Official Definition of Academic Integrity at Brandeis
As described in the current Handbook of Rights and Responsibilities
, which you received at Orientation, the fundamental requirement is that "a student shall not submit work that is falsified or is not the result of the student's own effort" [Section 3.0]. This means:
- In written exams, papers, and presentations: "A student's name on any written exercise (e.g., examination, report, thesis, theme, notebook, laboratory report, computer program, etc.), or in association with an oral presentation constitutes a representation that the work is the result of that student's own thought and study. Such work shall be stated in the student's own words, and produced without the assistance of others, except as quotation marks, references, and footnotes accurately acknowledge the use of other sources (including sources found on the internet)" [Sec. 3.1]. See further discussion of "avoiding plagiarism" below.
- In exams: "Talking during an examination, or possession or use of unauthorized materials or equipment during an examination, constitutes an infringement of academic honesty [Sec 3.1]. . . . To provide, either knowingly or through negligence, one's own work to assist another student in satisfying a course requirement constitutes an infringement of academic honesty" [Sec 3.2].
The Handbook explains that collaboration among students is allowed when explicitly authorized by the instructor. Similarly, handing in work to one course that was done for another course, or at another institution is not allowed, unless authorized by the instructor. At IBS, we often encourage collaboration on projects, but this will always be stated by the instructor. When in doubt: Ask!
The Handbook also details procedures for adjudicating suspected violations [Sec. 21] and states that penalties may include "failure on the assignment, failure in the course, suspension from the University or other sanctions" [Sec. 3.0]. Finally, it states that it is the student's responsibility to understand these requirements and to ask for clarification if needed: "A student's lack of understanding is not a valid defense to a charge of academic dishonesty" [Sec. 3.0].
What this means in practice
For the most part, these standards are self-explanatory. In practice, they mean:
- Don't copy, buy, or borrow papers or presentations from others or from the Internet and hand them in as if they were your own - not whole papers and not parts of papers.
- Give credit to the work of others in your papers; this can be confusing, and is discussed further below under "Avoiding Plagiarism."
- Don't copy work of others during exams or allow yours to be copied. Both sides of this transaction are violations.
- Don't bring notes or other materials to an exam, unless the instructor allows this.
- If you are doing a major project that you think might be used to fulfill requirements in more than one course, get approval from both instructors first.
- If any of this is unclear: Ask your instructor or Student Services for clarification.
The trickiest part of these rules is the part about giving credit to the work of others. This is tricky for American students as well as for others, and sometimes even for established scholars. (Consultants and journalists, by the way, often violate these rules; some high-profile journalists have lost their jobs because of plagiarism!)
The basic idea is that if you quote, or paraphrase, or use key ideas from someone else, you must report this in your paper or presentation. This applies to words, major arguments, unique concepts, as well as (importantly) to tables, graphs, maps, and figures. For direct, word-for-word quotes, you must put the copied words between quotation marks; if you used your own words to express the idea or information in a source, then no quotes are needed, but you must still cite the source. The one exception is when the information is generally known. Neglecting to give credit when it should have been given is called "plagiary," from the Latin word for "stealing." So, if you do give credit, and use quotation marks when they are called for, then using information from another source is not plagiary and is perfectly legitimate in your paper.
Needless to say, it is sometimes hard to determine when there is plagiarism or not, when it was intentional or due to sloppy writing, and when it is major or minor. Given this uncertainty, it is better to be safe than sorry and to avoid falling into plagiarism if you can avoid it. There are also different ways to cite the work of others, depending generally on what and how much you copy. A good discussion is in Avoiding Plagiarism from Purdue University. Read it and discuss it among yourselves and, if you wish, with instructors.
How to cite the work of others
Once you decide that you need to give credit to a source that you have used in your work, there are various ways for doing so. Different journals and disciplines use different formats, and at IBS we do not mandate a particular format. The main criterion is this: You must give enough information so the reader can find the source that you cited.
For published work, this means, at a minimum, that you report the author, title, source of publication, and sometime page numbers. For Internet pages, it means reporting the complete URL (and usually the date, as URLs change!). Conventionally published papers that are also presented on the Internet are a hybrid: You can usually just report the publication information. For other sources, such as telephone interviews, company documents, and so on, you would report the source, even though it is sometimes impossible for the reader to actually find that document information without your help.
Where do you report this information? Here too there are different formats in different fields, and at IBS we are not wedded to any format. Common ways to report the source are:
- A footnote on the page: This is a numerical superscript in the text at the end of the information that is being cited. The footnote itself can give the full source information or be an abbreviation of the source; in the latter case, there must be a list of "references" at the end of the paper that includes an entry corresponding to this source.
- An endnote: This is again a numerical superscript in the text at the end of the information that is being cited, but now with the source information in a list at the end. This method is less easy to read and is less advisable now that software programs easily reformat pages to fit in footnotes.
- A parenthetical note: This is a short reference in parentheses that, again, corresponds to an item in the "references" section at the end. The reference would usually give the author and date, and sometimes a page number; based on this minimal information, the reader must be able to find the source back in the references.
Beyond these basic rules, there are lots of typographical conventions about the formalities of citing books, articles, articles in books, articles in newspapers, and so on. Unless you are writing a PhD thesis or an article for publication, you probably don't need to bother too much with these fine distinctions. Even so, a common and useful approach is the Turabian style, based on the well-known University of Chicago style (from Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Terms Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, University of Chicago, various editions). See a synopsis of this style.
If you need further information on this, see Guide to Citing Printed and Electronic Sources on the Brandeis Library website.