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The Lesser Crimes of Writing: Other Questionable Writing Practices

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Avoiding plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing

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Recently, Zigmond and Fischer (2002) have called attention to what they refer as the “misdemeanors” of science: Ethically inappropriate practices in the conduct of scientific research. These authors explain that, whereas fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism are considered to be the “high crimes” of science, “misdemeanors” represent the lesser crimes. Some examples of common misdemeanors are neglecting to indicate one’s source of funding, failing to identify possible conflicts of interest, and establishing honorary authorship (assigning authorship to an individual whose contributions to the work do not earn him/her such status).

The high crimes vs. misdemeanors classification system can be applied in the area of writing. In our previous discussion of plagiarism and self-plagiarism, we described a variety of practices, some of which would undoubtedly be classified as high crimes (e.g., appropriating the ideas or data of someone else without attribution), while others would fall under the misdemeanor category (e.g., inadequate paraphrasing).