Has Citing Become A Lost Art?

January 15, 2008

I have been following the accusations of plagiarism against author Cassie Edwards since they first came to light on the Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books blog. By way of disclosure, I am a voracious reader of romance novels. They are my escape from stress. However, I have only read one short story by Cassie Edwards. I don’t particularly remember it, so don’t have an opinion about her writing. I tried to reserve judgement on the issue, but have been truly amazed at all of the evidence of plagiarism that has been documented. This case is truly extraordinary. In one purported interview, Ms. Edwards suggested that citing sources isn’t something that is expected in the romance genre. I can see her point because citations are few and far between (but not unheard of). However, I’m not sure that I recall the rule that if one is writing fiction, they are not required to cite their sources.

I know I’m one of those fairly rigid types who has a compulsive need to follow the rules. I remember being paranoid when writing papers in junior high that I wasn’t citing things properly. This, of course, led me to have citations in every sentence. Fortunately, I grew more comfortable about citing quotes and ideas that I had gotten from others in my research. At this point in my life, citing things is second nature to me. I find it incomprehensible that published authors might not have this same understanding.

Even stranger are some of the comments that people made on many of the blog posts on Smart Bitches Who Read Trashy Novels (there are links to all posts about this topic on the home page of the blog). Many commenters were very confused about the difference between copyright violation and plagiarism. Several believed that it is not necessary to cite sources that are out of copyright. I was flabbergasted by these comments, until I started asking people that I know about their ideas of plagiarism. I’m actually thinking now that it isn’t all that common for people to understand these issues. Several others that I asked wanted to know why this even mattered. Wow! Although I will say that most of them aren’t likely to ever write or do research.

On a lighter note, author Paul Tolme has a rather humorous reaction, in an article on Newsweek.com, to having been plagiarized by Edwards. While Tolme is a bit sarcastic about the romance novel genre, he does neatly turn this around to try and draw more attention to the plight of the black-footed ferret. I hope it helps.