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We should never approve of Plagiarism Light

Plagiarism is The thing these days. Powerful software sifts through scientific work of everybody (who has some visibility), it seems. And the software finds huge chunks of copied/re-used text and discovered quite a few rascals in the community and many examples of shady behavior. And there are consequences for the authors of many a scientific thesis. This is good.

Now there are voices promoting some exception from scrutiny when writing a PhD thesis. They call it 'modular writing'. It would allow you to re-use existing text (from textbooks, published papers, news-articles...) in, e.g., the introduction, the paragraph on scientific background, etc. The argument is that those parts aren't scientifically original anyway, english isn't the native language for many PhD students and requiring them to wirte original text supposedly puts some unneccessary burden on them. 

Well. No. 

A PhD-thesis is *not* just another certificate you frame and hang over the TV to have something to brag about. You get your PhD for having successfully entered the scientific community as a responsible, independent scientist. The door is open for you to contribute to scientific journals, conferences, debates. The language for this is (broken) english. And the currency is reputation. You rightfully lose that if you plagiarize. You are no scientist if you don't respect the work of peers.

(there is, however, a big difference in the value of text and the meaning of plagiarism if we compare hard sciences and soft sciences - but this is another story)


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