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‘Plagiarism’ or ‘unprofessional quoting’?: decision stirs debate

Last update: 12:08 | 09/03/2018

VietNamNet Bridge - The conclusion by the Academy of Social Sciences about an allegedly plagiarized doctoral dissertation that it contained only ‘unprofessional quoting’ has stirred controversy.


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The Graduate Academy of Social Sciences



In late 2017, Dr Ho Xuan Mai from the Center for Literature Studies and Linguistics under the Southern Institute of Social Sciences (SISS) sent a letter to deputy chair of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS) and director of the Graduate Academy of Social Sciences (GASS) Pham Van Duc, accusing Dr Tran Phuong Nguyen, now a linguistics PhD at SISS, of plagiarism. 

Mai believes that Nguyen copied dozens of paragraphs in the book ‘Ngon ngu hoc xa hoi – nhung van de co ban’ (Social linguistics – some basic matters) by Nguyen Van Khang when writing his doctoral thesis.

The conclusion by the Academy of Social Sciences about an allegedly plagiarized doctoral dissertation that it contained only ‘unprofessional quoting’ has stirred controversy.

Mai said the plagiarism was made in a sophisticated manner as Nguyen cut, pasted and put paragraphs together in a way that made it difficult to discover. 

After receiving the letter of accusation, GASS set up an inspection council to reconsider Nguyen’s doctoral thesis titled ‘Canh huong ngon ngu o cong dong Cham tai TP HCM’ (The language vicissitudes in the Cham ethnic minority community in HCMC). 

After inspection, GASS director Pham Van Duc concluded that there was no plagiarism in the work, and that the thesis had significant discoveries, theoretical and practical. 

However, inspectors said that the author of the thesis, Nguyen, was only ‘unprofessional’ when quoting other scientific research on pages 17 to 24.

‘Unprofessional’ means the author did not strictly follow standards set in the regulations on citations. 

For example, when quoting word for word, text must be enclosed in quotation marks and notes must be shown at the bottom of pages. If one cites discoveries of other authors, sources must be shown.

Duc emphasized that the inspection council, after thoroughly examining the doctoral thesis, found that the author made quotation mistakes, not plagiarism.

Some scientists have disagreed with the conclusion.

Tran Duy Quy, former head of the Vietnam Institute of Agricultural Genetics, said there are detailed regulations on citations for scientific research set by the Ministry of Education and Training and research institutes.

“If you cite others’ works, you must show the sources, even if you use only one line of words,” he said. “If you use information from others’ works and change only several words but don’t show the sources, this must be considered plagiarism,” he said, adding that this must not be blamed on negligence in citations.

An analyst commented that such mistakes cannot be made by a PhD student. “Even university students have to learn about the rules, let alone a PhD student,” he said.


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