Plagiarism and academic honesty

 

University students are expected to conduct themselves according to the highest standards of academic honesty. Academic misconduct for which a student is subject to penalty includes all forms of cheating, such as illicit possession of examinations or examination materials, forgery, or plagiarism. (Plagiarism is the presentation of the work of another as one's own work.)

*Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism Defined

 

Plagiarism is the act of intentionally or unintentionally representing another writer’s words or ideas as your own. Note the term unintentionally. A good percentage of plagiarism is committed accidentally. Even so, you can get into serious trouble for allowing this accident to happen.

 

Let us imagine that we are writing a research paper on Shakespeare's Hamlet. During our examination of sources, we come across a particularly good passage about the stress Hamlet must be under while carrying out his plan to avenge his father. Here is the passage:

 

Original Wording of a Source Author:

 

Hamlet’s dilemma is a remarkable one. He must kill the king at no small expense to his moral equilibrium.  He must confront his mother in such a way that he convicts her but does not crush her. He must compulsively watch for conspiracies against his own life while maintaining a convincing façade of madness. Moreover, he must accomplish these matters without flaw or blemish, at precisely the right times, or risk falling victim to Claudius’s treachery. -- Harold Ainsley, Shakespeare’s Casuistry (Buckleberry:  Bolger, 1954), 76.

 

 

Doing Things Right: Appropriate Use of Paraphrase and Quotation

 

How to we give credit where credit is due?

 

We begin by giving the source author credit for the borrowed material in the form of a citation, such as "According to." Then we use quotation marks when we want to copy his exact wording:

 

According to Harold Ainsley, Hamlet’s problems are not only legion but difficult.  In addition to executing Claudius “at no small expense to his moral equilibrium,” he is charged with pricking Gertrude’s conscience while refraining from destroying her.  While others seek his death, he is required to make them think that he is insane.  To make things worse, Ainsley concludes, he has no choice but to bring all of this off perfectly if he wishes to stay clear of the king’s clutches (76).

 

If there is any potential confusion about whether we are paraphrasing Ainsley or using our own ideas, we give credit to Ainsley a second time.

 

In the example above, we properly documented the source for our borrowed ideas and wording. In the following examples, we see what can go wrong if we don't take care to give credit where credit is due.

 

 

Doing Things Wrong: Examples of Plagiarism

 

Here is an example of plagiarism. Note how the writer takes credit for Ainsley's idea and allows the reader to think that Ainsley’s wording is his/her own:

 

I think that Hamlet’s dilemma is a remarkable one.  He must kill the king at no small expense to his moral equilibrium.  He must confront his mother in such a way that he convicts her but does not crush her.  He must compulsively watch for conspiracies against his own life while maintaining a convincing façade of madness.  Moreover, he must accomplish these matters without flaw or blemish, at precisely the right times, or risk falling victim to Claudius’s treachery.

 

More Plagiarism. Here the writer gives credit to Ainsley and cites a page number but does not use quotation marks around Ainsley’s wording—yes, this is still plagiarism.

 

According to Harold Ainsley, Hamlet’s dilemma is a remarkable one.  He must kill the king at no small expense to his moral equilibrium.  He must confront his mother in such a way that he convicts her but does not crush her.  He must compulsively watch for conspiracies against his own life while maintaining a convincing façade of madness.  Moreover, he must accomplish these matters without flaw or blemish, at precisely the right times, or risk falling victim to Claudius’s treachery (76).

 

 

So plagiarism isn't simply copying something word-for-word. Although it does take this form, it can also be committed when you fail to use quotation properly.  

 

*Thanks to Dr. Steve Michael for letting us use his plagiarism statement.