Plagiarism and Academic Honesty
by Mitch Sanders
The essential rules of academic honesty are that
every assignment should be the original work of the student
who turns it in, and appropriate credit should be given to all
sources used. Here are some guidelines for avoiding plagiarism
and other forms of academic dishonesty. Students should consult
with the instructor if anything about these guidelines is unclear.
In your work for this and other courses you will
inevitably rely on the ideas, theories, findings, and arguments
of others, and using these sources inappropriately constitutes
plagiarism. Plagiarism deprives the student of the opportunity
to learn, and makes it impossible for the instructor to evaluate
a student's performance. Plagiarism is dishonest because it is
an attempt to claim undeserved credit which rightly belongs to
another author. Plagiarism is the intellectual equivalent of stealing and
will absolutely not be tolerated.
The following rules should guide you as you complete assignments for this course. This quotation from The Rise of Candidate-Centered Politics, by Martin P. Wattenberg, will serve to illustrate the points made here.
"With the development of the candidate-centered
media campaign, long-term party loyalties have atrophied substantially.
Election studies during the period 1952-1964 consistently found
that approximately 75 percent of the electorate identified themselves
as either Democrats or Republicans. By 1972 the percentage of
respondents identifying with one of the parties to
What once appeared to be a continuing downward spiral
no longer seems to be such, but instead appears to be a limited period effect in which there was
a rapid decline followed by the
development of a new, somewhat lower, level of stability. Since
1972 the proportion of the population identifying with one of
the parties has held steady at between 63 and 65 percent. As the
number of Democratic identifiers declined during the 1980s, the
result was that by 1988 more people identified themselves as Independents
than anything else" (Wattenberg 1991, 39-40).
For every reference to every source that you use in your written work you must provide the following information: author's name, date of publication, page number. You may omit page numbers only if your citation is truly to the work as a whole. I recommend using parenthetical citations (as in the example above) at the end of the quotation or sentence containing the source references, but you may also use footnotes or endnotes if you prefer. You must also provide a list of references, including the following information for each source: author's name, date of publication, title, publisher, city/state of publication. For the above quotation the reference would be:
Wattenberg, Martin P. 1991. The Rise of Candidate-Centered
Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Feel free to use any of the standard reference sources to determine the particular form of your citations and bibliography.
This is inappropriate: The number of partisan
identifiers dropped by 11 percent between 1964 and 1972.
This is appropriate: The number of partisan identifiers dropped by 11 percent between 1964 and 1972 (Wattenberg 1991, 39).
Since the writer of this sentence did not personally observe
the fact stated,it is necessary to give credit to the
source of that fact. The only exception to
this rule is for facts that are truly common knowledge
(e.g., Bill Clinton was re-elected in 1996.). A good
general rule is that if you need to look something up somewhere,
then it is not common knowledge.
This is inappropriate: One sign of the weakness of parties is the fact that by 1988 more people identified themselves as independents than anything else.
This is also inappropriate: One sign of the weakness of parties is the fact that by 1988 more people identified themselves as independents than anything else (Wattenberg 1991, 40).
This is appropriate: One sign of the weakness of parties is
the fact that
"by 1988 more people identified
themselves as independents than anything else" (Wattenberg 1991,
Note the absence of quotation marks in the inappropriate sentences. Also note that when using a direct quote merely citing the work is not enough - the quote must be entirely enclosed in quotation marks.
This is inappropriate: With the rise of the candidate-centered media campaign, long-term party support has weakened substantially.
This is not a direct quotation from Wattenberg, but it is very close. It is essentially a rewrite of one of Wattenberg's sentences, with some synonyms substituted for Wattenberg's original language. The language and the structure of the sentence come from Wattenberg. In general, changing or omitting some words while leaving a sentence largely intact is inappropriate.
The appropriate way to incorporate Wattenberg's point will depend upon the context in which it is being used. A good general rule is that if you suspect that a paraphrase may be too close, then either go ahead and use a direct quotation, or make sure that you are understanding and writing in your own words. If you find you are writing by altering existing sentences in other work then you are paraphrasing too closely.
This notion of excessively close paraphrasing is
subtle but critical. Students should be summarizing, amplifying,
refining and synthesizing the work of others, thereby showing
that they have understood the subject matter. Rewriting and rearranging
represents inappropriate use of sources, and does not provide
any evidence of learning.
Appropriate use of sources is necessary, but not
sufficient, for good writing. For instance, a written assignment
where 80% of the content consists of quotations may be technically
correct, but because there is very little of the student's original
thought it will not be a good paper. The technical imperative
is to use sources appropriately. The intellectual challenge is
to combine the ideas and results of different authors, and your
own understanding and analysis, into written work that demonstrates
mastery of the subject.
Other Issues of Academic Honesty
The penalties for violating any of the rules of plagiarism or academic honesty include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following:
- a complete revision of the work in question
- a grade of zero assigned to the work in question
- additional written work
- a grade of "F" for the course
- a report of the incident to the University judicial
I expect every student to abide by the requirements
of the University's Honor Code (as described in the General
Bulletin). Please consult me, either in or out of class, if
you have any questions about issues of plagiarism and academic