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If you find a treatment of a mathematical topic which is freely available, you may add it to the collection or adapt it to make an entry. To ensure that this is done in a way which maintains standards for quality, is legally and ethically acceptable, gives credit appropriately, and respects the hard work of other contributors, we have come up with the following guidelines:

1. Before proceeding any further, make certain that it is legal to make use of your material. If you are not sure, then do not do anything else until you have investigated the matter further and perhaps discussed it with someone who is knowledgeable about copyright. It is not just a matter of taking care not to get PlanetMath sued for infringement, but also of maintaining an good reputation as an honest, law-abiding organization. For further information on this topic, please see the section on copyright in the New User’s guide.

2. Over and beyond the legal requirements of copyright law, there is the ethical issue of plagiarism. Whenever someone copies or modifies an existing work to make an entry as opposed to writing it from scratch, it is important that this be made clear so credit can be assigned appropriately. It is not enough that the original work be cited as a bibliographic reference. Rather, there needs to appear a notice at the end of the entry clearly stating that the entry was copied or adapted from or some other work.

3. Producing something which makes sense as a stand-alone entry out of an excerpt from a larger work may require a certain amount of editing.

(a) (b) Internal references need to be modified to be useful in the new context. For instance, if it says something like “By equation 6 of the last section” in the original work, one cannot expect that the reader is going o track down the original work to make sense of the reference! Therefore, this will need to be modified either by copying equation 6 into the body of the entry and saying instead something like “By the following equation” or replacing the original reference by a reference to the same equation somewhere else on PlanetMath.

(c) Correct and accurate statements can become false when taken out of their original context naively. Therefore, you need to consider the context in which the excerpt originally appeared and make sure that anything provided by that context is also to be found in the new context and that the new context is not introducing background assumptions which would invalidate the text being adapted. For instance, not all hypotheses of a theorem might be stated because there is a statement at the beginning of the chapter to the effect that all functions are considered differentiable. In that case, it would be necessary to explicitly add this hypothesis to an entry on the theorem.

4. In order to maintain standards of quality, copying cannot be indiscriminate, but care must be taken to ensure that what is added is correct and well-written.

(a) If the mathematical work has already been peer reviewed and generally considered trustworthy, feel free to reuse the content. However, keep in mind that simple copying can lead to results which can be false or misleading because of context issues as described above. Therefore. if you are not familiar with the subject in question and not confident that what you can adapt the material so as to produce a correct entry, please do not make an entry, but instead make a request so that someone more familiar with the subject can adapt the material properly.

(b) If the mathematical work has not been peer reviewed, only copy it if you are knowledgeable on the subject and have read through the material and checked that it is correct. (And, of course, if the work has already been reviewed, it doesn’t hurt to double check it lest some error slipped by the attention of the reviewer.)

5. If you are not knowledgeable on the subject matter of an adapted entry or otherwise not willing or able to maintain it properly, place it in the orphanage so that someone suitable can adopt it.

6. Whether an entry was adapted from a pre-existing work or written from scratch, it will be held to the same standards and the same expectations will be held of its owner. In particular, it is expected that the owner will improve on the entry and add to it as suitable. Wherever possible, we should not merely be reflecting pre-existing material, but improving it.

7. Older works may use notation and terminology which have passed out of general use. Occasionally, a newer work may contain notation and terminology which are not widely known or readily recognizable. In such cases, consider translating the notation and terminology or adding notes to help the reader.

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