Student Academic Dishonesty

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but it will not be updated after May 2017.


Most university students understand the concept of cheating, but many have a fuzzy idea about the meaning of plagiarism. According to Webster's New World Collegiate Dictionary (4th edition), the verb to plagiarize is defined as "to take (ideas, writing, etc.) from (another) and pass them off as one's own." Plagiary and plagiarism are nouns referring to the act of plagiarizing. In simple terms, plagiarism is intellectual theft.

The concept of plagiarism applies to all kinds of documents—books, newspapers, magazines, journals, maps, technical diagrams, artistic works, computer programs, voice/sounds, music, photographs, movies, videos, etc. The documents may be stored in any type of medium—paper, film, magnetic tape/disk, optical disk, solid-state card or stick, or other storage media. The format of documents varies from simple handwritten text to encrypted digital files. Analog or digital signals transmitted via cable or radio waves are also included. In other words, every kind of document is relevant.


In the context of plagiarism, the Web and other Internet resources must be treated just like any other source of information. Any material used directly must be identified clearly as a quotation or copy of work by the original author. Students should follow standard scientific style for citations—see reference style. This includes listing URLs for any and all materials obtained from Web sources.

In the pre-Internet era, the concept of plagiarism was relatively straightforward. Plagiarism was any type of text, imagery or other material copied from another source and presented as the student's own work. However, many people have the belief that materials obtained via Internet (WWW, FTP, etc.) are "free" and can be downloaded and used in any way without restrictions. This is not true. All materials provided via Internet—no matter what kinds of documents—are protected by copyright or trademark of the publisher, no matter who the individual or organization may be. See copyright.

Students are encouraged to write in their own words, create their own illustrations and maps, take their own photographs, produce their own videos or music, etc. Copy-and-paste writing is not acceptable and could lead to a academic disciplinary consequences. Detecting online plagiarism is possible through various services that search web documents for key words and extended text phrases. So-called "content searching" has become relatively sophisticated and allows for rapid checking of suspected plagiarism from web-based sources worldwide.

All items, including text and images, that are quoted, adapted, derived or reproduced from other sources must be clearly acknowledged and cited by a reference. Some sources are public domain, such as the U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, NOAA, and other U.S. federal agencies. Wikimedia Commons is another good source for images available for public use. References are required for such public-domain sources.

Scientific ethics

Plagiarism and cheating are problems that extend from college education into lifetime careers. Sigma Xi, the scientific research society, has taken the lead for establishing scientific research ethics. Authorship of scholarly publications is a basic measure of a scientist's productivity and success; therefore, authorship is highly valued. Problems of authorship include several issues, such as author omission, undeserved credit, and order of listing multiple authors as well as guest, ghost and honorary authors (Anderson et al. 2011; Schneegurt 2014). Plagiarism is among the most serious issues, in which an author claims somebody else's writing or research as his/her own. Falsifying, fabricating, or stealing data are equally serious charges of scientific misconduct.

Such ethical problems may begin at the undergraduate level and continue through graduate research as well as into junior and senior scientist levels. The concepts of plagiarism and intellectual theft are vaguely understood and often violated in some cultures, but they are not tolerated in modern science. Examples include the following actual cases.

As these real-life examples demonstrate, academic dishonesty, plagiarism, and ethics are issues that extend throughout the scientific profession from student beginnings to emeritus status. Scientists, in particular, are held by society to have the highest standards of professional conduct, honesty and integrity in their research and publications. The ESU earth science department supports Sigma Xi's best practices in science—see Ethics Publications.

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© J.S. Aber (2020).