Department of English Language and Literatures

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

Ethics of Writing

An ethic is defined in the Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary as "a principle of right or good behavior." Just as we want to be considered trustworthy, honest, and fair in our dealings with other people, we need to be trustworthy, honest, and fair when we write. In academic writing, these ethical principles are usually brought together under the term "Academic Integrity." Faculty expect students to be trustworthy and honest, presenting work as their own and acknowledging the work of others; to be fair by acknowledging others’ work and writing; and to avoid manipulating their readers, either through rhetoric or through academic dishonesty. In writing courses, the most common ethical lapse is plagiarism.


Plagiarism can take various forms:

  • Cheating: Submitting work that you did not write as your own. This includes (but isn’t limited to) books, essays, newspapers and magazines, websites, and papers written by other students, either from Wright State or elsewhere. It is also considered cheating to submit a paper you wrote for one class in another class--in college or in high school--without both instructors’ permission.
  • Non-attribution: Copying passages exactly from another’s work without citing it and indicating (through quotation marks or block indentations) that it has been copied from another source.
  • Patchwriting: Writing passages that have been borrowed from another’s work but changed somewhat in wording, phrasing, or grammar. Patchwriting constitutes plagiarism even if the original source is acknowledged. When you are paraphrasing the work of another writer, put the ideas into your own sentences; patchwriting occurs when you follow too closely the structure as well as the wording of the original.

In other words, give full credit to the words and ideas of others by citing those sources as completely as possible, using the documentation style required. Students who are unsure whether a particular act constitutes plagiarism should consult their instructor.

You need to know the rules. Those who violate campus rules regarding academic misconduct are subject to disciplinary sanctions, including probation, suspension, and dismissal. Non-attribution and Patchwriting, however, may result from unfamiliarity with challenging material or the conventions of academic writing, so appropriate instruction and a request for subsequent revision of the paper may be an appropriate response. They may also reflect an intent to deceive, in which case the disciplinary sanctions will apply.

The Importance of Academic Integrity

To summarize, you should not take credit for the work of others: Do not submit work as your own that you did not write yourself.

Why is this so important? People use other people’s writing all the time--people ghostwrite speeches and articles for others, singers sample other artists’ music--and nobody seems to care; why do faculty get so upset about it? There are two reasons.

First, in a classroom, presenting work as your own that someone else did is fraud. The university calls it "plagiarism," but it’s fraud: an attempt to deceive the faculty member, to get something--a grade--that you didn’t earn. In a content course, a fraudulent paper forces the faculty to doubt whether the student learned the content; in a writing course, a fraudulent paper makes assessing the student’s writing ability impossible.

Second, faculty believe that the goal of academic work is for students to gain an education that a degree represents. They value learning, and the credentials (grades, degrees, etc.) are evidence of that value. Academic fraud, though, sends the message that the content of a university course is irrelevant--the only thing that matters is the grade or the certificate, no matter how meaningless. It’s justified as "playing the game," but faculty see it as trivializing what they’ve devoted their working lives to and emptying students’ degrees of meaning.

Wright State University’s Academic Integrity Policy

On October 5, 2009, the Faculty Senate of Wright State University approved an Academic Integrity policy.

It states: “It is the policy of Wright State University to uphold and support standards of personal honesty and integrity for all students consistent with the goals of a community of scholars and students seeking knowledge and truth. Furthermore, it is the policy of the university to enforce these standards through fair and objective procedures governing instances of alleged dishonesty, cheating, and other academic misconduct.” The policy defines plagiarism as “Quoting, paraphrasing, or otherwise using the words or ideas of another as your own without acknowledging or properly citing the other.”

The policy then defines the processes by which faculty may pursue allegations of academic misconduct and potential sanctions on students who violate the policy. This part of the policy may be found in Academic Integrity Standards and Process for Misconduct (University Policy 3710).


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