Academic Integrity

About academic integrity

Complete integrity is the hallmark of the global academic community.

A shared commitment to the highest standards of academic integrity is held across all disciplines and all kinds of higher education institutions.As a necessary condition of our membership in the academic community, we agree to identify the source of the ideas or words or images that we borrow. We agree not to cheat on exams. We agree to accurately and fully describe the methods and results of our research. We agree to protect the rights of the participants in our studies. We agree to deal honestly with the content of our courses and fairly with the students in our care.

Because integrity is essential to our community, we hold very high expectations for every graduate student at Nebraska, each of whom is required to be aware of and adhere to the student code of conduct. The publication of the Student Code of Conduct is considered sufficient “forewarning.” Ignorance of our expectations is never a valid excuse. If you are uncertain about whether a planned action is ethical, stop and seek the advice of a trusted faculty member before you act.

Professors at Nebraska expect every student to be completely honest on every academic requirement. There is no small act of dishonesty for graduate students, and it is never a victimless act. The victims of academic dishonesty include professors, classmates and the university itself. Most of all, the dishonest student loses, selling her or his integrity at an embarrassingly low price and missing out on an opportunity to advance through real effort and accomplishment.

The punishment for graduate students who engage in any kind of academic dishonesty is harsh – suspension or expulsion are the most common sanctions for graduate students who choose to violate the code of conduct. The official transcript of an expelled student is appended with a permanent statement that notes the student was dismissed for violation of the student code.

As members of our academic community, graduate students should be aware and willing to abide by our standards, including both academic and personal conduct. The University holds academic integrity to be sacrosanct. There is never a circumstance or situation that justifies an act of academic dishonesty.

Understanding plagiarism

The honest creation of new knowledge, discovery of new facts, new ways of looking at the known world and original analysis of old ideas are basic academic values. However, the simple repetition of the words and thoughts of someone else does not lead to the level of understanding an educated person is expected to have (Standler, 2000). Those who accurately acknowledge the work of others earn both the satisfaction of generating new knowledge through honest effort and the respect and esteem of their professors, colleagues and professional peers.

As students and scholars, we are constantly engaging with other people's ideas: we read them in texts, hear them in lecture, discuss them in class and encounter them on the web. Appropriately, we are influenced by the ideas of others and incorporate them into our own thinking and writing. To facilitate the free exchange of ideas among scholars, we give credit to those from whom we borrow words, images or ideas.

In simplest terms, writers must distinguish their own words from the words of others by placing the words of others within quotation marks, with appropriate citations to the sources of quoted text. Neglecting to do so is plagiarism: stealing the words, images or ideas of others without clearly acknowledging the source of that information.

The prohibition of plagiarism is not unique to educational institutions. If the expression of an idea is recorded in any way or fixed in some medium — such as a piece of writing, drawing, photograph, painting, or web page — it is considered intellectual property and is protected by U.S. Copyright Law. To plagiarize is to steal the property of someone else, a blatant infringement of the law (Turnitin Research Resources, 2005).

Plagiarism in any form, however minor, is a violation of the Student Code of Conduct, section B.1.1c, which defines plagiarism as: "Presenting the work of another as one's own (i.e., without proper acknowledgment of the source) and submitting examinations, theses, reports, speeches, drawings, laboratory notes or other academic work in whole or in part as one's own when such work has been prepared by another person or copied from another person." Graduate students are held to a "zero tolerance" standard for all aspects of the Student Code of Conduct, including plagiarism. The most common sanction for graduate students who engage in plagiarism is suspension or expulsion.

The following sections explain what plagiarism is and offer strategies to help you give proper credit when you use the words and ideas of others.

If you have questions about the proper way to cite someone else's words or ideas in your own writing, ask your instructor or contact an adviser in the Writing Assistance Center, 115 Andrews Hall, 402-472-8803.

When to give credit

To avoid plagiarizing, give credit every time you:

  • use or refer to another person's idea, opinion or theory from a "magazine, book, newspaper, song, TV program, movie, web page, computer program, letter, advertisement, or any other medium" (OWL, 2003)
  • cite or state any facts or statistics that are not common knowledge
  • quote another person's exact spoken or written words, either taken from the media listed above or heard first hand through conversation, interview or email (and these words must be placed within quotation marks)
  • reprint (or use as a basis for graphics you create) any graphics, illustrations or pictures from any of the media listed earlier
  • paraphrase another person's spoken or written words

Terms to know

Common knowledge

Facts that can be found in many places and are likely to be known by many people.

Example: John F. Kennedy was elected president of the United States in 1960.

This is generally known information — you do not need to document this fact. However, you must document facts that are not generally known, as well as ideas that interpret facts.

Example: According to the American Family Leave Coalition's new book, Family Issues and Congress, President Bush's relationship with Congress has hindered family leave legislation (6).

The idea that Bush's "relationship with congress has hindered family leave legislation" is not a fact, but an interpretation; therefore, you need to cite your source.


A verbatim repetition of someone's words. When you quote, place the passage in quotation marks and document the source according to a standard documentation style.

Example: According to Peter S. Pritchard in USA Today, "Public schools need reform but they're irreplaceable in teaching all the nation's young" (14).

Using someone else's ideas but putting them in your own words. This is the skill you will use most often when incorporating source material into your own writing. Although you use your own words to paraphrase, you still must acknowledge the source of the information.

Examples of proper use of others' words and ideas

To illustrate an example of plagiarism, as well as proper ways to use the words and ideas of someone else, we present a short original passage, followed by examples of a plagiarized paraphrase and an acceptable paraphrase.

Original text Dengue virus infections in humans can be subclinical or can cause illnesses ranging from a mild, flulike syndrome with rash and some hemorrhagic manifestations (dengue fever [DF]) to a severe and sometimes fatal disease, with coagulopathy, capillary leakage, and hypovolemic shock (dengue hemorrhagic fever [DHF]). This is the original text from page 1 of "Dengue Fever in Humanized NOD/SCID Mice" by D.A. Bente, et al. in the Journal of Virology, November 2005.
Unacceptable paraphrase Dengue virus infections in humans can range in intensity from subclinical manifestations, to a mild flulike illness with a rash and some hemorrhaging (dengue fever [DF]) to a severe and sometimes fatal disease with blood clotting defects, leaking capillaries, and hypovolemic shock (dengue hemorrhagic fever [DHF]). This is considered plagiarism because the writer has:
  • only changed around a few words and phrases
  • failed to cite a source for any of the facts or ideas
Acceptable paraphrase Dengue virus infections affect humans in a variety of ways. In some, the disease doesn't show up at all; others may have a rash and some minor bleeding, while still others may experience severe bleeding, shock, and even death (Bente et al., 2005). This is acceptable paraphrasing because the writer:
  • accurately relays the information in the original
  • uses her own words
  • lets her reader know the source of her information.
Acceptable paraphrase with quotation In humans, dengue virus infections can range from mild to severe, from a flu-like syndrome "to a severe and sometimes fatal disease, with coagulopathy, capillary leakage, and hypovolemic shock" (Bente, et al., 2005, p.1). This is acceptable paraphrasing because the writer:
  • gives credit for the ideas in this passage
  • indicates which parts are taken directly from the source by putting them in quotation marks and citing the page number.

Choosing the path to academic integrity

Myths and misconceptions can make plagiarism seem to be the "easy way out", but it's never the right choice.

(Love, 1998, as cited in Karrmann, 2005; Manninen, 2005)

Time pressures. Students with poor time management skills may not understand the demands of the research process, and put off starting the project. Or a number of things may begin to accumulate as the semester draws to a close, and the time to accomplish multiple tasks grows shorter and shorter.

Always be especially careful when you are stressed about deadlines or grades — a time when serious errors of judgment can lead to harsh sanctions like expulsion. Allow sufficient time for the process of researching and writing. Start the project as soon as the professor makes the assignment. Don't give in to procrastination and desperation. If you're reaching the end of the semester and are certain you can't finish a project by the established deadline, talk to your professor about taking a grade of Incomplete in the course and finishing the project later.

Grade pressures. Students who lack confidence in their own skills may see copying the assignment as a way to boost the grade.

If you are concerned about your mastery of material or your interpretation of ideas in your sources, talk to your professor. A grade of C+ may not be the result you want, but it's a whole lot better than the F you're sure to get if you're caught cheating (and possible suspension or expulsion).

Lack of knowledge. Students may (mistakenly) think that all material on the Internet is "fair game" and belongs to the public domain.

Guess what? Anything published on a Web page merits the same copyright protections as anything published in a book. Remember, too, that if you use any graphics, photos, or charts found on the Internet, you must provide complete source citations. The Internet is not a repository of free information that you can steal at will. And by the way, Google makes this kind of plagiarism very easy to detect.

Lack of awareness of some types of plagiarism. Some students may plead ignorance, but this is a pretty lame excuse for cheating. Almost everyone knows what plagiarism is — but they may not always know how to avoid it.

Anytime you are uncertain about whether a choice is ethical, stop and seek advice from a trusted faculty member. If your instructor or adviser doesn't provide a clear explanation of what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it, ASK. Or do a Google search on the words plagiarism or academic integrity, and you'll find plenty of information to get you over your lack of awareness.

Lack of interest in the topic. If students aren't interested in the assigned topic, they give it low priority and find it more tempting to copy the work from another source than to expend the energy to create original work.

Work with your professor to select a project topic that has meaning for you — try to find an approach to a topic that gets you excited about analyzing old information to produce a new way of looking at something.

Cultural differences. Some students may have been taught to use on-line resources, dictionaries, etc., more indiscriminately than is expected in grad school. Also, international students may have different expectations as to what is acceptable behavior.

These are not valid excuses and will not protect you from the consequences of cheating. Become familiar with the university's student code of conduct and the rules governing plagiarism. Be sure you understand the consequences of academic dishonesty. If you don't understand a rule, ask someone — your professor, an adviser, or someone in the Student Affairs Office.

The mistaken belief the professor won't notice. Students may believe that professors are too busy to read assignments carefully enough to spot plagiarized passages or even entire stolen documents.

Professors really are smarter than you think. Once plagiarism is suspected, five minutes of Google searching is all it will take to prove or disprove your professor's suspicions. Most professors investigate aggressively if they suspect plagiarism — and then respond aggressively if their suspicions are proven true.

Sources cited

Love, Patrick G. (1998). Factors Influencing cheating and plagiarism among graduate students in a college of education." College Student Journal December: 539-50. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. 3 Mar. 2000. As cited in Plagiarism Prevention (2005), Elton Karrmann Library: University of Wisconsin, Platteville.

Manninen, Tuomas (2005). Plagiarism resources and links. Center for Teaching: University of Iowa.

OWL (Online Writing Lab). (2003). Avoiding plagiarism. Purdue University.

Standler, Ronald B. (2000). Plagiarism in colleges in USA.

Turnitin Research Resources (2005). How to paraphrase properly.

Portions of this material were used or adapted with permission from:

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