CR4® - The Engineer's Place for News and Discussion®

Engineering Management Blog

Engineering Management

The Engineering Management Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about engineering and project management, technology forecasting and planning, productivity tools, and safety and security. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Previous in Blog: How’s Your Project Management Process?   Next in Blog: Were You Overexposed?

Is Your Own Work Your Own Work?

Posted April 20, 2011 7:00 AM

The publicity surrounding recently uncovered high-profile incidents of plagiarism has focused people's attention on this increasing problem. The amount and variety of information available on-line and through other sources makes the crime easier to commit and more difficult to detect. After all, who would know if you appropriated ideas from an obscure source? Have you seen examples of plagiarism in your workplace? Have you detected infractions by job-seekers or long-time employees? How serious were they? How did you respond? Have you ever "borrowed" someone else's work and claimed it as your own?

The preceding article is a "sneak peek" from Engineering Management, a newsletter from GlobalSpec. To stay up-to-date and informed on industry trends, products, and technologies, subscribe to Engineering Management today.


Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!

Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 1296
Good Answers: 35

Re: Is Your Own Work Your Own Work?

04/20/2011 10:09 AM

Re: Have you ever "borrowed" someone else's work and claimed it as your own?

I don't think so, at least not intentionally, but I've often wondered about many things along these lines (I won't mention them all here):

  • I've always assumed that if I was taught something in school, or found the information in a text book that the information was, well, let me call it public domain
  • Further, if I take that information and use it in ways slightly different to exactly what was in the textbook, that is ok (i.e., not a violation of anyone else's "intellectual property" (bad as that term is)). To clarify, I'm talking about using it to solve a problem I might be working on.
  • Maybe things get a little fuzzier (or not?) when I read about somebody's idea in a scientific journal, trade paper, newspaper, or something like that, and then use the textbook information to achieve a similar result?

Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 37
Good Answers: 3

Re: Is Your Own Work Your Own Work?

04/21/2011 10:09 AM

I can't say that I've ever plagiarized someone's written work, but this post made me ponder how this applies to copying someone's engineering design work. Of course mechanical constructions can be protected by patents, but is copying a competitor's non-patented designs a form of plagiarism? Obviously it's not a punishable form of plagiarism, but I find it interesting that when working with a written medium it is expected that a writer cite his sources, but when engineering components it is not expected that a design engineer cite which sources may have inspired him.

Hobbies - DIY Welding - Wannabeabettawelda

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Annapolis, Maryland
Posts: 4277
Good Answers: 241

Re: Is Your Own Work Your Own Work?

04/21/2011 10:12 AM

We're engineers.

Our own work is almost never our own work unless spend all our lives in a laboratory. I'll plagarize a circuit in a heartbeat. And my boss expects me to do that. It's too expensive to dream it all up on our own. That being said, I wouldn't claim it was my idea though. I'm more than happy to give credit where credit is due.

However, nothing I've ever created was a cut-and-paste exercise. There always seems to be something that has to be tweaked for each situation.


Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: California
Posts: 2365
Good Answers: 63

Re: Is Your Own Work Your Own Work?

04/21/2011 11:17 AM

FYI, plagiarism isn't a crime, just a ethical violation, in part because of some of the reasons noted above. If people never used any portion of others written ideas, concepts or theories, and had to always provide original work, nothing of any scale would ever get done. Of course the method that is generally allowable to tchnically circumvent ethical issues over plagiarism, is to reference the author of the information you included. Of course it is still considered a bit unethical if you do not include any original thoughts or ideas that evolve from those references.

Copyright infringement, on the other hand, is a crime, but must be enforced by those claiming copyright infringement through a civil action.

Hobbies - Musician - New Member Australia - Member - Torn and breading Engineering Fields - Nanoengineering - New Member APIX Pilot Plant Design Project - Member - New Member

Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia
Posts: 3746
Good Answers: 73

Re: Is Your Own Work Your Own Work?

04/21/2011 4:44 PM

To remember what one has forgotten one has to be reminded or remember whatever one has forgotten. It was clearly there before. The resulting experience brings a certain feeling with it. One recognizes that it was seen or done before. To add pride to ones creations one tries to be original, if one can.

For a true originator fakes are easily discernible from the real thing, so, at this point the gain of plagiarism is nullified. The chances of being accepted by the top echelons of a discipline, trade or science etc. are reduced. They will not consider you or your talents in any future enterprises.

The situation and the experience of creating something new brings a different feeling with it. To be able to differentiate between forgotten what one knew and creating something new is best done by starting from scratch. Record and digest every own observation and go from there. Walk before you run.

That's what I do and I am a fanatic about being the one and only. It gives true satisfaction and I can still be wrong in the end but the learning process is my aim not the result which can sometimes vanish like an exploding soap bubble.

It has happened numerous times that I thought I had made a discovery, which I had, only to find that someone else had concluded the same. I could claim the discovery and I do in some way, but I would not brag about it. To embarrassing to be found out.

Grandstanding on the shoulders of giants and waving about like the top cocky is going to get nobody nowhere. Not only does it require a certain seed to grow a certain fruit it requires endless amounts of caring for the soil it grows in. A good farmer can view a field and tell exactly if all is growing as expected.

If the maker of the black rose calls himself the creator, that is blasphemy. The creator of unobtainium will never find his master because there is a too large gap of knowledge to be overcome. The risk of being caught with plagiarism is just not worth it and the ones that try are found out anyway, at and when its time to be found out.

Nothing is spun as fine as not to be picked up by the rays of the sun.

Can't remember who said that and I don't even know if I remember it correctly or if I am getting languages mixed up. I know that what it is saying has to do with the title of this thread and that if my son tells me a fib, I'll know and he'll get to know, that I know that it was a fib.

Being true to oneself is what it is all about.

Jesus, it's Easter again.

Have one on me, Ky.

The Twain Has Met
Panama - Member - New Member Hobbies - CNC - New Member Engineering Fields - Marine Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Retired Engineers / Mentors - New Member

Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Panama
Posts: 4289
Good Answers: 213

Re: Is Your Own Work Your Own Work?

04/21/2011 10:06 PM

Each of us, intellectually speaking, is the product of a unique set of diverse inputs, most of which slip quietly into the subconscious. There is a very good chance that, in the face of a significant issue, my subconscious draws some obscure fact from some long-forgotten reference, and I incorporate this into my solution documentation. Is this plagiarism?

Were I to copy the work of someone else directly and claim it as my own, that would clearly be plagiarism. I am adamant about crediting people for what I consider usable contributions (a personal obsession), and, in fact, find it advantageous (i.e., "others hold the same concepts as me", which increases my credibility in the marketplace). The same could be said about adapting someone else's design- "Hey, John Doe did it this way, and his product survived several years on the market. A little tweak here, and a little tweak there, and it fits our new application..." Where is the line between "stealing" an idea and "adapting" an idea? I don't think that is an easy distinction to make, nor is it easy to remember the source of all the "original" ideas that I have had over the years...

I do find it rather silly, though, of accusing authors of "plagiarizing" their own works, which seems to be the latest scandal. For as long as I have been reviewing published technical literature, it has been common practice for certain authors to publish their work (often with very little re-workiing) in a variety of venues- in fact, I used to use an "author" filter to sort the good stuff from the noise- authors with the most publications on the same subject are automatically eliminated, because if they are spending so much time publishing papers, they obviously have very little time to develop anything new...

Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Engineering Fields - Piping Design Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Richland, WA, USA
Posts: 20095
Good Answers: 757
In reply to #6

Re: Is Your Own Work Your Own Work?

04/22/2011 4:59 AM

This is perhaps a bit hard to tell. In high school (~1965) I once wrote a social studies term paper on 1800s utopian socialist communities. It was also a decent fit to an English class assignment, so I used it twice. I don't know how anyone found out, and was questioned on it, but nonetheless got A's on both. In alleged self-plagiarism, who is the supposed victim?

I do try to credit all outside sources, but as a voracious reader I don't always remember everything I have ever read. I imagine that some prior thoughts do get into my writings, even though I attempt to be original. The borderlines might be hard to draw in some cases, but it can be hard to remember what I have seen before vs. where I am really new. You just do the best you can.

In vino veritas; in cervisia carmen; in aqua E. coli.
Reply to Blog Entry 7 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

Brave Sir Robin (1); cwarner7_11 (1); ky (1); RCE (1); rhkramer (1); Tornado (1); Tritium17.6 (1)

Previous in Blog: How’s Your Project Management Process?   Next in Blog: Were You Overexposed?