While writing the literature review for my doctoral dissertation, I picked up a few recent dissertations on similar topics from the library to get some pointers on references and style. As I was reading some of the articles cited in one of these theses, I discovered that this person had lifted large blocks of text from the cited works verbatim. Although the original works were cited, the borrowed text was not presented as a quote, but used directly in the thesis.
I checked a few more, just out of curiosity, and realized that basically the whole literature review by this author (who graduated with a PhD two years ago) was cut-and-paste verbatim quotes strung together (and who knows how much more of the thesis is plagiarized - I only checked this one chapter).
This really ticks me off, as I (and many students like me) spend a great deal of time reworking cited information into proper coherent explanations for our projects. I happen to know the offending author's advisor pretty well, as we currently work together outside of my graduate program.
Should I say something or should I just let this person get away with plagiarizing large parts of their dissertation?
I still don't know what I will do about this -- no-one wants to be a tattle-tale, and it really isn't any of my business how other people go about getting their doctorates. However, as I am currently writing my dissertation, it really irks me when I see someone else getting away with this, as I know from experience how much hard work goes into writing a PhD thesis.
I just have one more comment -- I ran the chapter in question through the TurnItIn software, which I have access to as an instructor at my institution. The thesis came back as 52% unoriginal. Turnitin only counts exact matches, so the 52% figure doesn't even include some of the paragraphs that I caught, where the author has changed one or two words but kept the sentence structure.
I doubt that there would be any legal consequences, even if I report the thesis for plagiarism -- it is more a question of academic dishonesty and what steps the institution that awarded the degree would take. I will show it to my advisor and see what he says before I do anything.