Academic Integrity

Among the most basic academic values are the honest creation of new knowledge, the discovery of new facts, new ways of looking at the known world, and the original analysis of old ideas. 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 embrace the intent of the educational experience earn not only the satisfaction of generating new knowledge, but the respect and esteem of their professors, colleagues, and professional peers.

Those who do not may pay a heavy price. The penalties for plagiarism can be severe, and UNL is not averse to imposing them, the most stringent being expulsion from the university. (See UNL’s Student Code of Conduct, section 4.2.) The master’s thesis and the doctoral dissertation are critical documents that reflect the essence and the effort of your years of study. To misappropriate the ideas of someone else means you risk all you have worked for, compromise your integrity, and lose the future you had hoped to create for yourself in graduate school.

The prohibition of plagiarism is not unique to educational institutions. The minute the expression of an idea is recorded in some 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, 2005). Students at all levels—from grade school to graduate school—may be tempted to plagiarize. With the ready availability of information on the internet, the “borrowing” of another’s ideas is only a cut-and-paste away. And students experience many pressures that lead them to the “easy way out.” A variety of strategies can lead to a more honest path, as described in the table below. If you find yourself thinking ideas like those in the first column, try to replace them with the ideas in the second.

Myths that Make Plagiarism Seem the “Easy Way Out"
(Love, 1998; Maaninen, 2005)
How to Debunk the Myths and Take the Better Path
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. 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.
Lack of knowledge. Students may (mistakenly) think that all material on Internet is “fair game” and belongs to public domain. The Internet is not a repository of free information (and it’s not entirely credible, either). 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.
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. If your instructor doesn’t provide a clear explanation of what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it, ASK. Or do a Google search on the word plagiarism 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. Students fresh out of high school may have been taught to use on-line resources, dictionaries, etc., more indiscriminately than they should. Also, international students may have different expectations as to what is acceptable behavior. 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 advisor, or someone in the Student Judicial Affairs Office.
Supposed apathy. 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. Any in-class writing you do at the beginning of the semester gives the professor a good idea of what your writing style is like. If you turn in something that departs radically from your typical writing style, you’ve raised a red flag. Likewise with a submission that departs considerably from project drafts. Once plagiarism is suspected, five minutes of Google searching on a key phrase from your paper is all it will take to prove your professor’s suspicions.

 

References: 

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, Elton Karrmann Library: University of Wisconsin, Platteville.

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

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

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