Academic honesty is a cardinal principle in any learning pursuit. How do you demonstrate and uphold the highest integrity and honesty in your academic work? Do you engage in any form of academic dishonesty?
Learn the basic precepts of academic honesty and how to avoid plagiarism.
Academic Honesty and Dishonesty
At most educational institutions, “academic honesty” means demonstrating and upholding the highest integrity and honesty in all the academic work that you do. In short, it means doing your own work and not cheating, and not presenting the work of
others as your own.
The following are some common forms of academic dishonesty prohibited by most academic institutions.
Cheating can take the form of crib notes, looking over someone’s shoulder during an exam, or any forbidden sharing of information between students regarding an exam or exercise. Many elaborate methods of cheating have been developed over the years – from hiding notes in the bathroom toilet tank to storing information in graphing calculators, pagers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. Cheating differs from most other forms of academic dishonesty, in that people can engage in it without benefiting themselves academically at all. For example, a student who illicitly telegraphed answers to a friend during a test would be cheating, even though the student’s own work is in no way affected.
Deception is providing false information to an instructor concerning an academic assignment. Examples of this include taking more time on a take-home test than is allowed, giving a dishonest excuse when asking for a deadline extension, or falsely claiming to have submitted work.
Fabrication is the falsification of data, information, or citations in an academic assignment. This includes making up citations to back up arguments or inventing quotations. Fabrication is most common in the natural sciences, where students sometimes falsify data to make experiments “work” or false claims are made about the research performed.
Plagiarism, as defined in the 1995 Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, is the “use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.” In an academic setting, it is seen as the adoption or reproduction of original intellectual creations (such as concepts, ideas, methods, pieces of information or expressions, etc.) of another author (whether an individual, group, or organization) without proper acknowledgment. This can range from borrowing a particular phrase or sentence to paraphrasing someone else’s original idea without citing it. Today, in our networked digital world, the most common form of plagiarism is copying and pasting online material without crediting the source.
Common Forms of Plagiarism
According to “The Reality and Solution of College Plagiarism” created by the Health Informatics department of the University of Illinois at Chicago, there are ten main forms of plagiarism that students commit:
- Submitting someone else’s work as their own.
- Taking passages from their own previous work without adding citations.
- Rewriting someone’s work without properly citing sources.
- Using quotations, but not citing the source.
- Interweaving various sources together in the work without citing.
- Citing some, but not all passages that should be cited.
- Melding together cited and uncited sections of the piece.
- Providing proper citations, but failing to change the structure and wording of the borrowed ideas enough.
- Inaccurately citing the source.
- Relying too heavily on other people’s work. Failing to bring original thought into the text.
As a college student, you are now a member of a scholarly community that values other people’s ideas. In fact, you will routinely be asked to reference and discuss other people’s thoughts and writing in the course of producing your own work. That is why it is so important to understand what plagiarism is and steps you can take to avoid it.
- Avoiding Plagiarism
Below are some useful guidelines to help you avoid plagiarism and show academic honesty in your work:
- Quotes: If you quote another work directly in your work, cite your source.
- Paraphrase: If put someone else’s idea into your own words, you still need to cite the author.
- Visual Materials: If you cite statistics, graphs, or charts from a study, cite the source. Keep in mind that if you didn’t do the original research, then you need to credit the person(s) or institution, etc. that did.
The easiest way to make sure you do not accidentally plagiarize someone else’s work is by taking careful notes as you research. If you are doing research on the Web, be sure to copy and paste the links into your notes so can keep track of the sites you are visiting. Be sure to list all the sources you consult.
There are many handy online tools to help you create and track references as you go. For example, you can try using Son of Citation Machine. Keeping careful notes will not only help you avoid inadvertent plagiarism; it will also help you if you need to return to a source later (to check or get more information). If you use citation tools like Son of Citation, be sure to check the accuracy of the citations before you submit your assignment.
Lastly, if you are in doubt about whether something constitutes plagiarism, cite the source or leave the material out. Better still, ask for help. Most colleges have a writing center, a tutoring center, and a library where students can get help with their writing. Taking the time to seek advice is better than getting in trouble for not attributing your sources. Be honest about your ideas, and give credit where it is due.
- Consequences of Plagiarism
In the academic world, plagiarism by students is usually considered a very serious offense that can result in punishments such as a failing grade on the particular assignment, the entire course, or even being expelled from the institution. Individual instructors and courses may have their own policies regarding academic honesty and plagiarism; statements of these can usually be found in the course syllabus or online course description.
Check Your Understanding
Answer the question(s) below to see how well you understand the topics covered in the section. This short quiz does not count toward your grade, and you can retake it an unlimited number of times.
- Stepchyshyn, Vera, and Robert S. Nelson. Library Plagiarism Policies. Chicago: College Library Information Packet Committee, College Libraries Section, Association of College and Research Libraries, 2007. Print. P. 65.
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