Case Study Review
Click on the highlighted words to see explanations of the ethical issues raised in this case study.
A graduate student is in the midst of writing her dissertation. Throughout her graduate studies and while developing her dissertation proposal, she has read and consulted many texts and articles, and has taken copious notes. In preparing to use these notes in writing her dissertation, the student discovers that her note-taking over the years has been sloppy and disorganized. Her notes contain substantial paragraphs of text that contain important concepts and ideas placed in quotation marks but with no sources indicated. Throughout her notes she also finds short unique phrases conveying important concepts that she knows intuitively were not her own. Some of these phrases have a name written by them while others have what seems to be a book or article title, accompanied by what she assumes to be page numbers.
As the student continues to consult her notes during the writing process, the student becomes more frustrated. Some of the information in her notes is extremely important for her dissertation but she is aware that she needs to cite the sources if she uses quotation marks. Knowing that she used some of the material in her dissertation proposal two years earlier, she reviews the proposal and finds that she included some of the quoted material from her notes but paraphrased it and did not use quotation marks or cite the source. With the knowledge that she has already used the material in her proposal and that none of her committee members raised any issues about it, the student reasons that there is no harm in doing the same in her dissertation. She further reasons that if she paraphrases the quoted material, it will not be a direct quotation and therefore she does not need to use quotation marks or cite the source.