really boring. Also, I changed the font.

4. Nobody complained when Dr. King did it.

3. Hey—look over there! Is that a yellow-bellied sapsucker?

2. Somebody hacked my twitter account.

1. Clippy!

I’ve never done a Top Ten list before so feel free to mock me in the comments. More to the point, maybe you can do better and we can prepare a list to help any future Frank Fischers who turn up?

[Cross-posted at the Monkey Cage]

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Andrew Gelman

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.