A student submitted a paper in an art history class that contained some ideas from art critics she read about, and whose ideas she agreed with. The student didn't cite the critics as source, but claimed it wasn't plagiarism because their ideas were merely their own subjective judgments, or opinions, not facts or findings; furthermore, they were opinions she agreed with.

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    It happens that I have the same ideas about Mercedes-Benz cars that John Cadogan ( youtube.com/user/AutoExpertTV) has for years but only knew about him recently. Is it plagiarism too? Dec 25, 2016 at 14:45
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    It appears to be plagiarism because she knew enough to find additional resources to add weight to her opinion, but didn't acknowledge those resources.
    – Inde
    Dec 25, 2016 at 16:40
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    @CelticWarrior: no, it is still your own original idea, and you can still write that. Nevertheless, the homework or thesis policy of your university may say that you need to cite Cardogan as you are aware of his work. So you can e.g. say "my opinion is O, which agrees with Cardogan [1]". Depending on the context and circumstances, it may be worth while to emphasize that you arrived at that opinion independently and long before Cardogan published his opinion. I'm not convinced that is is a good idea to use a plagiarism policy that implicitly discards the possibility of a student having own ... Dec 25, 2016 at 18:45
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    ... ideas, but if your course has such a policy you may complain about it - but as long as it is in place you need to obey it. If you are just talking about publishing another youtube video or blog post with opinion about cars, plagiarism is less of an issue: I'd say the expectation there is that 3 people have about 5 own opinions and there is also no novelty expected when expressing such an opinion. Dec 25, 2016 at 18:54
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    You might want to show her how to strengthen her writing by citing authoritative sources, art critics that she admires. Yes, this is plagiarism, but not of the worst kind, so it would be great if you could motivate her to take a more professional approach. Dec 26, 2016 at 8:34

2 Answers 2


Yes, it's plagiarism if she learned novel or interesting ideas from an art critic and then used them in her own paper without crediting the source. It doesn't matter whether the ideas are facts or opinions.

For commonplace opinions with nothing novel or interesting about them, there's no need for a citation. However, that's presumably not the case here, since one couldn't attribute such opinions to a specific critic.

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    ... nor does it matter whether one agrees or disagrees with the source. And, as always, the plagiarism definition of the particular university should be consulted: there are various definitions around, some including that the citation is omitted in order to benefit - which would be a point that needs to be judged carefully here. However, it seems this benefit aspect is mostly used by people working about plagiarism but not taken into account in university code of conduct definitions (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism#Academia). Dec 25, 2016 at 18:23

pla·gia·rism ˈplājəˌrizəm


the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.

So, in this case, the source (art critic) or destination (art history class paper) are irrelevant; it is still plagiarism.

It might seem unfair that ideas get accredited to the first author, but that is the game. Publish (early and often) or perish.

Technically is it not plagiarism if someone honestly arrives at an existing idea independently (reinvents the wheel). Not the case here, and impossible to prove anyway. That would be considered negligence, since a disciplined researcher would find any existing references.


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