Plagiarism FAQ

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Writing FAQ
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  1. What is Lake Superior State University's policy on Plagiarism and Cheating?
  2. What is "Academic Dishonesty?"
  3. What do you consider plagiarism?
  4. Can write papers in my Writing Courses for other classes?

  5. Why should I acknowledge my sources?

  6. What are the most common forms of Plagiarism?

  7. When should I cite a source?

  8. Are there any situations in which a writer may use ideas provided by others without acknowledging a source?
  9. What are the chances of getting caught?

  10. What are the most common penalties for “Academic Dishonesty” and plagiarism in your classes?

  11. What is the LSSU Writing Studies Committee Policy on Academic Honesty?


I. What is Lake Superior State University’s policy on Plagiarism and Cheating?

According to the Lake Superior State University 2000-2002 Catalogue, p 14 :

“The assumption of the academic contract is that the student does his or her own work: any breach of the contract is considered cheating. The faculty member who detects a student cheating may take appropriate action, such as assigning a failing grade for the entire course.


“A student who cheats is subject to dismissal from the University. If, in the opinion of the faculty member involved, such action is warranted, he or she will notify the chairman of the Scholastic Standards Committee and the student in writing. The Scholastic Standards Committee will then conduct a hearing in such a manner that the student is given due process. If the committee decides that dismissal is warranted, the student shall have five school days to appeal that decision to the provost of the University.”


II. What is “Academic Dishonesty”?

“Academic Dishonesty” is a broad term that refers to a violation of any of the many standards for truth and honesty in research and education traditionally associated with a college education.  These standards are usually held to be universal and apply to all your work at any university or college in North America or Europe.  Generally, these standards are:

bullet All work that students do must be their own.  Representing the work of another as one’s own work constitutes plagiarism;
bulletDoing work for another student undermines their education, and therefore preparing work for another student that they will represent as their own is also a violation (and the other student would be guilty of plagiarism);
bulletAll the work that students do must be done honestly.  Cheating by any method or means (including copying, using crib notes, etc) on tests, quizzes, in-class exercises or any other assigned work is a violation of these standards;
bulletThe “honest work” standard also means that students who knowingly and willfully falsifying or manufacturing scientific or educational data and represent the same to be the result of scientific or scholarly experiment or research have engaged in cheating;
bulletThe education process requires that your professors and instructors have a very good idea, not only of what you know, but what you do not know.  Thus, knowingly furnishing false information to a university official relative to academic matters is considered a form of Academic Dishonesty.  This can include anything from claiming to have “almost” completed an assignment in order to receive an extension on a due date (when the student hasn’t “almost” completed it), to falsifying transcripts from other schools to earn credit for courses that the student hasn’t actually taken;
bulletFinally, soliciting, aiding, abetting, concealing, or attempting conduct contrary to these standards is considered violations of it.

Different professors and instructors have different interpretations of these standards, of course.  Nonetheless, there are several things that everyone seems to agree constitute a violation of them.  Among these are:

bulletSubmitting a paper in fulfillment of an assignment that was written by another person, such as a paper obtained from an internet paper mill.
bulletSubmitting a paper which contains deliberately uncited sources with the intention of “passing off” the quotation as your own writing.
bulletFalsifying data or research for any reason.
bulletRepeated occurrences of “Academic Dishonesty”.

These are also considered among the more grievous examples of “Academic Dishonesty” and are usually prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.  At LSSU, this can mean dismissal from the University.


III. What do you consider plagiarism?

Since my background is in Rhetoric and Composition, my view of plagiarism is based on two assumptions.  First, I can’t help you learn to be a better writer if the writing I am looking at wasn’t written by you.  Second, as a beginning writer you may have problems with things like citing sources, or have been taught that a research paper is nothing more than a bunch of quotations from other sources strung together with transitions written by yourself.  This makes my view of plagiarism somewhat more complicated than that of some people, and at the same time, somewhat stricter.

So let’s start with a definition—plagiarism is the use of someone else’s words or ideas as your own without giving appropriate credit or without the person’s consent to use his or her words or ideas without acknowledgment.  This can be somewhat confusing, because at its core, plagiarism isn’t just about stealing someone else’s words or ideas, but also about claiming to have done work you actually haven’t.  Thus, many professors, me included, would see using a paper or research you have done for one course in fulfillment of an assignment in another as plagiarism, even though you are the paper’s author.  You can plagiarize yourself!

There are several factors at work here, but primarily the thing you need to remember is that you have been given an assignment in order to further your education in a particular way.  Turning in a paper you wrote for a high school English course, for example, to fulfill an assignment in EN 110: First-Year Composition would not help you further your education. This does not mean that you can’t use your time in EN 110 (or especially EN 111) to work on assignments from other classes.  It does mean that you need the permission of instructors from both instructors before you do it.

Finally, there are things about citations and quotations of other people’s work that you probably don’t know.  And you may not even be sure whether or not you need a citation in a specific case (such as when paraphrasing or using statistics).  We’ll talk about these things throughout your course, and I’ll point out problem areas in your rough drafts.  (I only apply penalties for plagiarism to final drafts, not rough drafts.  The penalties for Academic Dishonesty may apply to rough drafts and final drafts.)  If you have questions after that, ASK! 


IV. Can write papers in my Writing Courses for other classes?

It’s possible, and in EN 111 (starting in the Fall of 2002), it may even be required, especially if the content of your paper is of a highly technical or discipline specific nature.  But remember that the crucial word is permission.  And you'll need it from both me and the instructor of the other course.

If you would like to explore this option, let me know and I’ll provide you with the necessary paperwork and an overview of the approval process.  Provided that the instructor of your other course and I can reach an agreement about grading criteria and so forth, you can use a Writing course as a chance to work on projects for other courses.  (see also the Writing FAQ)

Remember, it is critical that you receive permission from both instructors to do one project for two classes, otherwise it will be treated as plagiarism or cheating!


V. Why should I acknowledge my sources?

There are three main reasons most writers acknowledge their sources:

bulletAcknowledging your sources allows you to do justice to those who have provided you with material for your writing.
bulletIt helps readers to place your work within the context of a larger discussion of the issues you are raising. In other words, it helps to ground your writing in a discussion that is larger than just your paper and thereby helps you establish credibility as a writer.
bulletIt saves you from the embarrassment and consequences of being accused of stealing the ideas of someone else.


VI. What are the most common forms of Plagiarism?

bulletThe unacknowledged word-for-word copying of someone else's writing or speech, in whole or in part, intentionally or unintentionally. This is considered the most flagrant and criminal kind of plagiarism. (Yes, it’s illegal in the United States.)
bulletThe assumption of responsibility for a composed text (written or oral) or any significant portion of a composed text that you have purchased, stolen, been given or loaned, or simply found. Even with the consent of the author, the fraudulent claim of ownership of a text or significant portion of a text that you have had no hand in composing is plagiarism. For many professors, me included, this includes writing a research paper more than 30% of which is quotations from cited sources.
bulletThe unacknowledged paraphrasing of someone else's ideas and/or sentences. Even if you put the ideas in your own words, citing the source of these ideas and/or sentences is necessary.
bulletThe unacknowledged use of another's ideas, analyses, or interpretations, no matter how different the presentation is from the source. Unless you have the consent from the source to use the ideas without citing him or her, you must cite the source.
bulletThe failure to acknowledge another person's crucial collaboration in the production of a text. If someone provides you with a good idea for additional content for your writing, you need to cite that person.


VII. When should I cite a source?

All of the following require citation:

bullet Direct quotations
bulletFacts not widely known or assertions that are arguable.
bulletJudgments, opinions, and claims of others.
bulletStatistics, charts, tables, and graphs from any source.
bulletSources that you found particularly useful or crucial to your writing. Belief in ideas and written texts as intellectual property--and a distaste for academic dishonesty--are strongly held values in Western society.


VIII. Are there any situations in which a writer may use ideas provided by others without acknowledging a source?

Different academic disciplines have different standards in this regard, but generally the safest course is to follow the strictest guidelines.  These require that:

bulletConsent is given or implied. Consent to use someone else's ideas and/or language without acknowledgment can be explicit or implicit. Explicit consent is given when someone tells you directly that you may use his or her idea(s) or repeat material he or she has composed without citing him or her. Explicit consent, however, only applies to ideas; research; thoughts about the organization, style, wording, grammar, and punctuation of a piece of writing; and short quotations, amounting to no more than a sentence or two. As noted above, you commit plagiarism if you take credit for an entire text or any significant portion of a text that you have had no hand in composing. Implicit consent most often occurs in situations of collaboration. Plagiarism is not meant to inhibit collaborative exchanges in the classroom, which research strongly suggests can be important learning experiences. If someone offers minor help with your organization, style, grammar, or punctuation, you do not need to cite that person. Such assistance usually is given with implicit consent to use and not cite the source. Writers, however, often do acknowledge sources of such help because they are grateful for the help. Writers frequently credit such help in a footnote to the title of the piece. Such footnotes may take the following form: "I want to thank Roger Graves and Carol Papper for their careful reading of an earlier draft of this paper and their helpful advice in improving it." In addition, writers co-authoring a single piece of writing need not cite each other since both are taking responsibility for all the ideas in the piece and will be named as co-authors of the text.
bullet When the information being used is common knowledge. For example, no one needs to credit a source for a statement that George Bush was elected president in 1988. On the other hand, you would need to acknowledge the source of the exact number of popular votes he received.
bulletWhen the information is available in a wide variety of sources.
bulletWhen the information takes the form of findings from your own field research. If you conduct an interview, you naturally will cite ideas and quotations from your informant, but you do not need to cite your own study when reporting your findings.


IX. What are the chances of getting caught?

Extremely high, my track record is between 90% and 95%.  While I don’t check every single paper that comes across my desk for plagiarism, there are some “symptoms” of a plagiarized paper that are dead giveaways.  You should also be aware that all of the major paper mills in North America (both those on and offline) have papers on file that I have written; so if you use a paper mill, you stand a fairly good chance of turning in a paper that I am the author of.  (I’ve poisoned the well, you see.)

I will not, of course, make an accusation of plagiarism unless I have proof.  But if I suspect that a paper has been plagiarized, a significant effort will be made to prove it.


X. What are the most common penalties for “Academic Dishonesty” and plagiarism in your classes?

My official line is:

Depending on the severity of the offense, plagia­rism and Academic Dishonesty can re­sult in a grade of "F" for the paper in ques­tion; forced withdrawal from the course; a final course grade of "F"; or dis­miss­al from the uni­ver­sity.  In appropriate cases of plagiarism, the appropriate authorities will be notified, including scholarship and financial award committees.

Here’s the scale of severity I generally rely on (though individual applications may vary, according to circumstances):

Extremely grievous: Use of a paper from a paper mill or copying a paper from another student; falsification of library research or field research; quoting sources without citation and thus representing another’s work as one’s own. In a writing class, this includes all assignments, not just formal papers, but also annotated bibliographies, journals, quizzes, and in-class exercises.  Penalty: unless there are extenuating circumstances, the minimum penalty is an “F” for the course, or forced withdrawal from the course if the offense occurs before the drop date; the maximum penalty is forced withdrawal from the University.

Grievous: Failure to properly cite sources on a final draft when the student was notified of the problem at the rough draft level as part of a lecture, response to a rough draft, or during an in-class lecture over problems common to all rough drafts of the assignment.   Penalty: unless there are extenuating circumstances, the minimum penalty is an “F” on the assignment, and the maximum penalty is an “F” for the course. Repeated violations at this level will be treated as “Extremely grievous”.

Severe: Submitting the final draft of a research paper that is more than 30% quotations from other sources (cited or not).  Penalty: the paper is not graded.  Student must rewrite the paper after an individual conference with me.  If the paper is not resubmitted for grading after the due date established in conference, the grade for the paper becomes an “F”.

Problematic, but not severe: Improper citation format, including spelling, grammar, mechanics, and style.  Penalty: depends upon the course.  In English 110, for example, I am less likely to get hyped up about these things (since we will have only introduced citation in the course) than I am in English 410, a senior level course where you’re expected to have gained mastery over such things.  Generally, the penalty involves resubmitting the paper after corrections have been made, or a reduction in your final grade of the paper by one letter grade (e.g. an “A” paper which contains frequent errors on the Works Cited page would receive a “B”.)

Again, these standards apply only to final drafts, and certainly not every case of plagiarism is covered here.  If I have questions about your rough draft of a paper, we’ll discuss them in conference so you will have a chance to correct your mistakes.  (But if you do not correct your mistakes in the final draft, then the penalties will apply.)


XI. What is the LSSU Writing Studies Committee Policy on Academic Honesty?

In recent years, Academic Honesty has become a major issue at American universities--largely as a result of the growth of the Internet.  In response to growing concern among the full- and part-time faculty in the Writing Program, the LSSU Writing Studies Committee developed a detailed statement on Academic Honesty in the Spring of 2002--a policy that was approved by the Dean's Council later that semester.  The policy is enforced in all writing courses, and in any other course when the instructor so chooses.  In my courses, the policy is always enforced--even when the course is not a writing course.

Your instructor will provide you with a copy of the policy on the first day of classes. Alternately, a copy of the policy can be found in the Course Materials Archive.

If, after reading this FAQ, you still have questions, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment to discuss them with me.

[This FAQ on Plagiarism was adapted from Lunsford and Connors, The St. Martin's Handbook (3d ed. NY: St. Martin's, 1995); the SIUC Department of Computer Science Policy on Cheating and Plagiarism; the SIUC Department of English Policy on Plagiarism; Homewood-Flossmoor (IL) High School Policy; Fowler, The Little, Brown Handbook (2d ed. Boston: Little, Brown, 1983); and the SIUC Student Conduct Code.]