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  • How to Avoid Plagiarism: Real-life Examples

    Bad idea. Don't plagiarize, ever.

    Real-life Examples

    Here is a short list of real-life examples of plagiarism. Don't make their mistake.

    Jayson Blair - News Reporter

    Jayson Blair used to be a reporter for The New York Times. When it was discovered he plagiarized about half of the articles he wrote, he lost his job.

    Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception - The New York Times (11 May 2003).

    Past Holds Little Explanation for The Meteoric Fall Of Jayson Blair: [FINAL Edition] - The Washington Post, (15 May 2003). 

    Michael Bolton - Singer

    Michael Bolton claimed the song "Love Is A Wonderful Thing" - originally published by the Isley Brothers - as his own.

    Can you hear the differences?

    Doris Kearns Goodwin - Biographer

    Doris Kearns Goodwin is an author and historian. She is well-known for writing biographies about former US presidents like Lyndon B Johnson, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. One of those well-known biographies was titled The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, which is about former President John F Kennedy's family history. However, The Weekly Standard received a report that Goodwin copied material  for this book from three other books on the lives of Rose Kennedy (JFK's mother), Kathleen Kennedy (JFK's sister), and Joe Kennedy (JFK's brother) -- See their report below. After coming under fire for it, Goodwin resigned from her position on the Pulitzer Prize Board.

    A Historian and Her Sources - The Weekly Standard, (18 January 2002).

    Pulitzer prize-winning author admits to plagiarism: Doris Kearns Goodwin: [National Edition] - National Post, Ontario (Canada), (06 March 2002).

    Historian Says Borrowing Was Wider Than Known - The New York Times, (23 February 2002).

    Goodwin Quits Board / Cites Plagiarism charges in leaving Pulitzer panel: [QUEENS Edition] - Newsday - Combined Editions, (01 June 2002).

    James Frey - Writer

    James Frey wrote a memoir titled A Million Little Pieces, which recounts a time in his life spent in addiction and recovery, including his criminal history associated with it. However, it was discovered many of those experiences were exaggerated. For example, he wrote about a short stint in jail and provoking police before being charged, whereas an investigation discovered that wasn't the case. Even Oprah Winfrey's bought his story and promoted it at first. 

    Truth, lies and bestsellers - Tampa Bay Times, (22 January 2006).

    Book 'em ; Kaavya Viswanathan vs James Frey: [RedEye Edition] - Chicago Tribune, (03 May 2006).

    Truth slaughtered by a million little cuts: [1 First With The News Edition] - The Courier - Mail, Brisbane (Queensland, Australia), (17 January 2006).

    The Oprah seal of (dis)approval too; Winfrey's selections boosted sales from the start of her book club but also plenty of controversy too. - Los Angeles Times, (10 March 2020).


    George Harrison - Former The Beatles Member

    George Harrison's song "My Sweet Lord" used the same music (not lyrics) as in "He's So Fine," a song by the group The Chiffons.

    Can you hear the similarities?

    Kaavya Viswanathan - Author

    Kaavya Viswanathan published a Young Adult book (How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life) while she was a student at Harvard. It became popular very quickly, even landing her a two-book contract with the publisher and a movie deal with Dreamworks Pictures. However, it was discovered that many passages from her book were found in other Young Adult novels by authors Megan McCafferty, Salman Rushdie, Meg Cabot, and Sophie Kinsella. Kaavya claimed it was "unconscious and unintentional." Unfortunately, both the book contract and movie deal were subsequently cancelled, and her book was rescinded from bookstores.

    "Opal Mehta" Gone for Good; Contract Cancelled - Harvard Crimson, (02 May 2006).

    Harvard Novelist's Book Deal Cancelled ; More Signs Emerge of Duplications: [Third Edition] - Boston Globe, (03 May 2006).

    "Opal Mehta" Won't Get a Life After All - The New York Times, (03 May 2006).

    Copying Wasn't Intentional, A Harvard Novelist Says - The New York Times, (25 April 2006).

    Examples of Similar Passages Between Viswanathan's Book and McCafferty's Two Novels - Harvard Crimson, (23 April 2006).

    John Walsh - Former US Senator

    John Walsh is a former US Senator (D-MT). In 2014, after receiving a tip, The New York Times conducted an investigation as to whether Walsh plagiarized a significant portion of a paper he wrote while finishing his master's degree at the US Army War College in Pennsylvania. The College also conducted their own investigation and found evidence of plagiarism. They revoked his degree and Walsh subsequently withdrew from his campaign as US Senator in Montana.

    Montana Sen. John Walsh to Withdraw from Race; State Party Officials Confirm Exit, Which Came After Allegations of Plagiarism - Wall Street Journal (Online) (07 August 2014).

    Vaughn Ward - Former Political Candidate

    Vaughn Ward was a republican from Idaho who ran for Congress in 2010. He gave a speech leading up to the primary elections. Turns out, it was almost identical to a speech given by former President Barack Obama at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Needless to say, he did not win that primary election.

    Listen for yourself!

    In the midst of one of the most precipitous political... [Derived Headline] - Bismarck Tribune, North Dakota, (06 June 2010).

    Republican caught plagiarising Barack Obama speech - The Hindustan Times, New Delhi (India) (26 May 2010).

    As Obama said Republican hopeful mimics president - The Daily Telegraph, London (UK), (26 May 2010).