Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

This page provides information on academic integrity, plagiarism, and the consequences of ethical violations. It is required reading for all students taking courses from Prof. James P.G. Sterbenz. An academic integrity quiz will be administered during the second course period and will be graded for course credit. If you have any question or doubts about the information on this page, no matter how small, please talk to me. Unawareness or ignorance is not an acceptable excuse for academic misconduct. I'm happy to help; the goal is not to trap students but rather to teach and help ensure success in these classes and future endeavors.

Plagiarism and How to Avoid It

Plagiarism is generally defined as misrepresenting the ideas or words of others as your own.

Words of Others

If you use the words of others you must properly cite and quote them. If you directly quote a short sequence of words (generally a sentence or less), the words must be enclosed in double quotes followed by a reference to the original source, e.g. “The EECS Department regards academic misconduct as a very serious matter” [EECS2005].

In the case of longer quotes (generally more than a sentence) you must use blockquote style, consisting of larger margins, followed by the reference to the original source, e.g.

The EECS Department regards academic misconduct as a very serious matter. Students who violate conduct policies will be subject to severe penalties, up through and including dismissal from the School of Engineering. [EECS2005]

If you make extremely minor modifications such as inserting or deleting words (for example to add context, correct grammatical errors, or to change tense or mood), you should still quote or blockquote and use square brackets to indicate insertions and ellipses for deletions, e.g.

The [KU] EECS Department regards academic misconduct as a very serious matter ... subject to severe penalties, up through and including dismissal from the School of Engineering. [EECS2005]

Note that “[KU]” was added to the original quote and the deletion of a set of words was indicated by the ellipsis “...”

Paraphrasing consists of using language that is similar in content and structure from another source. A paraphrase must be followed by the citation and a notation that indicates a paraphrase (using blockquote style in the case of a multi-sentence paraphrase), e.g. The department takes academic misconduct seriously, subjecting severe penalties to student violations [paraphrased from EECS2005]. Note that if you compare this to the original source [EECS2005] it will be obvious that I was looking at the original text as I constructed a similar (but not identical) version of the sentence.

[EECS2005]
Undergraduate Handbook, KU Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, June 2005, p.20, available from http://www.eecs.ku.edu/downloads/undergraduate/Undergraduate_Handbook_Fall_2005.pdf

In this case the key reference was from a single page of a much larger document, so I included the page number to assist the reader. See sources and citations for guidelines and examples of acceptable citation style in my classes.

Figures

Citation of figures copied or derived from another source is similar to text. If a figure is copied, scanned, electronically cut-and-paste, or redrawn from another source, the citation should appear at the end of the figure caption, e.g.

Figure 1. Computer Engineering Course Flow Chart [EECS2005 p.11]

Citation of a figure adapted from another source with substantial non-original content is conceptually similar to a text-paraphrase and is handled in a similar manner, e.g.

Figure 1. Computer Engineering Course Flow Chart [adapted from EECS2005 p.11]

Originality in Papers

Quoting and paraphrasing should be used very sparingly; they are not a substitute for constructing your own words. Examples of appropriate use are in definitions and concise principles of others.

Note that a paper consisting of a significant fraction of quotes and paraphrases is not likely to receive an acceptable grade, even if properly cited. You should expect to receive a grade of D or F on such a paper (but not be subject to academic misconduct). You are expected to demonstrate your own understanding and knowledge of a subject. If you believe that you have a compelling case for significant quoting, talk to me first.

Ideas of Others

Whenever you use the idea of another person or source that is not clearly considered to be common knowledge you must cite the source of the idea immediately after you present it. Similarly, if you use a source to help construct a writing, such as a textbook to provide information you use in a survey paper, you must cite the source when first appropriate, and again as necessary, particularly as you hop from using one source to another.

This is a bit less clear-cut than using text and figures, but is every bit as important. It is unethical and dishonest to use the ideas of another and represent them as your own.

Consequences and Sanctions

Plagiarism an extremely serious offense that will result in an F for the course (not just the assignment), will be recorded on your academic record, and reported to the University for the possibility of more serious sanctions, including suspension or dismissal.

Avoiding Unintentional Plagiarism

Inexperience in past writing or coming from an environment or culture in which plagiarism was tolerated is not be an acceptable excuse for academic misconduct, whether intentional or unintentional. You are expected to fully understand this material; if you have any doubt, talk to me.

The following tips may help you avoid unintentional plagiarism.

English as a Foreign Language

I understand that English is not a native language for many students, and while it is important to use the best writing skills you can, you will be far better off submitting your own imperfect English than suffering the consequences of plagiarism. Unintentional paraphrasing is not an acceptable excuse for academic misconduct.

Detection of Plagiarism

It is remarkably easy to detect and prove plagiarism. Most students who plagiarise use inconsistent writing style, inconsistent terminology, or attempt to present material that they clearly do not understand. It is far harder for a student to mask these problems than to simply write their own words. A cursory reading by an expert in the field quickly reveals the majority of plagiarism, and students seem surprisingly unaware of the transparency of their plagiarism attempts.

If you write something you may be required to show that you understand it without advance warning.

Furthermore, the powerful desktop publishing and Web search engines that make it easier to commit plagiarism also make it easier to detect. KU subscribes to anti-plagiarism services (such as Turnitin) that compare submitted text to the Web, electronic journals, and previous papers that have been submitted. These tools automate the process, assign match values (including fuzzy matches where some words and punctuation have been changed), and color-code the text by matched source. This, in combination with searching the Web for selected phrases, means that detecting, proving, and documenting plagiarism is as easy as a few keystrokes and mouse clicks.


Cheating

Cheating is not only unethical, but the probability of detection is extremely high and the consequences severe. It is not worth risking your academic and professional future in this way.

Homework and Projects

Homework problems are intended to give students practice in solving problems and to reinforce assigned reading material. Students are free to discuss homework problems with one another and to assist one another in solution methodology. But students are expected to produce the actual solutions individually. Copying or permitting the copying of any homework solutions or parts thereof will result in an zero score on the homework at least, may result in an F for the course, and in all cases will be recorded on your academic record and reported to the University for possible further sanctions, including suspension and dismissal.

Program code, simulation models, and other electronic media used in projects or homework must not be shared with one-another unless explicitly authorised by the instructor. In the case of authorised group projects, each participant must clearly state their role and not mis-represent the partitioning of activity. Unauthorised sharing or unreported use of the electronic information of others will an result in an F for the course, will be recorded on your academic record, and reported to the University for possible further sanctions, including suspension and dismissal.

Exams

I prefer closed-book exams to assess the knowledge you have gained from the class. Clearly, you are expected not to receive any assistance from others nor bring unauthorised information into the exam. Cheating on an exam will result in an F for the course, will be recorded on your academic record, and reported to the University for possible further sanctions, including suspension and dismissal.

Knowingly assisting others in cheating, including permitting others to copy from your exam, will result in an F– (zero score) on the exam at least, will likely result in an F for the course, and in all cases will be recorded on your academic record and reported to the University for possible further sanctions, including suspension and dismissal.

The Riot Act

I apologise for the tone of this page to the majority of students who are ethical and would never consider cheating. But every semester I read the riot act and just about every semester at least one student violates the trust of academic integrity with resultant severe consequences. I know of no other way to get the message across other than explicit threats clearly stating the sanctions of unethical academic behaviour. I have a zero-tolerance policy for academic misconduct.

If you are a graduate student, receiving an F for a course will severely impact your GPA, will almost certainly put you on academic probation, will be a permanent blemish on your transcript, and may end your academic and professional career.

If you are an undergraduate student, receiving an F for a course will severely impact your GPA, may put you on academic probation, will be a permanent blemish on your transcript, and will likely reduce your future employment options and income.

It is unfortunate that these penalties could affect your employment or immigration status. However, it would not be fair to others to reduce sanctions for these or other reasons, so make sure you consider all the consequences before committing violations of academic integrity. There will be no second chances for any reason.

Links to Further Information

Sanctions for academic misconduct are defined in the KU code of conduct and the KU Student Handbook: Codes, Policies, Laws & Guidelines.

2005 Letter from the Provost to KU faculty on the subject of academic misconduct. Posted with permission from the Office of the Provost.

The USC Academic Integrity Quiz is also useful reading, and may help you prepare for the academic integrity quiz given in my classes.


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James P.G. Sterbenz

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