Did I plagiarize? You be the judge.

First of all, I’m already graduated. BUT, in my final semester, I took a historical research/writing class. In my final paper, I used a line that was verbatim (or close enough) to that of one of my secondary sources. I didn’t do it deliberately, or even, I believe, subconsciously. I believe that 6 out of 10 students in my position would have written the same thing.
First of all, a minimal background.
My degree is history, but I seem to have a better background in English, quick-fired posts to the SDMB notwithstanding. Also, combine that with being a wannabe intellectual, or thought of as being intellectual, at the very least.

Equally, for Doper info, I would not plagiarize in this class, because they terrorized me so much that I had all of my sources copied and at hand and I was expecting them to audit everybody in the class. I was so fastidious that even these instructors were asking me how come I had so many quotation marks in my paper.

Now, to the main.

Parameter to the paper: Use ALL primary sources available. From the English-speaking world, because the professor could pull up some fairly obscure foreign papers when he wanted to lord it over a student.
Paper must be 15-20 pages long.
The class stance on plagiarism was that even one word, without giving credit, could be construed as plagiarism, with the attendant ‘F,’ as well as recommendation for expulsion.

I clearly used most of the sources that the secondary source in Q did, which was not a problem. I believe that I used the exact file that he used. So, I found a Xerox of one small filler from the Jonesville paper that my secondary source used-the kind that take up about 1/2"x1" on a newspaper page, with a small bolded header.
The filler from the Jonesville paper: “The XYZ newspaper, from Western Belize or whatever country that handsomeharry is thinking of if he could remember it, said that the Trilateral Commission’s execution of five Birchers was an example of their brutal methods, which they learned from the Bilderburgers.” Or some such.

I wrote : The XYZ newspaper deplored the TC’s treatment of the five Birchers. (Cite given)
Sources quote: The XYZ newspaper deplored the TC’s treatment of the Birchers. (Cite given)
I am a big-word user when I have a chance to impress (this very professor didn’t know what the word ‘paradigm’ meant when I used it with him.) The phrase “A *deplored * B” is a phrase that is practically mandatory when a person with my literary pretensions/aspirations can only spare one sentence to reference the miniscule article with that content, and I was not allowed to leave the article out. It has the *je ne se quoi * of not being in regular use, yet is not so off the wall that I had to look it up (or plagiarize it.)

You may call me back to defend myself when my big million copy bestseller hits the silver screen, and some jealous researcher finds my old paper and demands an inquiry.

How do you find me? Guilty or No?

Do you have evidence of previous papers where you’ve used a “deplored” construction? That would bolster your case quite a bit, in my opinion.

Negative. I usually throw away ALL of my papers as soon as I see the grade on them.

If that is the only example they can find in your whole 20 page paper I would say the case is pretty weak. Most students are much more obvious and lazy in their plagiarizing. That is the strictest policy I have ever heard. I would say your strongest defense would be to show that the rest of your paper is clearly your own and that it would be absurd to write a whole paper and then copy one sentence. What - you suddenly got lazy and couldn’t come up with that sentence on your own? Who is taking the time to scour these 20 page papers and compare every sentence to every source? Geez. I support punishing plagiarism but this sounds like a witch hunt.

(How can they prove ‘one word’ of plagiarizing? Without sentence structure matching you can show any single word is the same word used in another source somewhere. I would be freakin paranoid writing anything for your professor.)

P.S. I would not consider “deplored” a big word that you have to defend in a college level paper. I would guess most college level writers can use that word without having to copy it from a source. I would fight this accusation every step of the way.

Also - You throw away your papers? Don’t you have them saved on a computer or disk somewhere? Your past history would be another benefit to you - if you show previous papers that are obviously your own work I don’t see how this could stand based on one sentence in a 4 year college history.

How the heck could you prove plagiarism based on a single word??

It’s good to know that I wasn’t alone in this. I was a nervous wreck. Like I needed more pressure, graduating, with a History degree, no less, at the age of 47!

“Who is taking the time to scour these 20 page papers and compare every sentence to every source? Geez. I support punishing plagiarism but this sounds like a witch hunt.”

I, like most normal people went into the class thinking that it would be just another writing class. Then, on the first day of class, they came off like a bunch of drill instructors. The program was touted as being almost unique, with only Harvard (?) and/or some other mega-rep university having one similar, so I can see how they wouldn’t mind taking down some middle-aged flabby undergrad to insure their integrity. The instructor DID audit one of his classroom pets (a football stud), so who knows what was possible with them. And, don’t forget, my OP points out that it is after my million seller is published, so jealous researchers shall abound! (BTW, does anybody have a plot with some snappy dialogue that I can borrow? A title and a good ending would be nice too. Plus, anything having to do with storyline would always be appreciated.)
Thanks for the input!

Well, that’s my thinking. However, when you have this written down in your class syllabus, and you have three Ph.Ds howling this and other threats at you the first day of class, you can understand how *any * charge could be made to stick.

Well, no sane professor would call that plagiarism since you cited the source. Plagiarism is passing off another person’s work as your own, which you clearly didn’t do.

Sometimes there is only one way of saying something. I discovered that when I was testing Turnitin plagiarism detection at work. I put together a paper on Shakespeare by grabbing random paragaphs about him from all over the Internet.

One sentence it flagged was “William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-on-Avon in 1564.” There’s really no other way to express that fact, and it flagged it as coming from a source I had not looked up. I give it as an example in training to indicate to instructors that you need to interpret the Turnitin score.

In any case, I wouldn’t worry about it.

If you had wanted to plagiarize the idea, it would have been easy enough to reconstruct the sentence. His “one word” rule was so unreasonable that it would have worked in your favor in my mind. His reaction was deplorable.

(I was an English teacher.)

Well, the scary part for me was the quote was the same words used by the secondary source that I didn’t cite. I used him for some info, so I put him on the Works Consulted page. The cite was for the article from the Jonesville paper that we both condensed into the similar wording, i.e., “The XYZ…Birchers.”
Thanks, all! Keep it up!

Obviously, the only way around this is to put every word in your paper in quotation marks and cite them as coming from the Oxford English Dictionary.