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Academic fraud has become an increasing concern in the English Department over the past few years, as students become increasingly overcommitted, rushed, and anxious for good grades. At the same time, on-line sources and term paper mills have made it very easy for students to plagiarize. Donald McCabe, a management professor at Rutgers, conducted a national survey of college students in 1999, and more than 75 % of students surveyed admitted to cheating in some way in their collegiate careers (Student Cheating and Plagiarism in the Internet Age, by Ann Lathrop and Kathleen Foss, 44). In addition to intentional plagiarism, inadvertent plagiarism can result from student ignorance of the standards of academic honesty or from a lack of relevant skills, so it is vital that each teacher who assigns essays discusses academic honesty and what constitutes plagiarism.
Rowan University’s policy on plagiarism states:
“Academic dishonesty, in any form, will not be tolerated. Students who commit an act of academic dishonesty may be subject to failure in the course, suspension from the university, or both.
Students are responsible for the following:
- Upholding university academic honesty standards and encouraging other students to do likewise
- Understanding what constitutes acts of academic dishonesty,
- Understanding academic honesty procedures and the rights and obligations of parties involved in the process,
- An understanding of the penalties imposed for acts of academic dishonesty and the consequences of imposing penalties.”
(from the Rowan University Student Information Guide)
The English Department upholds university policy on academic honesty. We maintain high standards for our students’ written work in all of our courses. All English majors and minors need to know the MLA documentation system and how to use it correctly. They need to know how to take accurate and careful notes, what to document, how to summarize and paraphrase, how to synthesize information, and how to cite properly. The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers is required for Literary Studies, Seminar I, and Seminar II: students should be thoroughly familiar with its rules and requirements.
What happens if a student plagiarizes? The Rowan University Student Information Guide details the following:
- Each faculty member shall have the discretion to punish acts of academic dishonesty, taking into account any “specific and mitigating factors.” The faculty member will meet with the student and discuss the allegation of academic dishonesty and the penalty for violating this policy. A first offender may receive an “F” for the course if, at the discretion of the
faculty member, such a penalty is warranted. If a grade of “F” is assigned, the
faculty member must report this action to the Provost or his/her designee,
describing the circumstances leading to the action taken. If a grade of “F” is not
assigned, the faculty member still has the option of reporting the incident and
actions taken to address it.
- The Office of the Provost will keep a file, updated on a continuing basis, of all students reported for academic dishonesty
- The student may appeal the infraction or the imposed penalty to the Campus Hearing Board. If a student wishes a hearing before the board, the student shall make such a request to the Dean of Students. The dean will notify the Provost that the Campus Hearing Board will be convened.
- The Provost may convene the board to consider a more severe penalty, including suspension, irrespective of the student’s appeal, if, in the opinion of the Provost, further penalties are warranted.
- When a student has received a second “F” for academic dishonesty, the Provost, upon notification from the faculty member(s), will notify the student that the hearing board will be convened to consider the student’s suspension. The Dean of Students will notify the student and the faculty member(s) involved, in writing, of the date, time, and place that the hearing board will convene. Both the student and the faculty member(s) must appear at this hearing.
- The hearing board may recommend the Provost suspend any student found guilty of academic dishonesty whether a first or second offense. The reason for the suspension may be noted on the student’s official record, if the board concurs. In any action taken by the board, it may seek any input from the faculty member(s) who initiated the complaint(s).
- All cases of academic dishonesty will be reviewed by the President of the University or his/her designee, who may approve, modify, or reject the recommended action. After one year, the President and his/her designee may hear an appeal by the student to expunge all disciplinary notations on the student’s official record.
- Student found innocent of charges of academic dishonesty will have the “F” grade removed and will continue in the course without prejudice or may be reenrolled without prejudice or additional tuition costs.
What constitutes academic dishonesty? Academic fraud includes:
- Plagiarism: using the exact words or the ideas or the general outline of a source without proper acknowledgement. Don’t look at sources on-line “just to get a few ideas.” Do not borrow ideas or phrases without citing; do not “cut and paste” papers together from sources found on-line or in books or journal articles. Do not read a fellow student’s paper and follow its general outline, varying the wording or the details. All of those practices constitute plagiarism.
In the following passage, the editors of the Norton Anthology of American Literature are describing Emily Dickinson: “Undaunted by her powerful father’s domestic tyrannies, cherishing her mother (who remains hard for biographers to characterize, a passive woman in a household of forceful personalities), Dickinson declared home to be holy, ‘The definition of God,’ a place of ‘Infinite power’” (1167).
The following example paraphrases the same ideas without citation, which constitutes plagiarism:
Emily Dickinson remained untouched by her father’s overbearing nature; she was devoted to her mother, who remained a silent, shadowy figure; nonetheless, Dickinson saw home as a cherished, almost religious site: “The definition of God,” she called it: a location of “Infinite power.”
Here’s an honest way to deal with this information, “flagging” or giving us advance notice of the fact that you are paraphrasing:
The editors of the anthology note that although Dickinson’s father was domineering and difficult, and her mother silent almost to the point of invisibility, the poet “declared home to be holy, ‘The definition of God,’ a place of ‘Infinite power’” (Baym 1167).
- Handing in a paper written by someone else, of course, is also plagiarism, whether the source is an online paper mill, a fraternity/sorority file, or a friend. Sometimes students will buy memberships to paper mill services, or sell their own papers to sites in exchange for new ones. Remember: selling your papers is illegal in 17 states, and New Jersey Public Law 1977-C-215 states that those who prepare and sell or resell papers for students to hand in for credit risk a $1000 fine. Flunking a class, of course, costs you much more than that, and suspension or expulsion from the university can put many of your plans for the future in jeopardy.
- Another form of academic fraud is falsifying sources. At the undergraduate level, this often applies to lab sciences; in liberal arts, however, a student might have been careless with his or her secondary sources and made up quotations or citations or bibliographic material. In the professional and graduate world, writers and researchers are sometimes fired or prosecuted for falsifying sources.
- Handing in a paper written for another class without the prior permission of both instructors is multiple submission. This is also a form of academic dishonesty, even though you have written the paper yourself. If, however, you wrote a paper for Literary Studies, and the topic really interested you, and that topic resurfaced in a seminar, you might inform each professor, and ask permission to rework and revise and expand the paper, handing in the first version to show how completely you’ve changed the work.
- Other examples of academic dishonesty include cheating on tests, whether by bringing notes into the testing site, by using electronic devices to store or acquire information, or by copying another student’s work.
- Selling or giving papers to other students to turn in as their own work also constitutes academic dishonesty; so do other forms of helping or attempting to help another student commit an act of academic fraud.
- Destroying, modifying, or attempting to gain access to or alter academic computer files or school records also would constitute academic fraud, and might be grounds for prosecution as well.
Most of our majors are going to be teachers someday: it is vital that these students understand what Julie Ryan calls “the New Plagiarism Reality” and how it might affect your classroom (“Student Plagiarism in an Online World").
Here are some excellent websites for further information:
This site, “Academic Integrity at Princeton,” has an outstanding set of examples of plagiarism, and an array of information on related topics, such as “When to Cite Sources,” “Not-So-Common Knowledge,” and “Working Habits That Work.”
This site from Duke also gives a useful and comprehensive overview of the topic.
The Princeton and Duke websites represent the gold standard of universities dealing with plagiarism effectively.
In 2002, 45 students at University of Virginia were dismissed and the degrees of three graduates revoked by the student-run Honors Committee after charges of plagiarism were proven by physics professor Lou Bloomfield.
Here are some helpful books for prospective teachers:
Harris, Robert A. "The Plagiarism Handbook: Strategies for Preventing, Detecting, and
Dealing With Plagiarism." Los Angeles, CA: Pyrczak Publishing, 2001.
Lathrop, Ann, and Kathleen Foss. "Student Cheating and Plagiarism in the Internet Era."
Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2001.
Mallon, Thomas. "Stolen Words." San Diego, CA: Harvest Books, 2001.