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What is Academic Dishonesty?

As we all know, some forms of academic dishonesty are blatant. When a student purchases an essay from a website and hands it in as her/his own work, it is a violation of academic integrity. When a student uses crib notes or a cell phone to cheat on an exam, it is a violation of academic integrity. Obviously, many more blatant forms of academic dishonesty exist.

However, there are also actions that are less blatant but that may be considered academic integrity violations. The first has to do with collaboration with other students; the second involves issues of plagiarism, especially when using the web. The information below should help clarify some of these issues for you so you do not commit academic integrity violations.

COLLABORATION WITH OTHER STUDENTS

Many classes at Berks include collaboration (working with others). In fact, research suggests that students learn a lot when working with their peers.

However, there are different kinds of collaborative assignments, and you must be aware of the specific guidelines for your assignment.

There will be times when your instructor will want you to work collaboratively for an entire assignment and hand in a group project; there will be times when your instructor will want you to work independently; and there will be times when your instructor will want you to work with peers during initial stages of the assigned project but then work independently of the final product.

Below are some examples of academic dishonesty related to collaboration written by faculty at our college.

Students are instructed to prepare assignments that reflect their own understanding of the material. Two or more students work on the assignments together, but instead of each typing or recording their own understanding/version of the assignment, they print multiple copies of the same work and submit it as their own.

On a case study that was a semester-long project, two students created one case and used the “find and replace” function in Word to make it appear as if two unique cases were created.

Four students in a class have computer projects due for the class. The instructor has given permission for students to help each other but each student must turn in his or her own work. One student does not know how to do the assignment and asks another student for help. But, instead of only helping, the second student does the assignment for the first student, who turns it in as his own work.

Two other classmates decide to work together. Instead of each person doing his or her own work, they create one project, and each student submits it as his or her own work.

PLAGIARISM

With permission from the English Department at University Park , we are reproducing below their useful document titled Types of Plagiarism, with slight modifications, so that students and faculty across the university will have similar understandings of what does and does not constitute plagiarism.

Plagiarism is the act of passing off someone else's work as your own.

Sometimes plagiarism is simple dishonesty. People who buy, borrow, or steal a paper to turn in as their own work know they are plagiarizing. Those who copy word-for-word--or who change a word here and there while copying--without enclosing the copied passage in quotation marks and identifying the author should know that they are plagiarizing.

But plagiarism can be more complicated in act and intent.

Paraphrasing, which is stating someone else's ideas, can be a useful way to support your own ideas, but it can lead you unintentionally to plagiarize. Jotting down notes and ideas from sources--and then thoughtlessly using them without properly introducing them with attributions to the authors or titles of those sources in introductory phrases--may result in a paper that is only a mosaic of your words and those of others that appear, nonetheless, to be yours.

Another innocent way to plagiarize is to allow your fellow students and friends to give you too much rhetorical help or do too much editing and proofreading of your work. If you think you have received substantial help in any way from people whose names will not appear as authors of the paper, acknowledge that help in a short sentence at the end of the paper or in your list of works cited. If you are not sure how much help is too much, talk with your instructor, so the two of you together can decide what kind of outside help (and how much) is proper, and how to give credit where credit is due.

As they are drafting their work, conscientious writers keep careful track of when they use ideas and or words from sources. They diligently try to distinguish between their own ideas, those of others, and common knowledge. They try to identify which part of their work comes from an identifiable source and then document their use of that source in accordance with established academic or professional conventions, such as a parenthetical citation and a works cited list. If you are in doubt about what needs documenting, talk with your instructor.

When thinking about plagiarism, it is hard to avoid talking about ideas as if they were objects like tables and chairs. Of course they are not. You should not feel that you are under pressure to invent new ideas every time you write. So-called original writing consists of thinking through ideas and expressing them in your own way. The result may not be new, but if honestly done, it may well be interesting and worthwhile reading. Print or electronic sources, as well as other people, may add good ideas to your own thoughts. When they do so in identifiable and specific ways, give them the credit they deserve.

These examples should clarify the difference between dishonest and proper uses of sources.

The Source

It is not generally recognized that at the same time when women are making their way into every corner of our work world, only one percent of the professional engineers in the nation are female. A generation ago this statistic would have raised no eyebrows, but today it is hard to believe. The engineering schools, reacting to social and governmental pressures, have opened wide their gates and are recruiting women with zeal. The major corporations, reacting to even more intense pressures, are offering attractive employment opportunities to practically all women engineering graduates.

From Samuel C. Florman, "Engineering and the Female Mind"
Copyright by Harper's Magazine

Word-For-Word Plagiarizing

In the following example, the writer devises part of the first sentence in hopes the reader won't notice that the rest of the paragraph is simply copied from the source. The plagiarized words are italicized.

Because women seem to be taking jobs of all kinds, few people realize that only 1 percent of the professional engineers in the nation are female. A generation ago this statistic would have raised no eyebrows, but today it is hard to believe. The engineering schools, reacting to social and governmental pressures, have opened wide their gates and are recruiting women with zeal. The major corporations, reacting to even more intense pressures, are offering attractive employment opportunities to practically all women engineering graduates.

Quotation marks around all the copied text, followed by a parenthetical citation, would avoid plagiarism. But even if that were done, a reader might well wonder why so much was quoted from Florman. Beyond that, a reader will wonder why the writer chose to quote instead of paraphrase this passage, which as a whole is not very quotable. Furthermore, a paper consisting largely of quoted passages would be relatively worthless.

Plagiarizing By Paraphrase

In this case the writer follows the progression of ideas in the source very closely-too closely-by substituting his or her own words and sentences for those of the original.

It is not typically recognized that simultaneous with when women are entering every aspect of our work world, only one percent of the professional engineers in the nation are women. A generation ago this statistic would not have been surprising, but in today’s society it is difficult to believe. Engineering colleges and universities, responding to social and governmental pressures, are recruiting females with vigor. The major businesses, responding to extreme pressures, are providing appealing job opportunities to practically all female engineering graduates.

The writer appears to be generating his or her own ideas. In fact, they are Florman's ideas presented in the writer's words without acknowledgment. The writer could avoid plagiarism here by introducing the paraphrase with an attribution to Florman and following them with a parenthetical citation. Such an introduction is underlined here:

    Samuel Florman points out that few people realize--(page     number).

Properly used, paraphrase is a valuable technique. You should use it to simplify or summarize so that the ideas or information, properly attributed in the introduction and documented in a parenthetical citation, may be woven into the pattern of your own ideas. You should not use paraphrase simply to avoid quotation; you should use it to express another's ideas in your own words when those ideas are not worth quoting verbatim.

Mosaic Plagiarism

This is a more sophisticated kind of plagiarism. The writer lifts phrases and terms from the source and embeds them into his or her own prose. Words and phrases that the writer lifts verbatim or with slight changes are italicized:

The pressure is on to get more women into engineering. The engineering schools and major corporations have opened wide their gates and are recruiting women zealously. Practically all women engineering graduates can find attractive jobs. Nevertheless, at the moment, only 1 percent of the professional engineers in the country are female.

Mosaic plagiarism may be caused by sloppy note taking, but it always looks thoroughly dishonest and will be judged as such. In the example above, just adding an introduction and a parenthetical citation will not eliminate the plagiarism since quotation marks are not used where required. But adding them would raise the question of why the writer thinks those short phrases and basic statements of fact and opinion are worth quoting. so the best solution is to paraphrase everything: recast the plagiarized parts in your own words, introduce the passage properly, and add a parenthetical citation.

When to Quote and Paraphrase, and When Not To

Using quotation marks around original wording avoids the charge of plagiarism, but when overdone, makes for a patchwork paper. When most of what you want to say comes from a source, either quote directly or paraphrase. In both cases, introduce your borrowed words or ideas by attributing them to the author and follow them with a parenthetical citation.

The secret to using sources productively is to make them work to support and amplify your ideas. If you find, as you work at paraphrasing, quoting, and citing, that you are only pasting sources together with a few of your own words and ideas--that too much of your paper comes from your sources and not enough from your own mind--then go back to the drawing board.

Try redrafting the paper without looking at your sources, using your own ideas. Only after completing a draft should you add the specific words and ideas from your sources to support what you want to say.

If you have doubts about the way you are using sources, talk to your instructor as soon as you can.

USING THE WORLD WIDE WEB

The World Wide Web can make plagiarism even more confusing for students. We all use the Web when we want immediate answers to something. If we want to identify a type of bird in our backyard, we look it up on the web. If we want to know the name of the twenty-first Vice-President of the U.S., we look it up on the Web.

But when you are writing a paper for a course, you need to treat the web as you would print sources. That is, you must cite your sources, quote and paraphrase correctly and appropriately, and ensure that you don’t pass off someone else’s ideas or words as your own.

If you have doubts about the way you are using the web, talk to your instructor as soon as you can.