Academic Honesty and English Composition Classes
In the university setting, we expect academic honesty and we enforce the rules. Plagiarism is essentially presenting the work of someone else as if you wrote it yourself, so it is a form of dishonesty. It does not matter if you are lifting material from a book which you paid for, quoting an article from Wikipedia (which comes to you free), or getting a friend to write the paper for you. If you didn't write it and you say you did, you are being dishonest.
Why students plagiarize
- It was OK in high school. People tell me that it's common to copy papers from the Internet or from other people. High school teachers (they say) know it's going on and don't care. (I do not really believe this statement.)
- Some students set their standards too high. If you expect to get through this place with a perfect A++ on every paper, you may be in a panic when you get an assignment that's a bit over your head—that you cannot simply slam-dunk. (You would be surprised how much plagiarism there is among students who can reliably do a B+ job on their own ability. It's not always the failing students who cheat.)
- Students don't trust their own writing or thinking. It's OK to be "in process" here. That's what this whole course is about—and we have a lot of resources to help you grow. If you don't trust your own thinking, it's far better to spend some time in the University Writing Center and submit a paper that gets a low B than to fail the course because of plagiarism and get put on academic probation.
- Some cultures place a very low value on original thinking and a very high value on success. If you come from a culture that assumes the student's highest goal is to repeat memorized material and earn a diploma, you may not be ready for the American university setting where students are expected to think for themselves.
- People just don't know what the rules are. That's the point of this page—to help you know what's acceptable and what isn't.
- The product is more important than the process. In this case, the student makes the mistake of thinking that the "product" is a good grade in the course and eventually a college degree. The person who thinks this way hasn't a clue what education is really about. If we let the student continue to plagiarize, the real product is a graduate who doesn't know anything and is in the habit of stealing.
A teacher's personal thoughts about plagiarism
Plagiarism is really sad—especially from students who make it a habit—because the plagiarist is making three assumptions:
- The student is assuming that he/she does not have the ability to do the work and cannot learn how.
- The plagiarist is assuming that the teacher is too stupid to figure out what is going on.
- The student who plagiarizes assumes that knowledge and skill do not count in his/her profession—the only thing that counts is the grade in the grade book because (obviously) any untrained person could do the work.
Ashland University rules
This situation is like the tax laws or the drunk driving laws. You are expected to know and obey the rules. It's no defense to say, "I just wasn't aware." Professors across the university take plagiarism very seriously, so it's not just an English class issue. (Do you want an illustration? Go to the Ashland home page, and search for the word "plagiarism." Then notice how many different departments are represented in the results.)
Link to Ashland University Academic Integrity Policy
Please note that several different offenses are called "plagiarism."
- Submitting a paper that was written in whole or in part by someone else without giving appropriate credit. (It doesn't matter if the writing was done by your roommate, by a service you paid, or by a service you got for free, such as Wikipedia.)
- Inserting material from an outside source (Internet, purchased book, etc.) without giving credit to the original author. (Note: In this course, the "evidence of plagiarism" is taken to mean 20% or more of the paper is taken from another source without adequate documentation; most instructors are much tighter, setting the threshold at 10%.)
- Inventing fake "facts" and claiming you found them through research.
- Faking items on the Works Cited or References page.
- Submitting a paper you have already submitted elsewhere (without getting permission from both instructors).
University rules require that your instructor report every instance in which academic dishonesty resulted in the lowering of a grade. Thus, if a student shows evidence of dishonesty in more than one course, his/her academic career might well be in jeopardy.
In this course
- All papers will run through a plagiarism-checking service called "Safe Assign." (If you think you can trick the system by submitting a paper copy instead of uploading it, I will simply scan all paper copies and submit them to Safe Assign anyhow.)
- If two students submit papers which are substantially the same, both will receive the penalty for plagiarism because it is normally impossible to determine who was the original author and who copied. Do not loan out your work on flash drives. If you share a computer with someone, you would be wise to password-protect the folder where your work is stored.
- If you are uncertain whether you are committing plagiarism, your instructor will be happy to help you figure it out. The staff at the University Writing Center are also well trained in helping with this issue.