Academics

Academic Honesty

 

For Students

As students pursue their education here at GRCC and elsewhere, they will be exposed to the ideas, theories, and creative works of countless scholars, scientists, and artists. Whether the project is an essay, a solution to a math problem, or a research paper — it becomes important to consider how to incorporate the ideas of others and how sources will be identified and cited. This means that academic honesty is foundational to all types of critical commentary, scholarly inquiry, and knowledge production expected by instructors at GRCC.

Sixty percent of Green River Community College students transfer to four-year colleges and universities to pursue bachelor degrees in every field imaginable. Some of the many important skills that GRCC students take with them are the ability to research and cite their sources correctly.

The following document is a resource to help all students at Green River Community College understand the institution’s definitions and policies regarding academic honesty. Students should read it carefully and use it as a resource for all their courses at Green River Community College.

Click the section titles below to read further information.

Definition of Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

1. Academic honesty

In academically honest writing or speaking, students must document sources of information whenever

  • another person's exact words are quoted.
  • another person's idea, opinion, or theory is used through paraphrase.
  • facts, statistics, or other illustrative materials are borrowed.

In order to complete academically honest work, students will

  • acknowledge all sources according to the method of citation preferred by the instructor.
  • write as much as possible from their own understanding of the materials and in their own voice.

In order to produce academically honest work, students at Green River Community College are able to

  • ask an authority on the subject of the work - such as the instructor who assigned the work.
  • seek help from academic student services such as the library, writing center, math learning center, and/or tutoring center.

2. Definition of plagiarism

Plagiarism is defined as using others’ original ideas in one’s written or spoken work without giving proper credit.

Ideas include but are not limited to:

  • Facts
  • Opinions
  • Images
  • Statistics
  • Equations
  • Hypotheses
  • Theories

Plagiarism can occur in two ways: intentional and unintentional.

Ways that intentional plagiarism occurs include but are not limited to:

  • Turning in someone else’s work as one’s own
  • Copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • Failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • Giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • Changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • Copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of one’s work, whether giving credit or not

Unintentional plagiarism may occur when students have tried in good faith to document their academic work but fail to do so accurately and/or thoroughly. Unintentional plagiarism may also occur when a student has not had coursework covering plagiarism and documentation and is therefore unprepared for college academic writing or speaking.

Citing sources in the text of your paper (quotation, paraphrase, summary, etc.)

When writers present researched ideas, they need to be able to synthesize or mesh another person’s ideas with their own. When bringing in the ideas of others, writers must cite the ideas that supplement their own.

Citation is the cornerstone of academically honest work. Citations within the text of research writing (or speaking) let the reader or audience know that research has been completed.

Citations also allow readers to trace ideas and further explore the topic for themselves.

Writers can choose several ways to include and cite others’ words and ideas in the body of papers: direct quotation, paraphrase, and summary.

Direct quotation...

  • is entire sentences or just phrases. Quantity of material used in a direct quote should be kept to the minimum; taking whole passages of another author’s work might be an indication that writers haven’t read and analyzed the source enough to put it into their own words.
  • is best used when the author’s words are so perfect that it’s not possible to improve them.
  • is most appropriate when the source contains unique terminology.
  • is usually followed by the author’s last name and page number in parentheses or footnote (depending on citation style).

Paraphrase...

  • rephrases a source/author’s words.
  • usually contains about the same amount of information as the source material.
  • still includes reference to the source author’s last name and sometimes page number (depending on citation style).

Summary...

  • distills a source’s ideas or concepts with one’s own words.
  • condenses original source material to essential content.

Acknowledging your sources in a bibliography: MLA, APA, and other

A list of sources at the end of a paper indicates to the reader where outside source information has come from. This list of sources can be called different things based on the citations style used: bibliography, works cited, references, notes, etc.

The most commonly assigned citation styles at GRCC are MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association). Some instructors give students a choice of citation style, but more likely the assignment will indicate which to use.

For help with formatting citations, see the library’s Cite your Sources guide. Note also that the library pays for a citation helper called Noodlebib.

Making the work original

When students have writing assignments, they know academic writing requires that they do more than just express their own opinions without support. However, they are also asked to provide original work which is more than just a report that lists information. The challenge of academic writing is to find the balance between these two extremes. Students can accomplish this by mixing example (evidence) with explanation (“e+e”) in order to claim ownership of intellectual property.

In using the “e+e” technique, the writer is similar to a lawyer in a courtroom. Does a lawyer just present the evidence and then expect the jury members to figure it out on their own? Of course not. Likewise, writers will present an example or some sort of evidence in support of a particular point. Then the writers will explain that example/evidence to apply it to the point being made. In doing this, the writers will identify what they believe the example/evidence means as well as what significance that example/evidence’s meaning has in supporting the point being made. In this way, each writer is able to integrate the “e+e” combination through synthesis and analysis.

Student writers can avoid plagiarism and produce original work by citing the particular source and clearly showing the shift from example to explanation. Often, the change is clear because the citation occurs between the two. In cases where the citation does not appear at the end of the example, student writers can use transition phrasing to show the shift. Expressions such as “what this means …,” “this is important because ….,” or even a simple “in other words …” will signal to the reader that the writers are now providing their original work by expressing their own understanding of the meaning and significance of the example/evidence. In doing so, the writers are claiming the writing as their own intellectual property.

Understanding common knowledge

Generally, information that is well known or commonly expressed does not need to be cited. Information such as definitions from dictionaries, facts from history, well-known concepts, etc. would not need to be cited if the details can easily be confirmed from a variety of sources in addition to a particular source the writer has used. However, specific definitions, obscure historical facts, complex or unusual concepts, etc. would need to be cited. For example, the dictionary definition of antibiotics as “microorganisms that destroy other microorganisms” would not need to be cited. Examples of information about commonly recognized antibiotics such as penicillin used since the 1930s to fight certain diseases would also not need to be cited, but others, such as bacitracin’s use since the 1940s, not so commonly known and needing to be explained, should be cited when the information comes from specialized dictionaries or encyclopedias such as a pharmacological or medical text.

Because much information is readily available through the Internet and other electronic sources, the nature of “common” knowledge is sometimes not very clear. Although it may seem feasible that a reader could easily use a common search engine to confirm general information, students should follow the guideline – “When in doubt, cite.” Thus, if the writers are not sure how well known the information or concept might be, they should cite the source to help the readers confirm the content. However, any time the exact words and phrasing are copied directly from the source, the content should always be cited.

Types of unintentional plagiarism

1. Using the annotated instructor’s edition of a course textbook is a form of plagiarism. With so many textbooks available for sale on the Internet through Amazon, Craig’s List, and so on, it is easy to come across an annotated instructor’s edition of a course textbook. The annotated instructor’s edition has the answers to most of the exercises in the text. The insights that appear in these editions are meant for the instructors only. If students buy an annotated edition of their textbook for any class, reading the sample answers before writing their own answers constitutes cheating and plagiarizing. If students get an instructor’s version of a textbook by accident, they should exchange it immediately for a student edition. If they are caught using an instructor’s edition, they will be subject to disciplinary action by the college.

2. Using words, phrases, visuals, or even ideas or concepts from a source read on the Internet without citing it is plagiarism. Again, the bottom line is that if students didn’t have an idea that they used in their paper before they read other sources, then they need to cite the source(s) that gave them that idea—even if they phrase the idea in their own words in their paper. Some students claim that they had a specific idea before they read a source that just happened to have the same ideas. So they say, “Well, I already was thinking that way, or beginning to, before I read that article, so it is just a coincidence.” Be careful about this argument though. It is rare for people to have very similar fleshed out ideas. Instead of having to defend the fact that they just “coincidentally” came up with the same idea as that of a noted scholar, why not just cite that scholar and add credibility to their own claim? Writers should be careful, too, that the brilliant idea they put in their paper didn’t come from something they read a while back: If students learned it from somewhere (no matter how long ago), they need to research that original “somewhere’ and give credit where credit is due. The sole exception is when a fact is “common knowledge.” A common-knowledge fact is something that most people can be expected to know. For example, if they mention that George Washington was our first president and that his home was in Mt. Vernon, they wouldn’t have to cite a source (unless they didn’t know that information before they began your paper). Rule of thumb: When in doubt, always cite the source.

3. By far, though, the most common form of “accidental” plagiarism is the result of poor paraphrasing skills. This type of “accidental” plagiarism occurs when students actually cite a source, but the amount of material they use from that source, or the overall writing style—i.e., use of words, phrases, and writing patterns—is too close to the original (without using quotation marks). Be careful about relying too much in a paper on someone else’s words or ideas. Basically, if students use too many of the same phrases or words from the original and do not use quotation marks, it is considered plagiarism even if they cite the source.

Content in this “Types of accidental plagiarism” section is reused with permission from Sims, Marcie. The Write Stuff: Thinking Through Essays. Upper Saddle River : Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2009. Print.

Examples of attempted paraphrasing

Original Source Excerpt

Such savvy borrowing may be lost on some educators, but others, like librarians, are catching up. “Students are finding it so easy to use these sources that they will dump them in the middle of the papers without any attribution,” says John Ruszkiewicz, an English professor at Texas. “What they don’t realize is how readily [professors] can tell the material isn’t the student’s and how easy it is for instructors to search this material on the Web” (434).

Student Version A—Plagiarism:

Students borrowing from the Web may be lost on some educators, but some teachers and librarians are catching up. Some students use chunks of other sources right in the middle of their papers without citations. But what these students often don’t realize is how easily professors can tell the material isn’t the student’s and how the instructors can easily search and find this material on the Web too.

This paraphrase is an example of plagiarism because the student uses many of the same phrases as the original passage and the same overall style and structure as the original author with just a few substitution words or phrases (without using any quotation marks and without citations).

Student Version B—Attempted Paraphrase—But Still Plagiarism:

According to Mark Clayton, students borrowing from the Internet may be missed by some teachers, but others are catching it. Students find it easy to use these sources and will put them in their papers without citations or credit. However, they don’t realize that professors can tell the material isn’t the student’s and that it is easy for them to search the web and find this material too.

This paraphrase is an example of “accidental” plagiarism because the student has combined a couple sentences, substituted a few words, but still has used the same overall structure with minor substitutions and has given a nod to the original author with a tagline but still does not have a proper parenthetical citation anywhere in the paraphrase.

Student Version C—Appropriate Paraphrase—Not Plagiarism:

According to Mark Clayton, students borrowing from the Internet may be missed by some teachers, but others are catching it. Students find it easy to use these sources and will put them in their papers without citations or credit. However, they don’t realize that professors can tell the material isn’t the student’s and that it is easy for them to search the web and find this material too.

Content in this “Examples of attempted paraphrasing” section is reused with permission from Sims, Marcie. The Write Stuff: Thinking Through Essays. Upper Saddle River : Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2009. Print.

Tips for avoiding plagiarism

To avoid plagiarism writers must be aware of three concerns: ethical, legal, and methodological. Every time they use another person’s words or thoughts, they have both a legal and ethical obligation to give that person (also called a source) credit. To fulfill those obligations they must know the methods by which they correctly credit that source. That means using a specific documentation style or format (the most common being MLA, APA, and Chicago Manual of Style). Thus, avoiding plagiarism starts with being aware of what it is and then taking the precautions necessary to document and cite all the sources, even if the writers just gained an insight or idea from another person. Students should take careful notes and mark direct quotes as well as summarized ideas with the page numbers they came from. In the process of searching for secondary sources, especially when using the Internet, writer should be sure to take detailed notes about the source information of any piece they are even considering using in their paper. Writers should always make sure that they use their own words and sentence constructions and even their own style when they paraphrase or summarize the ideas of others and that they credit the original source clearly to avoid plagiarism.

Many students intentionally cheat and copy ideas or words without giving credit to the original author. Some students, though, are guilty of just being unaware of the rules for citing sources or maybe even of dismissing that nagging feeling that they might be improperly using other people’s ideas. Students should never try to claim lack of awareness as an excuse. Since they are in college now, writers must be responsible and scholarly and always give credit for others’ ideas or words. They are stealing someone else’s intellectual property when they plagiarize. It is a serious offence with serious consequences.

Content in this “Tips for avoiding plagiarism” section is reused with permission from Sims, Marcie. The Write Stuff: Thinking Through Essays. Upper Saddle River : Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2009. Print.

Developing good working habits: Advice to student writers

1. Take complete and careful notes. Whatever note-taking system you use, make sure to distinguish carefully between any words and ideas from your source and your own words and ideas. When copying passages verbatim from a source, make sure to use quotation marks and to be precise about recording the page number(s) of the source. You’ll save yourself time and aggravation if you take complete and accurate notes the first time around. Students often get into trouble because their notes are incomplete or confused, and they run out of time to go back to check their sources.

2. Keep all of your notes until after you have had your graded papers returned to you. If any question is raised about your work, it’s to your advantage to be able to produce your notes and preliminary drafts of your papers.

3. Be scrupulous in drafting and checking your papers to make sure all words borrowed from your sources are placed in quotation marks or indented and that all ideas and necessary information that require citation are followed by a footnote or parenthetical citation.

4. If you do all of your work on a computer — from note-taking to drafts to final version — be especially careful. The ease with which text can be copied and pasted, moved around, and edited on a computer can make the work of writing a paper quicker and more efficient, but it can also lead to serious errors. A good practice is to keep your note files distinct from the file in which you’re writing your paper. In your note file, clearly label any quotations, and create your citations as you go — for both quotations and other kinds of references to source material. Too often quotation marks and citations can get lost or confused in the drafting and revision process; don’t rely on your memory or on incomplete notes in the final stages of writing. Instead of cutting and pasting from your note files to your paper file, use the “copy and paste” function so that your original note files remain intact. If you move a phrase, a sentence, or a paragraph from your notes into your paper, be certain to move any quotation marks and the citation. Keep track of the file names of the various drafts of your papers so that you don’t confuse them in the final rush to print and submit your work. Sloppy work habits and the pressure of deadlines are not valid defenses if you’re charged with plagiarism or another violation. It’s also a good idea to print out a hard copy of your work periodically and to back up your files in order to avoid a crisis if your computer fails. Develop a sensible plan to keep track of your work on the computer and stick to it.

5. Understand the difference between primary and secondary sources, and know that you must cite quotations, ideas, and information from both. Most high school students learn how to quote from a primary source. For example, if you’re writing a paper about The Great Gatsby or the United States Constitution, you know to put any quotation from that primary source in quotation marks. Too often, however, high school students are not trained to use secondary sources, such as an essay of literary criticism on Fitzgerald’s novel or a scholarly book on the Constitution. Students in disciplinary hearings sometimes claim that they didn’t know that ideas or words from secondary sources require citation, or that they thought such material was common knowledge. However, the principle is clear: you must always distinguish your own words and ideas from the words and ideas of others, whether in primary or secondary sources.

6. Don’t rely on a single secondary source when doing a research paper. Be sure to find multiple sources that provide varying perspectives and draw different conclusions on your research topic. Your paper will be better if you respond to a variety of sources, and you’ll avoid any possibility of depending so much on a single source that you can be charged with plagiarism.

7. Whenever possible, show all of your work in problems sets that require calculation.

8. Be sure you understand the instructor’s expectations and guidelines for collaborating on assignments such as lab reports, problem sets, and research projects. If the rules for the course aren’t explicit, do yourself (and your fellow students) a favor and ask the professor to clarify them.

9. Be extra careful to verify the accuracy or validity of information obtained from electronic sources. Be sure to cite such sources just as you would print sources.

10. If you’re unsure whether or not to cite a source, ask your instructor. If that’s not possible, follow the basic rule: when in doubt, cite.

11. Be your own hardest critic. Reread your papers to see how much is your own and how much is quotation, paraphrase, or summary from primary or secondary sources. If your paper is replete with ideas and quotations from your sources, are you confident that you’ve found some idea or thesis of your own to argue? Conversely, if there are few citations, have you done sufficient reading and research to be confident in your information and analysis?

12. Be sure you understand your instructor’s expectations for your work. Are you supposed to be summarizing a source or analyzing it? Are you expected to go beyond the assigned readings? How many sources are you expected to use?

13. Be cautious about using notes belonging to other students, even if you’re in the preliminary stage of writing your own paper or doing your own problem set. Keeping others’ ideas distinct from your own is an important way to protect the integrity of your own academic work and to avoid unintended plagiarism.

14. If you don’t understand an assignment or need additional time to complete it, ask your instructor. Out of desperation, students occasionally make the wrong choice by plagiarizing their sources rather than requesting an extension.

15. This last piece of advice is the hardest of all to follow: Give yourself enough time to do your work well and carefully. Proper citation takes time. Avoid last-minute rushes when the pressure of the due date may tempt you to get sloppy or cut corners just to finish. At 5 a.m. after an all-nighter, you may not be thinking clearly enough to make the right choices about properly acknowledging your sources, not to mention that you’re unlikely to be doing your finest work at that hour.

Content in this “Developing good working habits: Advice to student writers” section is reused with permission from Princeton University’s Office of Communication and the Trustees of Princeton University. (from http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pub/integrity/pages/habits/)

Collaboration and group work

In many courses, particularly in the sciences or engineering where students may work with a laboratory team or on a group project, some of the work may be done in collaboration with fellow students. In such courses, a portion of an individual’s grade may be based on joint efforts with other students, and a portion may be based on independent work on papers and examinations.

To avoid confusion and possible violations of academic regulations, students must clearly understand what work must be done independently and what work may be done collaboratively. The standard for permissible collaboration varies from course to course. Some instructors permit students to do problem sets together and even to turn in an assignment together; other instructors allow students to discuss the problems but require them to write up their own answers; still others prohibit any collaboration at all on homework. The penalty for copying weekly homework can be just as severe as it is for plagiarism on a major term paper.

In the ideal case, each instructor will make explicit on the syllabus the expectations for a student’s academic work. If the course policy is clear, students should follow it scrupulously. If the expectations and rules are unstated or unclear, ask the instructor. If a deadline is imminent and students are not sure of the course policy, they should do their work independently. They should never assume that they have permission to do a problem set or lab report collaboratively. Given the variability from instructor to instructor, it’s also very dangerous to rely on the “rules” from another course, even within the same department. Too many times, students have turned in identical or similar problem sets, lab reports, or papers, only to discover that they were operating under a false set of assumptions. The wise thing to do is to ask.

Content in this “Collaboration and group work” section is reused with permission from Princeton University’s Office of Communication and the Trustees of Princeton University. (from http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pub/integrity/pages/habits/)

What to expect if you're caught plagiarising

The GRCC Student Code of Conduct (WAC 132J-125-220) outlines the initiation of academic discipline as follows:

(1) After considering available information about possible violation of an academic rule:
(a) A college instructor, after meeting or attempting to meet with the accused student, and upon written notice to the student, may assign to the student a lower or failing grade for an individual project, test or paper or for the entire course;
(b) The student's dean, after consulting with the division or department involved and meeting or attempting to meet with the accused student, may recommend modification of the instructor's action and/or dismissal of the student from the college;
(c) The vice-president for instruction (executive vice-president or designee), after consulting with the dean and meeting or attempting to meet with the accused student, may modify the instructor's action and/or place the student on probation or dismiss the student from the college.

(2) Written notice of any academic discipline under this rule
(a) shall be either delivered personally or mailed by first class mail to the student's last known address, within sixty academic days after the later of the student misconduct or the date the misconduct was discovered or should have been discovered, and
(b) shall advise the student of his/her right to appeal under these rules.

Getting help

Your instructor is the single best resource for creating sound, academically honest work. Don’t be afraid to visit an instructor during office hours to ask about any aspect of a writing assignment.

Use a writing handbook such as Writer’s Reference to help understand and format citations. Copies are available on reserve and in the reference section at the library.

Use the campus Writing Center at all stages of the writing process. The Writing Center also provides access to an online writing lab where students can submit a draft for personalized feedback. The Writing Center is located on the Main Campus, Rutkowski Learning Center (RLC) in RLC 173.

Consult a reference librarian at the campus library when needing help finding, selecting, or evaluating sources for a research paper. The library also provides 24/7 chat reference services if need help is needed after hours.

For Faculty

Click the section titles below to find useful information on identifying and addressing plagiarism/academic honesty in your classes.

What is plagiarism?

1. Academic honesty

In academically honest writing or speaking, students must documents sources of information whenever

  • another person's exact words are quoted.
  • another person's idea, opinion, or theory is used through paraphrase.
  • facts, statistics, or other illustrative materials are borrowed.

In order to complete academically honest work, students will

  • acknowledge all sources according to the method of citation preferred by the instructor.
  • write as much as possible from their own understanding of the materials and in their own voice.

In order to produce academically honest work, students at Green River Community College are able to

  • ask an authority on the subject of the work - such as the instructor who assigned the work.
  • seek help from academic student services such as the library, writing center, math learning center, and/or tutoring center.

2. Definition of plagiarism

Plagiarism is defined as using others’ original ideas in one’s written or spoken work without giving proper credit.

Ideas include but are not limited to:

  • Facts
  • Opinions
  • Images
  • Statistics
  • Equations
  • Hypotheses
  • Theories

Plagiarism can occur in two ways: intentional and unintentional.

Ways that intentional plagiarism occurs include but are not limited to:

  • Turning in someone else’s work as one’s own
  • Copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • Failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • Giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • Changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • Copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of one’s work, whether giving credit or not

Unintentional plagiarism may occur when students have tried in good faith to document their academic work but fail to do so accurately and/or thoroughly. Unintentional plagiarism may also occur when a student has not had coursework covering plagiarism and documentation and is therefore unprepared for college academic writing or speaking.

Sample text for your syllabi

Faculty across campus were asked to share text from their syllabi that addresses plagiarism. These examples were distilled into the following sample text. Feel free to copy and paste it straight into your syllabi. In addition, you can supplement it with any of the other information on this site.

Plagiarism occurs when students knowingly submit someone else’s ideas or words as their own. Plagiarism is an act of intentional deception. Not only is this dishonest, but it also denies those students of the most important product of their education – the actual learning. If the instructor suspects that anyone has plagiarized, the student will be invited to a one-on-one conversation and will ask the student to show proof that the work in question is not copied. If found to have committed academic dishonesty, the student will fail that single assignment and may, depending on the seriousness of the offense, fail the course. In any case, the student might fail the class after a second incident of plagiarism.

Some syllabi also included “definition” and “disciplinary action.” See the “What is Plagiarism” and “Responding to Plagiarism” sections of this site for language on these issues.

Varieties of plagiarism and plagiarists

Greek terminology such as pathos, ethos, logos, etc. is often used in the broad scope of the humanities. We could view the classification of major types of plagiarism in a similar taxonomy as follows:

Theo-sauros. (aka T-sauros Rex). This technique involves substituting a variety of words from the original source in order to disguise the original phrasing. The Theo-sauros will do this to make the content appear original and more godly or royal. Thus, phrases such as “common sense” will be changed to “ordinary feeling” or “communal sagacity.” Of course, someone using “basic intelligence” would recognize that changing so many words and phrases will end up distorting the overall coherence of the writing.

Pseudopigios. This technique aims to lend credibility to the writer’s own unsubstantiated beliefs or opinions. (This dates back to the ancient practice of pseudepigrapha when people would try to pass off their personal views as coming from Noah, Abraham, and even Adam and Eve themselves.) The pseudopigio will make up credible sounding sources, usually bogus websites or non-existent online issues of accepted sources like Scientific American, which would not have page numbers for cross referencing.

Downloadios. This technique involves the use of websites that sell or exchange fully written papers on a wide range of topics. The websites have a disclaimer that the paper is for review only, but when students are paying as much as $10 per page, chances are that the “review tool” ends up being the actual paper. Often the Theo-saurus will use this technique as a starting point.

Domestios, Fratios, or Sororios. In this technique, known by several names, the writer will merely put his or her name on works done by a family member or close associate who has taken the same or similar courses. Very few if any changes are made by the writer. A variety of this is the Superidio, where the writers take their own writing done previously and make slight alterations (often not more than changing the date and course name) to submit as new work.

Spectato or Spectreios. Sometimes Anglicized as “ghost writing,” this technique is an offshoot of the previous technique, but done under contract or by request. Sometimes this is disguised as “peer editing” when the writer asks for help with a rough draft, outline, or paper topic and the other person produces the bulk of the final content.

Cuspidios. In this technique, the writer merely expectorates content directly from lecture notes or class discussion, sometimes even from the same class the paper is written for. Usually the original notes are not taken clearly, so the content may be a bit garbled as the writer merely repeats what has been heard as if it were his or her original thinking.

Oblivio. This particular practice often includes one or more of the methods mentioned above without the practitioners recognizing that they are violating standards of academic integrity. Such people often have been doing this as a matter of habit or they are so used to seeing those around them plagiarize that the practices seem “normal” behavior.

Insidios. In this technique, the writer deliberately restructures sentences, reverses the order of list points or details or even cites a small portion of the original source as a means of deliberately presenting the source commentary, insight, and/or conclusions as his/her own original thinking.

Identifying plagiarism in paraphrasing

The following examples are student attempts to paraphrase an excerpt from Mark Clayton’s “A Whole Lot of Cheatin’ Going On.” Versions A and B are examples of “accidental plagiarism,” and version C is done correctly and is not plagiarism.

Original Source Excerpt

Such savvy borrowing may be lost on some educators, but others, like librarians, are catching up. “Students are finding it so easy to use these sources that they will dump them in the middle of the papers without any attribution,” says John Ruszkiewicz, an English professor at Texas. “What they don’t realize is how readily [professors] can tell the material isn’t the student’s and how easy it is for instructors to search this material on the Web” (434).

Student Version A—Plagiarism:

Students borrowing from the Web may be lost on some educators, but some teachers and librarians are catching up. Some students use chunks of other sources right in the middle of their papers without citations. But what these students often don’t realize is how easily professors can tell the material isn’t the student’s and how the instructors can easily search and find this material on the Web too.

This paraphrase is an example of plagiarism because the student uses many of the same phrases as the original passage and the same overall style and structure as the original author with just a few substitution words or phrases (without using any quotation marks and without citations).

Student Version B—Attempted Paraphrase—But Still Plagiarism:

According to Mark Clayton, students borrowing from the Internet may be missed by some teachers, but others are catching it. Students find it easy to use these sources and will put them in their papers without citations or credit. However, they don’t realize that professors can tell the material isn’t the student’s and that it is easy for them to search the web and find this material too.

This paraphrase is an example of “accidental” plagiarism because the student has combined a couple sentences, substituted a few words, but still has used the same overall structure with minor substitutions and has given a nod to the original author with a tagline but still does not have a proper parenthetical citation anywhere in the paraphrase.

Student Version C—Appropriate Paraphrase—Not Plagiarism:

According to Mark Clayton, students borrowing from the Internet may be missed by some teachers, but others are catching it. Students find it easy to use these sources and will put them in their papers without citations or credit. However, they don’t realize that professors can tell the material isn’t the student’s and that it is easy for them to search the web and find this material too.

This student has paraphrased using his or her own words and sentence constructions, and the student has accurately reflected the author’s ideas and cited him correctly both with a tag and a parenthetical citation.

Content in this “Examples of attempted paraphrasing” section is reused with permission from Sims, Marcie. The Write Stuff: Thinking Through Essays. Upper Saddle River : Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2009. Print.

Preventing plagiarism

As instructors, we expect our students to be creative and imaginative in their work. However, sometimes we fail to model our expectations when we just give the same assignments and final exam questions quarter after quarter, year after year. What can we do about this?

Craft assignments that don’t fit the “generalist” nature of the samples students can recycle, find, and/or buy. For example, instead of assigning an open-ended paper on contemporary applications of Machiavelli’s The Prince, make the assignment linked to other course readings or specific links such as the 2008 Batman film The Dark Knight. Students are likely to find many sources discussing Machiavelli’s work in general, and the tendency would be just to copy them in part or whole. However, linking the concepts to other readings or texts would ask for critical thinking on the part of the student.

Emphasize the writing process. Craft the assignments to occur in stages. If students submit topic proposals or must have peer reviews of drafts, they are less likely to merely copy something prior to the deadline. Ask for annotated source lists and/or preliminary bibliographies to be included in topic proposals or in early drafts. Procrastinating students may make hasty source lists, but then they can flesh those out prior to the actual paper due date, reducing the likelihood of plagiarizing the actual paper (although plagiarized portions are still an issue). Ask students periodically to write a reflection of their research and writing processes.

Vary the specifics of assignments. For example, ask students to write about Machiavelli’s views reflected or contradicted in The Dark Knight one quarter and then change the pairing to the 2005 film V for Vendetta or an episode from The Sopranos in subsequent quarters or terms. A student who knows someone who took the class “last quarter” won’t be able to apply specific feedback you have given except in principle. Different assortments of associated readings will also prevent students from checking out copies in some “filing cabinet” compiled from previous years. Vary the patterns from year to year.

Be contemporary. References to Harry Potter books and movies lost relevance after the 90’s, when the Twilight series became fresh and new, only to be replaced by the Hunger Games series. If instructors get stuck in a particular decade, students just recycle old commentaries to please the instructor rather than conducting research or analysis based on academic curiosity and excitement of their own. Try to encourage students to seek application that resonates with their own life. For example, Machiavelli’s “old” ideas won’t seem so out of date after all if connected to the student’s own interests.

Point your students to the resources available to them. If your assignments are research-based, consider taking your class to the library for a session about research skills. If your students are having trouble finding quality source material, ask them to work with a librarian at the reference desk. Remember the Writing Center is a great resource for students at all stages of the writing process.

Detecting plagiarism

Detection method 1: Identify a phrase that seems unlike the students’ narrative/writing style and search the exact string, with quotes around it, in Google. It’s best to select something with unique wording or perhaps a misspelling.

Detection method 2: Search the same string of text in Google Scholar. If you have the Google Scholar preferences set for GRCC, you will also be able to search our proprietary databases (such as ProQuest, JSTOR, Academic Search Premier, etc.) through Google Scholar.

Detection method 3: Search the same string of text from within some of the library’s proprietary databases.

Detection method 4: Check commonly available online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia or Britannica Online Encyclopedia.

Detection method 5: Look at commercial term paper services, with names such as www.schoolsucks.com. (Really. That is not made up.) A Google search for the phrase "term paper" (in quotes) yields 2.5 million matches -- for "research paper" 5 million.

Detection method 6: Use a student's source list to replicate the research for the paper by tracing the subject, author(s), title(s) online.

Detection method 7: Use the "homework helper" facility of AOL, Scholastic, pbworks.com, and comparable sites.

Detection method 8: For text that seems like it’s been poorly translated from another language into English, try reverse translating it with Google Translate then running the translated text through Google web search.

Detecting plagiarims section adapted from http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~ehrlich/plagiarism598.html#M.

Why students plagiarize

Students resort to academic dishonesty for many reasons. In a paper entitled "The Front End Load of Student Research," author David Loertscher describes his interesting research on college students’ challenges with the research process. Students give the following examples of what might cause them to plagiarize a research paper:

  • Feeling that nothing new is being said
  • Having to change and refine how to write a research paper from class to class
  • Information overload
  • Too much irrelevant information; cannot locate what is needed from online results
  • They get hung up trying to find the "perfect source"
  • Not knowing what to look for, yet still sifting through articles that might fit
  • Trouble finding books on library shelves
  • Can find the citation online, but cannot find the fulltext article in a database
  • Trouble finding statistical information online
  • Having to buy a source unavailable on campus
  • Conducting research to meet another person’s expectations
  • Too many results from a Google search and having to sort through them

From Loertscher, David V. "the front end load of student research." Teacher Librarian 36.4 (2009): 42-43. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 7 June 2010.

Responding to plagiarism

How faculty handle academic dishonesty in the classroom is highly individual. Some approaches include dealing with the student individually, or including the Division Chair, a Dean, or Student Services.

The student code of conduct gives the following outline of repercussions after a student violates an academic rule:

“(a) A college instructor, after meeting or attempting to meet with the accused student, and upon written notice to the student, may assign to the student a lower or failing grade for an individual project, test or paper or for the entire course;
(b) The student's dean, after consulting with the division or department involved and meeting or attempting to meet with the accused student, may recommend modification of the instructor's action and/or dismissal of the student from the college;
(c) The vice-president for instruction (executive vice-president or designee), after consulting with the dean and meeting or attempting to meet with the accused student, may modify the instructor's action and/or place the student on probation or dismiss the student from the college.
(2) Written notice of any academic discipline under this rule
(a) shall be either delivered personally or mailed by first class mail to the student's last known address, within sixty academic days after the later of the student misconduct or the date the misconduct was discovered or should have been discovered, and
(b) shall advise the student of his/her right to appeal under these rules.” (see http://www.greenriver.edu/Policies/policies/RulesofStudentConduct.htm)

Reporting plagiarism

The Academic Dishonesty Alert System (ADAS) is a system through which faculty can report plagiarism or academic dishonesty of any kind to the Dean of Student Services. Faculty are not required to do so, but doing so may help the institution see when/if students are being academically dishonest in multiple courses.

Cultural attitudes about plagiarism

Many cultural attitudes are at work in our students’ perceptions of academic honesty. We’ve reviewed many articles on the topic and have chosen the ones below to highlight the vast literature on the subject. Those interested in finding or reading more on the subject can contact the library reference desk at 2091.

Song-Turner, Helen. “Plagiarism: Academic Dishonesty or ‘blind spot’ of Multicultural Education?” Australian University Review 50:2 (2008): ERIC. Web. 20 Feb. 2012.

Abstract One of the issues facing universities operating in a range of market situations and contexts is that of plagiarism. Different universities have taken different approaches in dealing with this issue. In an Australian university context, this issue is of particular concern, given the large numbers of overseas students studying in Australia, and offshore in Australian administered programmes such as in China and India. It is also an issue in a climate where students increasingly see themselves as consumers with increased rights, power, status and legal standing (Onsman, 2008). Students from a number of countries were interviewed for this paper, to identify their own views about plagiarism. The study found that there were several reasons why students tended to plagiarise and these included challenges of language, skill and respect for ‘the foreign expert’. What emerges from this paper is a complex and at times confusing web of perceptions and attitudes towards plagiarism. These pose a significant set of challenges for foreign universities developing and delivering programmes in a range of markets, particularly in locations such as Australia, where the importance and value of attracting, supporting – and, indeed, understanding - foreign students, has tended to underpin many university marketing efforts.

DeVoss, Danielle and Annette Rosati. “It Wasn’t Me, Was It?” Computers and Composition 19 (2002). Web. 20 Feb. 2012. *THIS ARTICLE IS AVAILABLE THROUGH INTERLIBRARY LOAN. You can make ILL requests at http://www.greenriver.edu/library/forms/interlibrary-loan-faculty-staff-request.aspx)

This article does a great job describing some reasons students plagiarize. It addresses complications of the vast amount of information currently accessible by students. It also includes some excellent tips on teaching students how to find, evaluate, and cite source material.