Academic Integrity Guide

Introduction

By its very nature, writing involves both individual and collaborative activity. Even when a piece of writing has only one author, that author employs a language system that is shared by others and draws upon ideas and values that are not his or hers alone. Indeed, one of the most important parts of becoming a writer within the academic community is learning how to balance the obligations of individuality and collaboration.

As a college writer, you are expected to use writing to develop and assert your own ideas and beliefs - to think for yourself. But at the same time, you are expected to engage the thinking of others, to place your own writing within the context of academic discourse by using and criticizing arguments from that discourse. This double obligation provides a framework in which to discuss plagiarism.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the unacknowledged and inappropriate use of the ideas or wording of another writer. Because plagiarism corrupts values to which the university community is fundamentally committed - among them the pursuit of knowledge and intellectual honesty - plagiarism is considered a grave violation of academic integrity and the sanctions against it are correspondingly severe. Plagiarism can be characterized as “academic theft."

Plagiarism is:

  • The submission of material authored by another person but represented as the student’s own work, whether that material is copied in verbatim or near-verbatim form or paraphrased. Plagiarism is a matter of fact, not intent; whether or not there was an intent to deceive, the undocumented use of sources (that is, of any work authored by another person) constitutes plagiarism.

  • The submission of material authored by another person constitutes plagiarism even if it is subjected to editorial revision (to cover up the dishonesty) that results in substantive changes in content or major alteration of writing style.

  • Improperly acknowledging or failing to acknowledge sources from the Internet, as well as from textual essays, papers, or presentations.

  • Submitting the same paper for two different classes, either in the same semester or in a different semester, without the express consent of both instructors.

Why is Plagiarism Morally Wrong?

Learning depends on honesty. It requires facing our own ignorance and confusion squarely, and admitting to others our undeveloped skills and our limited knowledge. Learning is promoted by credible responses to the work we do and, because it thrives on dialogue and debate, it flourishes in communities where trust and truthfulness prevail. Plagiarism is a breach of academic trust and honesty.

Dishonesty hurts us all. It adds suspicion and resentment to academic competition, and it distorts the meaning of grades. If academic dishonesty is widespread or accepted even tacitly, it can undermine and demoralize our common efforts. Learning is the goal of education, and it is impossible to learn if one substitutes the thoughts and words of others for one's own intellectual effort.

The Student Guide On Academic Integrity is one part of a continuing effort in LS to strengthen trust and reduce the likelihood of dishonest behavior. That effort includes a commitment by faculty to act in support of academic integrity and to act promptly whenever standards of trust or truthfulness are threatened.

For their part, students in LS are expected to honor the principles and standards of academic integrity. A few dimensions of those principles are worth considering:

1. Personal honor

We learn early in life that honorable people tell the truth and keep promises and that to cheat or steal is dishonorable. We know, however, that everyone can be tempted, and that the fear of failure and the prospect of comfort or future success can lead us to betray principles of truth, honesty and integrity. We also know that social pressures, pleasures, or personal problems can compromise our values. Thoughtless acts can cost us our integrity.

Our commitment to respect and honor the values of academic honesty and integrity are fundamental to our participation in the Liberal Studies community. Honesty, integrity and truth are not just abstract values, they are choices that we make and must continue to make despite temptation and the lure of the “easy way out.” The consequences of dishonesty effect the whole community.

2. Social responsibility

As citizens, LS students should be mindful of their civic responsibility here, as anywhere, to uphold the standards of academic integrity. This commitment is an individual choice as well as a social contract; it is a consensus in support of academic honesty that is absolutely necessary for accomplishing the aims we share.

Our commitment to the standards of academic integrity requires that we oppose what we know is wrong. This may mean speaking to our peers or instructors about papers we know are plagiarized or refusing to participate in prohibited collaboration. It surely means considering dishonesty openly and talking about it with others, informally or in class.

3. Consequences for violating Academic Integrity

Plagiarism can lead to course failure or to further disciplinary actions, including suspension or expulsion. Consult the Liberal Studies Program Bulletin on plagiarism, rules of conduct, and the disciplinary consequences for breaches of academic regulations.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Because of the serious nature of plagiarism, you should ensure that any writing you submit represents your own assertions and abilities, and incorporates other texts in an open and honest manner. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to be careful to document your sources, even when you are offering data or ideas rather than an actual quotation. In academic assignments, writing is assumed to be the original words and thoughts of the student unless otherwise indicated (i.e., material from other sources is clearly and properly cited).

Remember that ignorance is not an excuse; if you claim not to know that a piece of submitted work is plagiarized you are still guilty of committing plagiarism, and hence, you will be held responsible for your actions.

When to Document Outside Sources


Example I

Repeating Another's Words without Acknowledgment

Original Source

(From Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, New York: Penguin, 1985, pp. 127-128.)

The television commercial is the most peculiar and pervasive form of communication to issue forth from the electronic plug…The move away from the use of propositions in commercial advertising began at the end of the nineteenth century. But it was not until the 1950’s that the television commercial made linguistic discourse obsolete as the basis for product decisions. By substituting images for claims, the pictorial commercial made emotional appeal, not tests of truth, the basis for consumer decisions.

Plagiarized Version

Television commercials have made language obsolete as a basis for making decisions about products. The pictorial commercial has substituted images for claims and thereby made emotional appeal, rather than tests of truth, the basis for consumer decisions.

Although the writer has changed, rearranged, and deleted words in the version above, the text is essentially the same as the original source. In paraphrasing, you take the writer’s ideas and put them in your own words. It is not a process of substituting synonyms or rearranging the order of words. Even if the version above gave credit to Postman for his ideas, the passage would be considered plagiarized.

Correctly Paraphrased and Documented Version

Postman argues that television commercials do not use language or “test of truth” to help viewers decide whether to buy a product. Instead, they rely on images to create an emotional appeal that influences consumers’ decisions (pp. 127-128).

In the version above, most of the ideas have been paraphrased or restated in the writer’s own words. Quotation marks have been placed around a key phrase that is taken directly from the original source. In addition, the name of the author refers readers to a corresponding entry in the Works Cited page, and the page number indicates the location of the information in the source cited.


Example 2

Presenting Another Writer’s Argument or Point of View without Acknowledgment

Original Source

(From Arlene Skolnick, Embattled Paradise. New York: Basic Books, 1991, p. 11)

The changes in larger society, as well as their reverberations in the family, call into question basic assumptions about the nature of American society, its family arrangements, and Americans themselves. A “Cultural Struggle” ensues as people debate the meaning of change. One of these periods of cultural upheaval occurred in the early decades of the nineteenth century; a second occurred in the decades just before and after the turn of the twentieth century. For the last thirty years, we have been living through another such wave of social change.

Three related structural changes seem to have set the current cycle of family change in motion: first, the shift into a “postindustrial” information and service economy; second, a demographic revolution that not only created mass longevity but reshaped the individual and family life course, creating life state and circumstances unknown to earlier generations; third, a process I call “psychological gentrification,” which involves an introspective approach to experience, a greater sense of one’s own individuality and subjectivity, a concern with self-fulfillment and self-development. This is the change misdiagnosed as narcissism.

Plagiarized Version

Three periods of cultural upheaval in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have caused major changes in American society. The first occurred during the beginning of the nineteenth century, the second during the decades before and after 1900, and the third has been underway for the last thirty years. Three structural changes occurring during the current upheaval are primarily responsible for changes in American families. These include the development of a postindustrial information and service economy, demographics changes (including longer life spans that have created new and different life stages), and an increased sense of individuality including a desire for self-fulfillment and self-development.

The writer of the passage above correctly paraphrases Skolnick’s ideas but does not give her credit for her ideas or line of argument. The version below is not plagiarized since it correctly attributes the ideas to Skolnick.

Correctly Paraphrased and Documented Version

According to Skolnick, three periods of cultural upheaval in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have caused major changes in American society. The first occurred during the beginning of the nineteenth century, the second during the decades before and after 1900, and the third has been underway for the last thirty years. Three structural changes occurring during the current upheaval are primarily responsible for changes in American families. These include the development of a postindustrial information and service economy, demographics changes (including longer life spans that have created new and different life stages), and an increased sense of individuality including a desire for self-fulfillment and self-development (p. 11).

In the version above, a reader would be able to locate the source by finding the title of Skolnick’s book in the Works Cited page and looking on page 11, the number indicated at the end of the paragraph.

Example 3

Repeating Another Writer’s Particularly Apt Phrase or Term without Acknowledgment

Original Source

(From Arlene Skolnick, Embattled Paradise. New York: Basic Books, 1991, p. 11)

Three related structural changes seem to have set the current cycle of family change in motion: first, the shift into a “postindustrial” information and service economy; second, a demographic revolution that not only created mass longevity but reshaped the individual and family life course, creating life stage and circumstances unknown to earlier generations; third, a process I call “psychological gentrification,” which involves an introspective approach to experience, a greater sense of one’s own individuality and subjectivity, a concern with self-fulfillment and self-development. This is the change misdiagnosed as narcissism.

Plagiarized Version

The large number of “self-help” books published each year attests to American’s concern with self-improvement and achieving more fulfilling lives. This process might be described as “psychological gentrification.”

Correctly Paraphrased and Documented Version

The large number of self-help books published each year attest to Americans’ concern with self-improvement and their desire to have a more fulfilling life. Skolnick labels this process as “psychological gentrification” (p. 11).

As this example illustrates, placing quotation marks around a borrowed word or phrase is not sufficient documentation. You must also acknowledge the author and give the page number so a reader would be able to consult the original source and locate the word or phrase. In the original source, Skolnick takes credit (“a process I call”) for coining the term “psychological gentrification.” Quotation marks in the original appear to be used for emphasis. Phrases in quotations should be cited unless they have become common usage (e.g., “postindustrial” in the original source above).


Note-taking and Proofreading

Good paraphrasing skills allow a writer to make use of source material in a fluid and honest way. However, proper note-taking and careful proofreading, which come before and after the writing, can be just as important for producing high-quality and accurately attributed scholarship.

When taking notes, copy directly from a source into your notes if you think there is any chance you may want to quote that source directly. Otherwise, read carefully, take time to think, and then write down, in your own words, the main ideas of what you have read. Of course, be sure to note the source for proper citation. These notes will become the basis of your summary. Skipping the note-taking step and paraphrasing directly from a source into a draft of your work not only limits your ability to think through the ideas for yourself but also increases the likelihood that you will commit plagiarism. Use note taking as an opportunity to develop and organize your own ideas.

Proofreading, like note taking, is a vital step in the writing process, one that students too often skip. Proofreading offers the opportunity to check your work for errors of spelling and punctuation as well as overall fluidity of style and coherence of argument. It is also the time to verify all references and citations. Do not, however, wait until proofreading to include citations. Citations should be included in the first draft. It is simply too easy to omit a reference accidentally and then forget the source of a fact, quotation, or paraphrase.

Citation Conventions

After determining when to cite, the writer must decide how to cite. Check with your instructor about the format most appropriate for your course and assignment. Two of the basic formats are numbered reference notes (either footnote or endnote) and a method of parenthetical reference. You may also wish to check the library for current style manuals.


Steps in Writing an Effective Research Paper

1. General search and elimination of unreliable sources. Test for authority, objectivity, accuracy, currency, and content relevance.

2. Compose thesis - The thesis should be your analysis, not a summary of ideas from your sources.

3. Visit your instructor during office hours to discuss your work, or schedule an appointment. Your instructor will offer valuable feedback on your thesis and your sources.

4. Develop a note-taking process (i.e., index cards), be consistent in how you take notes, especially with respect to how they reflect a direct quotation or a paraphrased sentence.

5. Prepare an outline of your paper. Organize it by subtopic and eliminate notes and unused sources.

6. Prepare a rough draft. Be sure to cite sources, use your bibliography.

7. Proofread, edit, revise. Be sure to submit by the due date or ask the instructor for an extension if necessary.


Electronic Resources

Increasingly, students rely on electronic resources (The World Wide Web, on-line documents, etc.) as reference materials. Avoid acquiring or purchasing papers from Internet paper mills (one of the most serious forms of plagiarism); it is more than likely that your impropriety will be discovered. It is important to remember that electronic resources must be cited and, when appropriate, quoted, in the same way traditional printed resources are. When it comes to giving proper attribution, there is no difference between words in a book and words on your computer screen: both must be properly cited. While canons of style for citing electronic resources are incomplete and evolving, the following may be of assistance:

Li, X., and Crane, N.B. (1996) Electronic styles: a handbook for citing electronic information. Medford, N.J.: Information Today.

MLA Citation style: http://www.mla.org/publications/style/style_faq/style_faq4

APA Citation style: http://www.apastyle.org/elecref.html


Where to Get Help

Your instructor: Your instructor is an invaluable resource. Don’t hesitate to schedule appointments to discuss your paper’s progress or to clarify issues concerning academic integrity.

The NYU Writing Center: The Writing Center is located at 411 Lafayette Street, Third Floor. It is fully accessible to LS Students. Phone: (212) 998-8866. http://www.nyu.edu/cas/ewp/html/writing_center.html

Bobst Library: Take a tour of the library (see schedule of tours on the website or posted near the reference desk), consult with a research librarian, check out writing resources and research strategies on their databases. (212) 998-2505 : http://library.nyu.edu/

Prepared by Gail Linsenbard, Master Teacher, Liberal Studies Program, New York University (2003 2004); revise, Robert Squillace, Master Teacher, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs (2009).

Parts of this Student Guide were adapted from Duke University’s Center for Academic Integrity (issued in October 1999), the Duke University Honor Code (June 12, 1996), and the Dean of Students Office, Division of Student Affairs, California State University (Fall 1999).