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 capaign, 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 64 percent.

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).

Wattenberg, Martin P. 1991. The Rise of Candidate- 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, 40).

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 officer

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 honesty.