Statement on Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty

Statement on Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty

Robert M. Fowler
Department of Religion
Baldwin-Wallace College

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Plagiarism is the practice of quoting another's words without giving that person proper credit. In writing, an occasional quotation is acceptable, but the writer should keep quotations to a minimum, and always--always--when quoting, one should give credit where credit is due. Students often fail to realize that a quotation is not an easy subsitute for coming up with one's own words. A quotation is seldom self-explanatory--even quotations need to be explained and discussed! Therefore, instead of leaning on quotations like a crutch, a writer should learn to express her own insights, using her own words.

Academic dishonesty of any kind--plagiarism, cheating on quizzes or examinations, copying term papers, etc.--is sometimes illegal and always unethical. It is the greatest of 'sins' in the academic world. A student who practices dishonesty of any kind will receive a zero (i.e., no credit) for that portion of the coursework and will be reported to the Dean's Office for possible further disciplinary action.

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From the 2002-2003 Baldwin-Wallace Student Handbook:

17. The term "cheating" includes, but is not limited to: (1) the use of unauthorized assistance in taking quizzes, tests or examinations; (2) the use of sources beyond those authorized by the instructor in writing papers, preparing reports, solving problems, or carrying out other assignments; (3) the acquisition, without permission, of tests or other academic material belonging to a member of the College faculty or staff.

18. The term "plagiarism" includes, but is not limited to, the use, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another person in print or on the Internet without full and clear acknowledgment. It also includes the unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another person or agency engaged in the selling of term papers or other academic materials.

Any student found to have committed the following misconduct is subject to the sanctions outlined in Article VI.Unacceptable conduct includes, but is not limited to, the following:
1. Acts of dishonesty, including but not limited to the following:
a. Cheating, plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty.
b. Furnishing false information to any College official, faculty member or office.
c. Forgery, alteration or misuse of any College document, record or instrument of identification.
d. Tampering with the election of any College recognized student organization.

To see the complete text of the student handbook, go to http://www.bw.edu/stulife/handbook/index.html.

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A note I sent to the BW faculty on 5/11/01:

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

Are you sitting there right now, reading a student paper that's just a little too good to be true? I was reading such a paper last night, and here's what happened.

You know the kind of essay I'm talking about, the one that is far more subtle, sophisticated, and polished than what the student had ever managed to produce before. Oh, also, it's not quite on target. I.e., it doesn't address the question _exactly_. If they have suddenly learned to write so well, you ask yourself, why can't they answer the question that was asked?

I was reading a three-part essay like this last night, and I thought to myself, "I bet this is plagiarized." So I went to the wonderful search service called "Google," at http://www.google.com/. I typed in a few words from one of the essays, and in the third 'hit' from the top of the list, there was a snippet of the essay I was reading! I went to that website, and sure enough, the student's essay had been lifted word for word from that web site.

I tried Google again for the second of the three parts of the student paper. It, too, appeared toward the top of the list of 'hits'; this piece of the student's work was also plagiarized from a website.

On my third and final Google search, I refined my search technique. Instead of merely typing in a few words and hitting return, I typed in a few words surrounded by quotation marks. This asks the search engine to look for those words in exactly that order. I typed in three words in an odd concatenation from the student paper---"distrust, anger, hate"---hit return, and bingo!, instantly I got _one hit only_, the very web site that the student had used to plagiarize the third of the pieces of the assignment.

In no more than five minutes, by using Google, I was able to document beyond a shadow of a doubt that my student had plagiarized 100.00% of the paper submitted to me.

So if you suspect that your students are plagiarizing material that they have found on the web, I recommend using Google to sniff out the source. And to speed up your search, lift a few words out of the essay and put them between quotation marks!

Happy reading!

Bob Fowler

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In the aftermath of this email message, there was quite a lively discussion among BW faculty and administrators about plagiarism. At about the same time, there were several stories in the news media on student cheating. One was in the Washington Post, May 14, 2001, at:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26738-2001May14.html.

The first few lines read:

>More than half of students from 25 high schools across the country said in
>a new survey that they had used the Internet to commit plagiarism for
>school assignments.
>
>The survey by Rutgers University management professor Donald McCabe, who
>has researched academic integrity for many years, also said that nearly
>half of the students questioned said they think their teachers sometimes
>know students are cheating in class but ignore it.
>
>McCabe said addressing the issue is difficult because it has become so
>common that, as one student told him, "It's starting to become 'normal' in
>some cases." ........

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Another story, about a cheating scandal at the University of Virginia, appeared in the New York Times on May 10, 2001, and was widely picked up by other news media outlets:

> Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company
> The New York Times
>
> May 10, 2001, Thursday, Late Edition - Final
>
> SECTION: Section A; Page 1; Column 5; National Desk
>
> LENGTH: 975 words
>
> HEADLINE: U. of Virginia Hit by Scandal Over Cheating
>
> BYLINE: By DIANA JEAN SCHEMO
>
> DATELINE: CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., May 9
>
> BODY:
> As they have for 160 years, students at the University of Virginia
> took their final exams unsupervised today, despite a cheating scandal
> that has shaken the campus.
>
> Under trees and on benches, on a beautiful spring day, lone figures
> scrawled their answers in blue books, with teachers trusting that
> students would not peek into textbooks, steal solutions from the
> Internet or seek help from friends.
>
> But the University of Virginia's code of student honor, a proud
> tradition that relies on students signing pledges not to cheat, steal
> or lie, is facing what may be its most severe test. Some 122 students
> stand accused of cheating on term papers in a popular introductory
> physics class, with as many as half of them expected to face the only
> penalty available for cheating here: expulsion or loss of degrees
> awarded in earlier years.
>
> The scandal at this campus of 18,000 as the academic year ends has
> prompted new questions about the university's widely admired code of
> honor and its single sanction system, rare among American
> universities.
>
> Cheating was discovered after a student from last semester told Louis
> A. Bloomfield, the physics professor, that the grade he had given her
> paper was low and that others with higher marks had cheated. The class
> has 300 to 500 students each semester.
>
> Professor Bloomfield set up a computer program to detect similarities
> of six consecutive words or more between term papers submitted to him
> over the last five semesters. It took the program 50 hours to run
> through more than 1,800 papers, but it was not long before the first
> matches appeared, he said, and they showed the papers to be virtual
> replicas.
>
> "In this universe, it's not 6 or 12 identical words in a phrase,"
> Professor Bloomfield said, "it's 1,500."
>
> "I expected to see a couple of matches," he said. "I was a bit shocked
> to find 60."

[[...go to the NY Times to see the rest of the article...]]

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The University of Virgina case was addressed on National Public Radio, All Things Considered, on Wednesday, May 09,2001. See:

http://search.npr.org/cf/cmn/cmnps05fm.cfm?SegID=122695

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The UVa case was addressed again on National Public Radio, Talk of the Nation, on Monday, May 21,2001. See:

http://search.npr.org/cf/cmn/cmnps05fm.cfm?SegID=123268

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A nice article on plagiarism, including a number of links to helpful plagiarism sites on the web, appeared in Syllabus (January 2002). See Philip D. Long, "Plagiarism: IT-Enabled Tools for Deceit?," Syllabus 15,6 (January 2002): 8,11. See the online version of the article, complete with links, at http://www.syllabus.com/article.asp?id=5916.

Another good article on plagiarism, with many helpful links, is "Probing for Plagiarism in the Virtual Classroom," by Lindsey S. Hamlin and William T. Ryan, also in Syllabus ["Exclusively Online"], posted in July 2003--- http://www.syllabus.com/article.asp?id=7627.

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Robert M. Fowler, Department of Religion, Baldwin-Wallace College, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017, USA. 440-826-2173 (voice) 440-826-3264 (fax)     Date last modified: December 16, 2006.     To send me comments by email, select this link. To visit the BW Religion Department home page, select this link.

The contents of this page are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policies of Baldwin-Wallace College. For more information, see http://www.bw.edu/resources/infotech/about/policies/web/.
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