One of the earliest lessons I learned in school was not to lift whole sections of research and drop them into my research papers without attribution.
What, then, to make of the curious case of romance author Cassie Edwards, who allegedly lifted several passages straight from research books, made the most rudimentary of cosmetic changes, and passed them off as her own words in her romance novels?
Dear Author and Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books are all over the story.
Beyond the obvious--plagiarism is WRONG--lies another lesson. Plagiarism doesn't make you a better writer. As the linked post from Smart Bitches/Trashy Novels points out, the reason the plagiarism was first discovered was that the didacticism of the descriptive/historical passages was so evident and so at odds with the rest of the book. It was a step away from the author's "voice" that made the books even more difficult to read. (Not that I ever found Edwards easy to read; my single attempt at reading one of her novels ended about a half a chapter in, when the awkward phrasing and odd characterization became too overwhelming to ignore).
Anyway, I think too often readers, and even writers, turn a blind eye to discussions of plagiarism. Maybe we want to pretend it doesn't exist. Or maybe our own fear of inadvertantly coming up with an idea similar to someone else's makes us overly sensitive to accusations of word theft. But this is an issue that won't go away, and the reading--and writing--public need to be educated about what plagiarism is, what it isn't, and how it hurts all of us.
So take time to click through the links above. Follow the links you'll find on those pages. Google the issue and acquaint yourself with what's going on. It's important.