October 26, 2009

From Online Classes comes this article about the Top 10 Plagiarism Scandals of All Time.  While their choices may be debatable, all make for profitable discussion about plagiarism, documentation and interpretation of fair use laws.  Check them out.


Academic Integrity at GW

February 4, 2008

The GW Code of Academic Integrity was developed by the GW community of students, faculty, librarians, and administrators and initiated in the 1996-1997 academic year.  To administer, promote, and manage the code, an Academic Integrity Office and an Academic Integrity Council were formed.  More information about these bodies can be found at the GW Academic Integrity Web Site http://www.gwu.edu/~ntegrity/

The Preamble of the Code reads:

We, the Students, Faculty, Librarians and Administration of The George Washington University, believing academic honesty to be central to the mission of the University, commit ourselves to its high standards and to the promotion of academic integrity. Commitment to academic honesty upholds the mutual respect and moral integrity that our community values and nurtures. To this end, we have established The George Washington University Code of Academic Integrity.

The code identifies five types of academic dishonesty.  Plagiarism is one of these categories:

  1. Cheating – intentionally using or attempting to use unauthorized materials, information, or study aids in any academic exercise; copying from another student’s examination; submitting work for an in-class examination that has been prepared in advance; representing material prepared by another as one’s own work; submitting the same work in more than one course without prior permission of both instructors; violating rules governing administration of examinations; violating any rules relating to academic conduct of a course or program.
  2. Fabrication – intentional and unauthorized falsification or invention of any data, information, or citation in an academic exercise.
  3. Plagiarism – intentionally representing the words, ideas, or sequence of ideas of another as one’s own in any academic exercise; failure to attribute any of the following: quotations, paraphrases, or borrowed information.
  4. Falsification and forgery of University academic documents – knowingly making a false statement, concealing material information, or forging a University official’s signature on any University academic document or record. Such academic documents or records may include transcripts, add-drop forms, requests for advanced standing, requests to register for graduate-level courses, etc. (Falsification or forgery of non-academic University documents, such as financial aid forms, shall be considered a violation of the non-academic student disciplinary code.)
  5. Facilitating academic dishonesty – intentionally or knowingly helping or attempting to help another to commit an act of academic dishonesty.

Sanctions – To learn more about the official procedures should you be accused of plagiarizing, see the Frequently Asked Questions and Procedures sections of the GW Academic Integrity web site. Of particular interest is the part of the Code that discusses Santions (Section 5).  The Code recommends that on the first offense the sanction be failure of the assignment.  The recommended sanction for repeat violations is failure of the course.  Only the official GW Academic Integrity Hearing Panel can request suspension or expulsion of a student for violation of the Code.

The best way to prevent a plagiarism charge is to learn how to properly incorporate the words, ideas, music, images, and so on of others into your research and writing so you don’t accidentally plagiarize or feel the need to intentionally plagiarize.

Understanding Plagiarism

February 3, 2008

GW is an academic community that respects the work and ideas of others. In the academic world, words and ideas are protected by rules and regulations that an institution adopts. At GW, these rules are presented in the GW Code of Academic Integrity which defines plagiarism as:

Intentionally representing the words, ideas, or sequence of ideas of another as one’s own in any academic exercise; failure to attribute any of the following: quotations, paraphrases, or borrowed information.

Though the definition does not provide a laundry list of modes of communication such as audio, video, images, etc., the use of the word “ideas” functions as an umbrella term for today’s multi-modal communication platforms.

Plagiarism is not a legal concept–It is a concept defined by academics as inappropriate professional behavior. However, the ideas adopted in academia about plagiarism derive from the constitutional statute of copyright. Moreover, the concepts underlying the concept of plagiarism and copyright law grew out of Western cultural concepts of intellectual property. Consequently, students from outside the United States may not understand the American concept of plagiarism if their country does not have a similar system of intellectual property rights. For more on these types of cultural issues concerning plagiarism, see Cultural Issues and Plagiarism.

Types of Plagiarism: Intentional and Accidental Plagiarism

Plagiarism can be divided into two types: intentional and accidental.


Intentional plagiarism is when a person knowingly and willfully presents someone else’s work as his/her own whether by buying a paper at an online paper mill or cutting and pasting content directly into a paper without proper attribution. Intentional plagiarism is often detected when an instructor notices an inconsistency in writing such as a change in style, content, or vocabulary. Other times an instructor might suspect plagiarism because something about the content seems familiar to the instructor producing a feeling of “I’ve read that before.”

Why Students Intentionally Plagiarize

There are many reasons why students intentionally plagiarize.

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Poor time management
  3. Disregard for consequences
  4. Disregard for authorship of material accessible online

Intentionally plagiarizing might seem like an inconsequential short-cut at the time, but academic integrity is taken very seriously by professors and the consequences of plagiarism can be grave. The GW Code of Academic Integrity recommends that the minimal sanction on the first offense of plagiarism is that the student fails the assignment. However for more egregious examples, sanctions may range from failure of the course to suspension. For repeat violations, the Code recommends failure of the course, which comes with an automatic notation to the student’s transcript and/or suspension.

Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism is when a person does not understand how to properly quote, paraphrase, summarize, or cite the work of others being used in one’s paper, resulting in the content being unintentionally attributed to the compiler and not the original author. Accidental or “unintentional” or “negligent” plagiarism may also occur for other reasons such as carelessness, sloppiness, procrastination or simply by oversight. In such cases, it is difficult to prove one way or another whether the plagiarism was intentional. Students assume responsibility when they sign their names to a work product.

Why Students Accidentally Plagiarize

Sometimes students accidentally plagiarize because of inadequate understanding of the conventions of academic attribution. In other words, a student doesn’t know how to properly incorporate the ideas and words of others into a paper or other type of project.

This web site offers resources to help you learn how to research responsibly in the key areas that are trouble spots for accidental plagiarism

  • Taking careful notes during the research process
  • Knowing how to integrate sources into your work through quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing
  • Knowing how to put together a bibliography in the requested citation style

In addition to the above reasons, sometimes a foreign student accidentally plagiarizes because of unfamiliarity with American academic conventions of attribution. For more discussion on this topic, see the Cultural Issues in Plagiarism section.

In the end, ignorance is not an excuse; all of us at a university are responsible for learning the rules of academic research and writing.

Learn More

Top 3 sites

This handout defines plagiarism, addresses why instructors are concerned about plagiarism, tools for avoiding plagiarism such as proper paraphrasing and citing sources. The handout ends with the moral: “When in doubt, give a citation.”

Intended to be the equivalent of an online textbook, this writing guide from the well respected online Writing Studio at Colorado State University gives a complete overview of how to avoid plagiarizing by going through all the parts of responsible research from gathering information, to incorporating sources, to documenting sources.

From the well-respected Purdue OWL (online writing lab), this e-handout consists of four pages. The first page addresses the challenges facing scholars into today’s global and digital world. The second page explores what is and is not plagiarism by addressing such such questions as when to give credit and how to identifying common knowledge. The third page presents an overview of safe research practices from responsible note-taking, paraphrasing and summarizing, to how to properly integrate quotes. The last page consists of exercises testing one’s understanding of the safe practices for avoiding plagiarism.

How to Research Responsibly

January 26, 2008

The best way to avoid plagiarism is to know how to incorporate the words and ideas of others into your work.  This begins in the research process. As you research a topic and begin to gather articles, books, web resources and more on whatever you are researching, you need a way to keep track of where you acquired this information so you can properly give credit to the author of the material.  

This page provides links to the many online resources connected to Mike Palmquist’s The Bedford Researcher. Of particular note are the many research checklists (on topics such as narrowing a topic, planning a search, taking notes, and avoiding plagiarism),  “How to” guides that cover everything from searching online library catalogs, databases, and web sites, to developing a research question and evaluating sources, and links to research tutorials and the Bedford Bibliographer (a free web tool for generating bibliographic citations in MLA, APA and Chicago styles).

How Students Have Plagiarized at GW

January 26, 2008

Plagiarism Tales at GW

Below are synopses of real plagiarism cases at GW supplied by the Director of Academic Integrity, Tim Terpstra.  These tales are presented to demonstrate that a student’s presenting someone else’s work as his or her own—no matter what the reason or situation—is unacceptable behavior at GW.

The Talking Sleepwalker

This case involved two roommates: One was the plagiarist and the other a chronic sleep-walker and sleep-talker.  At the Academic Integrity hearing the two roommates were asked how their two papers came to be identical.  The plagiarist said that her roommate routinely woke up in the middle of the night and would walk and talk in her sleep.  It was during one of these sleep-walking and talking episodes that the roommate alleged she granted her permission to use her paper.  This came as news to the roommate, who not only was unaware of being a sleep-walker or a sleep-talker, but was shocked to find out that the roommate claimed she had given her permission to copy her paper.

The Abused Roommate

This type of scenario has been repeated several times at GW: A student steals the paper of a roommate and submits it as his own work without the roommate’s knowledge.  In one case, the professor charged both students with plagiarism because the papers were identical and it was unclear who borrowed from whom.  When the students were called to speak with the GW Academic Integrity officer, one student finally confessed to stealing the paper of the roommate and to the roommate’s innocence.

The Great Facilitator

Sometimes several students are involved in a case of plagiarism.  This tale involved four students who all submitted identical papers.  The paper assignment clearly stated that students could not share or talk about their papers once they had started writing.  In this situation, it was determined that one student was actually the sole author of the paper and three others had copied the paper.  If it hadn’t been for the great facilitator sharing his paper, which was wrong and a violation of the assignment, there wouldn’t have been three plagiarists.

The Greedy Plagiarist

A student, unhappy with a grade on a paper, complained to the teacher and asked the teacher to reconsider the grade. The teacher agreed.  Upon rereading the paper, the teacher noticed that some of the passages were in a different style and checked them on Google.  The teacher then discovered that the paper was peppered with plagiarized passages.  Instead of getting the original grade, the student ended up with an F.One variation of this case involved three graduate students—two males and one female—who did a group project.  The paper was submitted and received an A-.  The two males in the group were satisfied with the grade, but the female was not.  She thought the paper deserved an A and requested a re-grade.  The professor agreed to look at the paper again, and that’s when he detected plagiarism.  The two male students accepted the charge, but the female contested.  Then there was a hearing.  When asked what portion of the paper she was responsible for, she identified the sections of the paper that contained the bulk of the plagiarized material. Consequently, in this case the greedy plagiarist hurt herself by 1) requesting a re-grade rather than being happy with the original grade of an A-, and 2) admitting she wrote the parts of the paper that contained the majority of the plagiarized material.

The Careless, Sloppy, Stupid, but NOT Cheating Plagiarist

This is a very common type of defense students charged with plagiarism use.  These students admit to being careless with their research, sloppy with their citations, or stupid in not paying attention when they were being taught how to properly paraphrase or use quotations. However, they claim to not have intentionally plagiarized the material.

The Inadequate Paraphraser

This is one of the most common types of plagiarism that occurs at GW.  The Inadequate Paraphraser does not seem to understand what constitutes adequate paraphrasing: putting someone else’s ideas into your own words followed by proper attribution.  This type of plagiarism is detected when a professor is reading a paper and notices something changed in the writing—a passage seems familiar or the style of writing is different.  The professor then Googles a sentence or paragraph and finds the original source, which is almost identical to the passage in the student’s paper. When speaking to a student charged with inadequate paraphrasing, the Director of Academic Integrity, Tim Terpstra, asks the student what constitutes adequate paraphrasing.  Terpstra does this to determine if the student understands the concept. Terpstra has had students respond with from one word to a set percentage of words.  To demonstrate the inadequacy of merely changing one word, Terpstra recites the first phrase of the Gettysburg Address: “Four score and seven years ago today.”  He then asks if changing it to “Four score and six years ago today” would be an adequate example of putting the sentiment of the address into one’s own words? He uses this example to drive home the point that paraphrasing is not merely a matter of changing one or two words.

Oops, I Sent the Wrong File, Twice!

This situation is the electronic version of “Oops, my dog ate the paper.”  A student submits a paper electronically to a professor.  The professor confronts the student with suspicions of plagiarism.  The student responds by claiming that the paper submitted was actually the rough draft that still contained cut and paste material and not the corrected and final version.  The student then requests permission to resubmit the real final draft.  When the professor grants the request, sometimes the new version doe not appear for several days.In one case, this happened twice.  The student submitted the paper electronically.  When the professor questioned some of the text, the student claimed he had accidentally sent the rough draft instead of the final version because both drafts had the same file name.  The professor accepted the explanation and pointed out that there were some questionable passages and that the student needed to cite his sources better.  A few days later the student emailed another version that had more questionable passages.  The professor brought this to the student’s attention.  The student replied: Oops, I sent the wrong file twice!”

You Made Me Do It- It’s Not My Fault, It’s Your Fault 

This is the classic case of shifting responsibility:  the student blames the professor for the plagiarism. In this scenario, if a professor reviews a rough draft and makes constructive comments and criticism without detecting plagiarism and returns the paper, the student takes this as a green light. If the professor catches the plagiarism in the final version, the student claims that if the professor had only pointed it out in the draft, the student would have fixed the questionable passage.  The student insinuates that the only reason plagiarism occurred in the final draft was the professor’s inattentiveness. Another twist on this is when a professor requires a number of short papers.  The professor detects plagiarism in the first assignment and the second and the third.  The sequencing of the papers is such that it may be several weeks before all the papers are returned.  The student does not accept responsibility for his actions; rather the student blames the professor for not returning the first plagiarized paper earlier.  The bottom line is that the responsibility is the student’s.  Professors don’t enter into grading assuming and looking for plagiarism.

The Wikipedia Conundrum

Sometimes a student misunderstands a professor’s instructions to not use Wikipedia as a source.  The student uses Wikipedia in his initial research anyway, but fails to cite it as a source because of the professor’s prohibition.  And where an even larger problem occurs is when a student uses text directly from Wikipedia without proper attribution thinking that this is a workaround to the professor’s barring use of Wikipedia.

Cultural Issues and Plagiarism

January 2, 2008

Any discussion of plagiarism needs to recognize that the framework under which “plagiarism” is conceived in American academia is the product of a particular cultural and institutional history and not one that is universally shared. Notably, this framework depends on a notion of student work as intellectual property–that is to say, work valued as the original scholarly contribution of an identifiably autonomous author–that may clash with other frameworks for understanding the function of student writing.  It may be too simple to describe this as a difference between “western” and “non-western” cultural values. Nevertheless, students who have grown up in a non-U.S. academic context may have different ideas of individual ownership and property rights, or for whom the academic construct of a scholar or researcher owning words and ideas is unnatural.  With the recent instances of plagiarism detected not only in student papers, but in master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, these issues are of great concern on college campuses today.


This article uses qualitative interview methodology to explore gaps in the understanding of plagiarism between instructors and ESL writers. Though writing is a socially situated endeavor, instructors are sometimes biased against non-native writers due to the perception that they are more likely to plagiarize. Students may misunderstand the American convention of plagiarism or some may even understand the concept yet choose to plagiarize anyway.

  • Staying out of trouble: Apparent plagiarism and academic survival.  By: Currie, Pat. Journal of Second Language Writing, Volume 7, Number 1, January 1998, pp. 1-18.
Article Abstract:  Textual borrowing by second language students in academic settings has traditionally been viewed as an intentional violation of Western norms and practices. As we have learned from recent discussions, however, the issue is not that simple, but fraught with complexities. In order to understand the degree of complexity, it is worthwhile to examine one instance of such borrowing. This paper explores the apparent plagiarism of one second language student writer in a university course. It considers her behavior in relation to the context of her course, the demands of her task, her developing English language skills, and her general learning processes

Plagiarism Scholarship

January 1, 2008
There is a large and growing body of scholarship on plagiarism. Below are listings of online accessible resources that will assist you in identifying new and existing scholarship.
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Organizations

Bibliographies on Plagiarism Scholarship

Rebecca Moore Howard, a noted plagiarism scholar, has put together a collection of bibliographies on key issues in plagiarism scholarship. Below are links to her 13 bibliographies. 


Journals on Plagiarism Scholarship

Plagiary: Cross-Disciplinary Studies in Plagiarism, Fabrication, and Falsificationhttp://www.plagiary.org/

A scholarly journal on plagiarism and related fabrications/falsifications within the professional literature (i.e. scholarly journals and books) and popular discourse domains (i.e. journalism, politics, audio-visual texts).

Organizations Conducting Plagiarism Research

Center for Academic Integrityhttp://www.academicintegrity.org/

The Center for Academic Integrity (housed at Duke University) serves to assist students, faculty, teachers and administrators to identify, affirm, and promote the values of academic integrity.

IT Integrityhttp://www.itintegrity.org/

IT integrity is an international nonprofit organization bringing together academia and industry on issues of IT quality and standards.