Academic honesty

I expect that all my students adhere to an ethic of academic honesty: a practice of actively embracing the task of creating original work and crediting the contributions of others.

The university defines academic dishonesty as cheating, plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, falsifying academic records, and any act designed to avoid participating honestly in the learning process. Academic dishonesty also includes, but is not limited to, providing false or misleading information to receive a postponement or an extension on a test, quiz, or other assignment, and the submission of essentially the same work for two courses without the prior permission of the instructor. Failing to practice academic honesty damages both the student's learning experience and readiness for a future career. It can also have significant disciplinary consequences.

There are many forms of plagiarism: repeating another person's sentences or phrases as your own, paraphrasing someone else's argument as your own, and even presenting someone else's line of thinking in the development of a thesis as though it were your own. It is perfectly acceptable to reference the ideas and words of other people, but we must never submit someone else's work as if it were our own, without giving appropriate credit to the originator.

Here are some specific guidelines to follow:

  • Quotations. Whenever you use a phrase, sentence, or longer passage written (or spoken) by someone else, you must enclose the words in quotation marks and indicate the exact source of the material. I recommend using quotation only when the precise phrasing of the original text is noteworthy or significant; otherwise, paraphrasing tends to be easier on your reader.
  • Paraphrasing. Avoid closely paraphrasing another's words: substituting an occasional synonym, leaving out or adding an occasional modifier, rearranging the grammar slightly, just changing the tenses of verbs, and so on. Either quote the material directly, using quotation marks, or put the ideas completely in your own words. In either case, acknowledgment is necessary. Expressing someone else's ideas in your own way does not make them yours.
  • Common knowledge. In an assignment, you will often use facts that you have gotten from a lecture, a written work, or some other source. If the facts are widely known among your readers or easy to find, it is usually not necessary to provide a source. (In a paper on American history, for example, it would not ordinarily be necessary to give a source for the statement that the Civil War began in 1861 after the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln.) However, if the facts are not widely known or if the facts were developed or presented by a specific source, then you should identify the source for those facts.
  • Ideas. If you use concepts or ideas that you learned from a lecture, written work, or some other source, then you should identify the source. You should identify the source for an idea whether or not you agree with the idea.
  • Artificial intelligence. Generative AI is a useful tool for many purposes, though it should not serve as a replacement for creating original work in your academic career. AI is likely to produce less original and more biased outputs than what a skilled human would create. AI outputs are often factually incorrect or misleading. The underlying data an AI uses may itself be a form of plagiarism, which compounds the ethical concerns. If AI is used to generate any content that you turn in, it should be credited like any other source. Do not present AI-generated content as your own, as this constitutes plagiarism.

In general, all sources must be identified as clearly, accurately, and thoroughly as possible with appropriate citation. When in doubt about whether to identify a source, either cite the source or consult your instructor.

This document draws substantially from the syllabus statements by my colleague Rick Stevens.