Prof. Admits He Misused Paper

Apology Appears in Politics Journal; Faculty Committee Finds No Plagiarism

A Harvard assistant professor of government has admitted that an article he published borrowed wording and structure inappropriately from another published article. But a faculty committee recently decided that this act did not constitute plagiarism.

In the October issue of Comparative Politics, Assistant Professor of Government Brian Woodall admits to misusing a University of California-San Diego professor's paper in an article in April's issue of the journal.

"Several parallelisms of wording and argument exist between my article...and a paper by John McMillan," Woodall wrote in the October issue. "The parallelisms between the two articles reflect a reliance on the work of another without sufficient acknowledgment, and I apologize for this unintentional lapse in professional vigilance."

Anne Taylor, university attorney in Harvard's Office of the General Counsel, said that while Woodall may not have acted completely appropriately, he was not guilty of plagiarism.

"The representative faculty committee determined that there had not been plagiarism," Taylor said.


But Taylor said she could not specify the committee's exact findings and recommendations.

Woodall, who is currently on leave in Tokyo researching Japan's foreign policy elite, said yesterday afternoon that so far he has not been disciplined for his actions.

"I've received no punishment at all," Woodall said in a telephone interview from Japan. "I don't know what [the committee] has done after their investigation."

Government Department Chair Susan J. Pharr was not available for comment yesterday.

Woodall's article, "The Logic of Collusive Action," discussed the "political roots" of Japan's system of restricting the number of construction firms able to bid on government projects.

The paper, according to Woodall's October statement, borrowed phrases from an article in Economics and Politics by University of California-San Diego Professor John McMillan. McMillan's article was titled, "Dango: Japan's Price-Fixing Conspiracies."

Woodall said yesterday that he did not intend the similarities and believes he can still succeed as a politicalresearcher.

"I was acting in good faith, and I did notthink [of the parallelisms] at the time," Woodallsaid. "I hope I can succeed, and I don't feel thatI've lost credibility."

Woodall said he will "possibly come back" toHarvard next year.

McMillan was in Vietnam researchingprivatization opportunities, but a professor ofJapanese politics familiar with both papers, whowished to remain anonymous, said McMillandiscovered the similarities through a mutualcolleague.

"We have a mutual friend, and Woodall sent thepaper to our colleague," he said. "He showed it toJohn [McMillan]." The source said it will bedifficult for Woodall to regain his lostcredibility.

"Plagiarism is the worst thing you can accusean academic of," he said. "I feel sorry for ayoung guy who's just starting out.

Recommended Articles