sealPurdue Science and Health Briefs ____

October 1998

Web weaves new concerns about plagiarism

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The World Wide Web is the home for millions of pages of information on every topic that the human mind has been able to conceive. It also is a home for plagiarism.

Stuart Offenbach, a professor of psychology at Purdue University and a national expert in dealing with academic misconduct, says: "The area of professional misconduct has actually changed quite a bit over the past two, two and a half years. The Internet is a whole order of magnitude of a new kind of problem."

Offenbach and others are pointing to the Web as one reason for an increase in plagiarism. "Now to be a good plagiarist it helps to also be a technician and know how to use a computer," he says. "While it's true for words, it's also true for data and photographs. As of now there is no good form of electronic protection to prevent someone from just copying what's on your Web site. With a mouse and a few clicks, you can write the classics."

Plagiarism is the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own work, according to the Random House Dictionary of the English Language.

Offenbach says that as a psychologist, he understands why plagiarism is considered such a large offense in academia and journalism. "It helps if you look at the roots of the word plagiarism," he says. "It means a kidnapping. To the author, it's the equivalent of stealing a child; there's nothing more precious for a writer than his or her own words. It gives you that same sinking feeling as when you walk into your house and find that someone has broken in and stolen a family heirloom that can't be replaced. The emotional impact is devastating to the person who was plagiarized."

Offenbach says the emotional impact for those who are the victims of plagiarism continues when they accuse the plagiarist. "This is an ethical matter, and perhaps a civil legal matter, but there will be no grand jury investigation," he says. "So the accuser has to be the victim and the prosecutor, too, and this takes a large emotional toll."

An on-line plagiarist may get away with the ethical infraction for a while, but Offenbach says that he or she eventually will be found out. "People read everything in their own field, and if plagiarized material is put on the Web, at some point the author will notice," he says.

CONTACT: Offenbach, (765) 494-6223

Purdue expert says clean kitchens need more than shiny floors

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Shiny floors, spotless counters and neatly arranged cupboards are all tell-tale signs of a clean kitchen, right? Not so, says Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service educator Julie Gray.

Gray, a registered dietitian based in Indianapolis, said these things can help, but a truly clean kitchen relies on more than just good looks -- it ensures food safety through the three main operations that are performed there: food storage, food handling and cooking.

"Millions of people contract food-borne illness each year," Gray said. "Most don't realize they have it; they think they have the 24-hour flu. Proper food handling practices can help people avoid these food-borne illnesses."

To check out their food safety habits, consumers can take the following quiz, which is an abbreviated version of a test that appeared in the October 1995 edition of FDA Consumer magazine.

  1. The temperature in my refrigerator is:

    a. 50 degrees Fahrenheit; b. 41 degrees Fahrenheit; c. I don't know; I've never checked

  2. The last time the kitchen sink, drain, and disposal in my home were sanitized was:

    a. last night; b. several weeks ago; c. can't remember

  3. Meat fish and poultry are defrosted in my home by:

    a. setting them on the counter; b. placing them in the refrigerator; c. microwaving

  4. The last time there was cookie dough in my house, the dough was:

    a. made with raw eggs, and I sampled some of it; b. store bought, and I sampled it; c. not sampled until baked

  5. The last time we had hamburgers in my home, I ate mine:

    a. rare; b. medium; c. well-done


  1. Answer B. Refrigerators should stay at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or less to slow the growth of most bacteria. This temperature will not kill the bacteria, but it will keep them from multiplying. Measure the temperature with a thermometer and, if needed, adjust the refrigerator's temperature control dial.

  2. Answer A is best. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the kitchen drain, disposal and pipe should be sanitized periodically by pouring a solution of one teaspoon bleach mixed in one quart of warm water down the drain.

  3. Answers B or C are correct if the food is cooked immediately. Never thaw meat, fish, or poultry on the counter or in a sink of cold water. Bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature.

  4. Answer B or C. If you answered A, you may be putting your family -- especially the elderly and children -- at risk for Salmonella enteritidis, a bacteria that can be found in raw eggs. Commercial products are made from pasteurized eggs, eggs that have been heated long enough to destroy the Salmonella bacteria.

  5. Answer C. Hamburgers must be cooked until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The only way to properly determine this temperature is to use a meat thermometer. Rare, or even medium, cooked hamburgers can cause E-coli or many other types of food poisoning.

    "The most common mistakes people make are thawing food outside the refrigerator and not cooking hamburger until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit," Gray said. "But the number one mistake is probably not washing hands or not properly washing hands."

    Proper hand-washing involves using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Gray suggests keeping liquid soap at all household sinks.

The test is available on the Web. Or for a free copy of the entire food safety test, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Gray at the Marion County Cooperative Extension Service, 9245 N. Meridian St., No. 118, Indianapolis, IN 46260-1874.

CONTACT: Gray, (317) 848-7351; e-mail,

Compiled by Amanda Siegfried, (765) 494-4709; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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