Academic inquiry always involves conversation. Sometimes that conversation is verbal; at other times, it takes written form. Whatever form it takes, academic conversation at its best enables us all to learn from each other. The proper citation of one’s sources is an important way of engaging conversation partners who aren’t physically present. Plagiarism makes use of our conversation partners’ ideas without acknowledging their contribution; it robs them of their voice.
It is this failure to acknowledge and involve conversation partners that makes plagiarism the most serious academic offense a student or faculty member can commit. It is the passing off of another’s ideas or words as one’s own; in effect, it is theft. It also undercuts the trust that is essential in any community of learning. The plagiarist shows disrespect not only for those from whom she steals and for those to whom she presents the plagiarized work, but also for herself. She is, in effect, saying that she is incapable of doing her own work, or that she is too lazy to acknowledge others involved in the conversation.
For all of these reasons, Saint Mary’s College maintains an academic honesty policy, which can be found on pp. 65-67 of the 2014-2015 College Bulletin. Accordingly, I treat incidents of plagiarism very seriously. At minimum, a student whose work is discovered to be plagiarized will fail the assignment in question. Truly egregious or repeated instances of plagiarism may result in failure for the course, not just the assignment. In keeping with the College’s policy, I will report instances of plagiarism to Academic Affairs.
We will be working together this semester to ensure that everyone in the class is aware of what plagiarism is and is familiar with how to document sources correctly. (Problems with citation style and/or formatting do not constitute plagiarism. I will point out such problems and help you correct them, but as long as, when you’ve borrowed words or ideas from someone else, you indicate that and point to the source from which you’ve borrowed, you have not plagiarized.) Both our own Writing Center and the OWL at Purdue are excellent resources, and can provide you with assistance in developing your writing skills as well as assistance with proper documentation. If ever you are in doubt as to whether your paper contains plagiarized elements, please ask prior to submitting it. Given reasonable advance notice, I am always happy to go over a draft with you, and to answer any questions you might have about how to cite your sources properly. Never let the pressures of academia lead you into dishonesty. Character, self-respect, and the enjoyment of good conversation are far more important than what may seem more immediately obvious measures of success.[1. This policy is adapted from one I co-wrote years ago with Professors Anita Houck and Bill Svelmoe. It’s been a long time, and I’m no longer certain of who contributed what. In any case, there’s a lot of Anita and Bill here; it’s not all mine.]