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Harry G. Frankfurt, emeritus professor of philosophy at Princeton, whose essay on the art of hokum, first written in 1986, has now become a small book published by Princeton University Press.





Below you will find a copy of an email sent to us in the Spring of 2006.  Caroline gave us permission to reprint it on the web site because it gives a very clear cautionary note regarding the very unclear nature of PLAGIARISM.

hi Mr. Simpson,

Today when you commented on the sentence in my essay "terrorists do not create the vulnerabilities they exploit, the authority does", you threw out a joke question asking if I had taken the wording from the website directly, instead of paraphrasing it.  I started to doubt what I had written, and went back to check the website.  I noticed that the wording of the website is very similar, specifically

 [Below is what Caroline Caroline was referencing]

     "Meanwhile the terrorist threat will be with us a very long time. The terrorists did not create the vulnerabilities they exploit. Our competitive drive toward maximum economic efficiency creates new vulnerabilities every day. The elements of critical infrastructure on which we depend for our daily lives become more and more concentrated, more interdependent, and less redundant, as firms drive for greater efficiency. We will still be vulnerable long after El Qaeda is gone. We can reduce that vulnerability by restructuring our businesses and public facilities and work to make the world a less ravaged and violent place."37 

[we added the bottom note citation that she included in the essay but not in the email]

37 Lewis M. Branscomb, Harvard University as found at Ogmius is the name of the newsletter of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (to be published four times a year). The Center is within the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

I'm not sure if I referenced that correctly, or if I should've placed it in quotation marks.  I'm not sure if this will hurt my grade, but I would rather tell you than have you approach me.


Thank you

Caroline Cusick



Caroline is correct to worry.  It becomes quite a wide grey area when paraphrasing the ideas of others.  In this case, Caroline was spot on.  Her paraphrase encapsulated several key ideas and, although similar in the area highlighted in blue, was correctly referenced to the original work and therefore is perfectly acceptable.  If Caroline had not referenced the original (or had directly quoted even one more phrase without quotation marks) then she would be guilty of plagiarism.

P.S., thanks, Caroline, for letting us reprint your email for the web site.