Academic Honesty

The history department calls your attention to the section of the College Catalog describing the College's policy on Academic Honesty. All students should carefully read this portion of the College Catalog, particularly the section dealing with plagiarism and the reference to further discussion in the “Little Brown Handbook” and the “Harbrace College Handbook.” As an aid to your understanding and as a matter of departmental policy, the history department is supplying you with the following additional statement. Your professor may wish to incorporate a further statement.

Adherence to ethical standards is an important part of education and is the highest responsibility of student and teacher alike. There is nothing more valuable than one's personal integrity. There are few things more painful in life than the loss of this integrity, be it through a deliberate act or through careless inattention to ethics. Most students have no intention of cheating. That is why it is all the more important that students be fully aware of the ethical standards that govern the world of ideas.

The basic rule to keep in mind is that words and ideas are intellectual property, to which property rights apply. As the “Harbrace College Handbook” suggests, plagiarism is literary theft. At one extreme is the gross offense of trying to pass off as one's own the exact words of another, at the other extreme is "borrowing" a fine phrase to dress one's own writing. Passing off the ideas or the words of someone else as one's own is a form of lying or stealing. One must be as scrupulous and careful not to shoplift ideas as one would be about not shoplifting physical property.

Plagiarism is more broadly defined than some students realize:

  1. Turning in a paper written in whole or in part by anyone else is a form of plagiarism.
  2. Paraphrasing means putting something in your own words. Making minor changes, such as reversing the order of clauses or changing one or two words, does not constitute putting something into your own words. Thus:
  3. Using another author's wording or something very close to his or her wording without putting the passage in quotation marks is a form of plagiarism, even if you give a reference note. "Your reader has a right to assume that words not enclosed in quotation marks are indeed your words" (G. Heberle, “Ethics and Reference Notes,” Rochester, 1989).
  4. In particular, plagiarism includes stitching together a paper by "borrowing" unattributed phrases and sentences from various sources. Every "borrowing," regardless of length, must be in quotation marks, and every quotation must be properly credited through a reference note. Mere rearrangement of phrases into a new pattern does not confer originality.
  5. An author's idea, discovery of fact, or original interpretation of fact is as much the author's property as are the author's exact words. Restatement by means of paraphrase does not remove the necessity of giving credit to the original source. Thus:
  6. Failing to cite sources constitutes plagiarism. This stricture applies both to quotations and to paraphrases.

If in doubt, consult your instructor before you turn in your paper.

The purpose of this statement is not to question anyone's honesty, but to spare everyone the pain and embarrassment that can result from carelessness or thoughtlessness. Once one is "caught with the goods," it is often very difficult to prove whether the act was intentional or not. Moreover, ignorant misuse of sources does not exonerate a student from a charge of plagiarism, for ignorance cannot be an acceptable excuse for wrongdoing. The best way to protect one's reputation is to be scrupulously aware of the rules of proper attribution in the first place.