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People Caught Plagiarizing - Academic probation, suspension from job, forced job resignation, stripped of degree

UNC Football

The UNC football team has been placed on a post-season ban while the NCAA investigates several instances of academic fraud at the university. Two notable instances involve plagiarism. Receiver Erik Highsmith has been accused of posting content on a blog that he took from two other websites, including an education website that contained content written by 11 year olds. Former player Michael McAdoo was placed on probation by the NCAA for submitting a plagiarized paper. He was not allowed to return to the team. 

(Source: Brooks, Matt. "Report: UNC received Erik Highsmith plagiarized 11-year-olds." The Washington Post. 23 Oct 2012. Web. 2 Nov 2012.)

Takeaway: Always make sure to evaluate your sources! Find out who the author is and what their background is in the topic they're writing about. Why are they qualified to write on this topic? These players may have also been in a hurry to turn in their assignments. Take your time, as procrastination may make you more likely to plagiarize. 


Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria is an internationally-known journalist with his own column in Time magazine and his own show on CNN. His image, however, has been threatened after bloggers discovered that portions of a column he published in August were identifcal to passages from an article by Jill Lepore that appeared in The New Yorker in April.  Zakaria offered the following explanation in an interview to the New York Times:  
"The mistake, he said, occurred when he confused the notes he had taken about Ms. Lepore’s article — he said he often writes his research in longhand — with notes taken from “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” by Adam Winkler (W.W. Norton, 2011), a copy of which was on his desk at his CNN office." 

Zakaria was suspended from both Time and CNN for a while. Although he has been reinstated, the scandal has harmed his image.

(Source: Haughney, Christine. "A Media Personality, Suffering a Blow to His Image, Ponders a Lesson." New York Times, 19 Aug 2012. Web. 2 Nov 2012.)

Takeaway: Be careful when you're taking notes! Make it clear where you have quoted the original source, and where you have paraphrased, and always include page numbers so you can go back and double check your work. 


Jonah Lehrer

Jonah Lehrer became well-known in his 20s for writing about neuroscience. He wrote three bestsellers and was a contributing writer for a number of publications, including The New Yorker and Wired. In August 2012, his work came under scrutiny when it was discovered he had plagiarized himself, republishing work that he had produced for one publication in other publications. Later, another writer discovered that he had made up quotes that he attributed to Bob Dylan in his book, Imagine. He eventually resigned from his post at The New Yorker. Wired kept him on while they investigated, and Slate Magazine eventually published the results of that investigation, which showed that out of 18 samples of Lehrer's work, all but one showed evidence of plagiarism, self-plagiarism, or fabrication. 

(Source: Carr, David. "Journalists Dancing on the Edge of Truth." New York Times. 19 Aug 2012. Web. 2 Nov 2012.; Gopalakrishnan, Jessica. "Top Plagiarism Scandals of 2012." 18 Dec 2012. Web. 3 Jul 2013.)

Takeaway: Yes, you can plagiarize yourself. Even if it's your own work, if you try to pass it off a second time as something "original," you're being dishonest. If you want to re-use work from another course, just make sure to talk to your professor first. 


Pal Schmitt

The President of Hungary, Pal Schmitt, resigned in 2012 after Semmelveiss University in Budapest stripped him of his doctoral degree. According to an article in the New York Times:

Semmelweis University said that Mr. Schmitt’s paper did not meet the professional and ethical criteria required for a doctoral thesis after a panel at the university found that the paper contained 16 pages of identical translation from the 1991 work of a German author, Klaus Heinemann. About a further 180 pages contained extracts identical to a 1987 work by Nikolay Gueorguiev, from Bulgaria, as well as tables and charts copied from the same source. (Karasz)

In a similar case, Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg, the German defense minister, resigned in 2011 after it was discovered that he had also plagiarized his 2006 doctoral thesis. According to the BBC:

He came under pressure after a Bremen University law professor began reviewing his 2006 thesis with the aid of the internet.

Reports emerged of a passage from a newspaper article that featured word for word, and then of a paragraph from the US embassy website being used without attribution.

Analysts then estimated that more than half the 475-page thesis had long sections lifted from other people's work.

Eventually the University of Bayreuth, which had awarded him a doctorate, decided that Mr Guttenberg had "violated scientific duties to a considerable extent". 

(Source: Karasz, Palko. "Hungarian President Resigns Amid Plagiarism Scandal." New York Times. 2 April 2012. Web. 17 Jul 2013.; "German Defence Minister Guttenberg Resigns Over Thesis." BBC News. 1 Mar 2011. Web. 17 Jul 2013.)

To read about more about some of these and other top plagiarism scandals of 2012, visit


"What happens when you plagiarize? - Plagiarism - Research Guides at High Point University "Web. 9/5/2013 <>.

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