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Findings of the Canon Press Internal Plagiarism Investigation

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On December 10, 2015, Canon Press became aware of alleged plagiarism in one of Canon Press’s 2015 releases, after an exposé, which included contributions from Valerie Hobbs, was posted on the personal blog of Rachel Miller that morning. Canon Press determined that the post was accurate enough to thank Rachel Miller and to necessitate immediate discontinuation and withdrawal of A Justice Primer (978-1-59128-178-8) in all Canon Press’s markets.

The following specifics are the result of Canon Press’s due diligence investigating the plagiarism, with the goal of determining 1) exactly how and where the plagiarism occurred, and 2) how to maintain Canon Press’s editing standards and protect our books, authors, and patrons from plagiarism in the future.

  1. First, plagiarism is defined as “the unauthorized use of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary). Plagiarism in A Justice Primer was discovered after publicly available excerpts of the book (from Pastor Douglas Wilson and Pastor Randy Booth's blogs) were run through plagiarism software and then published on the the blog of Rachel Miller. As such, plagiarism can be either malicious and intentional, or the accidental result of citation errors. After investigation that included running the book through top-end plagiarism software, Canon Press has determined that the plagiarism in A Justice Primer was not the result of intentional malice, as some have reported. Moreover, two of the sources from Miller’s blog are the result of simple citation errors.
  2. Second, Randy Booth (co-author and editor of A Justice Primer) has determined that the plagiarism was solely in the sections he contributed, and he has apologized for it (linked here). Canon Press has verified Randy Booth’s claim by running Douglas Wilson’s contributions through two different top-end plagiarism programs, and they came back clear. 

  3. Third, although Randy Booth has confessed to the editorial negligence that resulted in plagiarism, Douglas Wilson as co-author has also apologized for the incident as well (linked here). Canon Press, as publisher, is responsible also for having published a book containing plagiarism, and we have issued a public apology asking for forgiveness (linked here) as well as private apologies. We repeat that apology here, and are deeply disappointed that we published a critically flawed book on such an important (and widely undiscussed) topic. 

  4. Fourth, Canon Press has since discovered that Rachel Miller did not detect all the plagiarism she has reported alone, and that she worked closely with Dr. Valerie Hobbs of the University of Sheffield. Valerie Hobbs was responsible for running excerpts of the book from each man’s blog “as part of her academic research collaboration with Rachel Miller.” For some reason Valerie Hobbs’s contributions as collaborator were not cited by Rachel Miller.

  5. Fifth, when Miller and Hobbs ran some of Wilson’s contributions and Booth’s contributions from each man’s blog, they were aware that the plagiarism they revealed came from Booth’s work only, not from Wilson’s. As Rachel Miller commented elsewhere on her blog the day after her plagiarism post, “None of the plagiarized sections are on Doug’s blog”. However, despite being well aware of Wilson’s innocence, no such distinction was made in the public accusation. As a result of the undistinguished accusation, the issue was able to gain more public traction because Wilson was included. Rachel Miller’s qualifying comment was posted on December 11th.

  6. Sixth and very importantly, as Randy Booth stated, Canon Press has found that the plagiarism was the result of editorial negligence and errors of citation, not the result of malice. What follows is an itemization of the charges of plagiarism as listed by Rachel Miller and Valerie Hobbs.

  7. a.  The first category deals with definitions, such as that of ‘jurisdiction,’ ‘weasel words,’ ‘poetic justice,’ etc., that were taken verbatim from the Internet by Randy Booth. Using verbatim web searches, Canon Press has determined that each of these definitions show up on many different web sites, and appear to be commonly held definitions, verbatim and uncited in some instances, verbatim and cited to particular dictionaries in others.

    b.   The second category deals with the work of four authors: Greg Bahnsen, Tim Challies, Iain Murray, and Ellen G. White.

    i.   Greg Bahnsen: One sentence describing Robert Paul’s painting of Justice is Bahnsen’s writing, and is plagiarism. The other two accusations against Booth regarding plagiarism of Bahnsen are not actually plagiarism, but instead instances of both men referencing a) the same verses regarding Pharisaism, and b) the same distinction between autonomy and theonomy.

    ii.   Tim Challies: The paragraph regarding Admiral Lord Nelson is taken from Tim Challies’s blog, www.challies.com. Canon Press notes that Tim Challies’s blog was cited as the source for one quote in that anecdote (pg. 174; the Challies footnote is even pictured on Miller’s blog), and Randy Booth meant to mark the entire paragraph as Challies’s words. As such, Randy Booth was not trying to avoid referencing Tim Challies. This was the result of a citation error.

    iii.   Iain Murray: One sentence is taken from Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography without attribution. Canon Press notes that the very next paragraph on the same page (pg. 260) was quoted and properly referenced to Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards (this footnote was not displayed in Miller’s blog post). So, again, avoiding a citation of Iain Murray was not Booth’s intent, even though that sentence was not properly cited.

    iv.   Ellen G. White: Randy Booth used the phrase God’s law is a transcript of his character, coined by White. Canon Press believes Randy’s claim that he has never read or listened to Ellen G. White (who died in 1915) and had heard the unattributed commonplace from Greg Bahnsen, Randy’s longtime teacher.

    c.  The third category deals with Chapter 10 in A Justice Primer, which contains two- to three-hundred words of text from Paul Rose and from Wayne Blank, completely unattributed. The words are simple and unadorned narrative restatement of the biblical texts having to do with Shimei, and are plagiarized (again, unintentionally). It should be noted that Rachel Miller and Valerie Hobbs also flagged the biblical texts as plagiarized, but Randy Booth used a different version of the Bible (which was public domain), and there are no other biblical texts that tell the story of Shimei’s view of justice and character.

  8. Seventh, it should be noted that despite a large amount of misinformation to the contrary, Canon Press has no inventory of A Justice Primer at Amazon. The book, despite its discontinuation by the publisher, could be listed as new or used by anyone at any time on Amazon, and could even be available for Amazon Prime. Amazon has been informed.

  9. Finally, Canon Press has determined to take a number of steps to redouble our efforts to ensure that our editing process and new releases will reach a high standard in the future. Those steps include (but are not limited to) purchasing plagiarism software for our materials, and making sure all our authors are well-informed and motivated regarding proper citation (above and beyond what is currently listed in every author’s contract).

Thank you for your patience and forgiveness in this matter.

Sincerely,

Canon Press

208.892.8074

service@canonpress.com