Plagiarism is the act of copying from sources without attributing those sources. While its definition is less strict in quizbowl circles than in academia, it nevertheless occurs far too often. There is no consensus on the appropriate punishment upon discovery of plagiarism, largely due to the inability of the circuit to actually enforce this punishment, although just about everyone agrees it constitutes bad quizbowl.
"Plagiarism" was also the answer to a Final Jeopardy! question during the 2007 College Tournament that proved too difficult for any of the competitors.
Types of Plagiarism
Wikiplagiarism, the act of copying directly out of Wikipedia, runs rampant on the Southern Circuit and also frequently occurs in trash tournaments. Wikiplagiarism is also the easiest form of plagiarism to catch, since people leave the hyperlinks in their questions.
Plagiarism from other reference sources
Plagiarism from other reference sources occurs, but is much harder to catch. Tossups that include three lines of uninteresting and useless description of art and artists are thought to be plagiarized from art history textbooks, but no one outside of maybe Matt Weiner is really checking.
Submitting questions to multiple tournaments
With the exception of submitting a freelance packet to two different tournaments that are on the same day and have mutually exclusive fields, questions should never be submitted to more than one tournament. It does not matter if those questions were used, since the editor certainly saw those questions and no one knows whether they ended up on the quizbowl IRC channel or in the hands of someone via the underground packet trade or were otherwise seen by players attending the tournament. Yes, this is "plagiarizing yourself", and for whatever reason teams can't figure out that this is bad.
Questions in the Stanford Packet Archive are used to practice and as a gauge of how difficult a certain topic is. They are not meant for you to copy the question verbatim and submit it as your own. The same thing goes for Jeopardy! calendars, old Patrick's Press question books, riddles on popsicle sticks, and other things that ask questions and have answers. Chip Beall has been caught "stealing" questions from question-and-answer sources on at least one occasion, although many more have been alleged.
Plagiarism of this kind affected submissions to the 1999 Nittany Lion Invitational, 2006 Deep Bench, 2005 ACF Fall, 2007 Penn Bowl, and 2008 No Name Tournament. In the last three cases, the plagiarism was detected and penalized before the final tournament set was assembled. In the 1999 NLIT, the plagiarism did not come to light until the round was actually read at the tournament. As a penalty for the resultant chaos, the offending team, Penn, forfeited the tournament title it would have otherwise earned. In 2006 Deep Bench, the plagiarism was not noticed until the tournament set was read to IRC, and it is not known if anyone was penalized as a result.
It is believed (though, if not true, obviously impossible to verify) that 100% of attempts at plagiarism have in fact been detected. This means that plagiarism is not only morally wrong, but also irrational, as it will always be caught and penalized. Such figures as Matt Weiner boast of their excellent "plagiarismdar," via which seeing the type of phrasing that Wikipedia uses or an aberrant question style in the middle of an otherwise homogenous packet will send him to his packet archive to search for the question text.
- In 2013, the IHSA state championship contained several plagiarized questions, and the IHSA fired the person who reported that fact
- Reach for the Top often reuses questions from previous packets that have been distributed to teams. Sometimes, the same set of questions will appear twice in the same set.
- In a more minor scandal, in 2019, Ameya Singh recycled old NHBB and QuizDB questions for a small online "tournament" he was running on Discord despite branding the event as a housewrite in some of his promotions.