Academic honesty, also known as academic integrity, is a collection of values deemed essential in academia and research. Each University or Institution has its core values and expects students and faculty to adhere to them. Being honest and responsible in your work are common values among institutions.
- Being Honest: You are truthful about what ideas are your own, and you acknowledge others' work that contributed to your own.
- Being Responsible: As a student author, you are responsible for ensuring you acknowledge others' work. If you fail to do so, you are being dishonest, which is plagiarism (academic dishonesty).
Abiding by these values allows others to trust that you are not stealing others' ideas or work and fabricating data. In addition to building your reputation as a scientist, acknowledging the authors' work will strengthen your arguments as it illustrates that there are evidence and subject matter experts in that field who confirm your rationale.
Academic dishonesty can come in many forms including intentional cheating, fabrication of data, and plagiarism. Unfortunately, some people act intentionally dishonestly. This can lead to school suspensions, failing classes, and other disciplinary actions. At many journals, if academic dishonesty is found, the manuscript will automatically be rejected without the opportunity for peer review. If dishonesty is found after publication, it can lead to the paper being retracted (removed from the journal). A retraction like this can leave a lasting mark on the authors’ reputations and can lead to difficulty publishing in the future.
Importantly, many cases of academic dishonesty are completely unintentional. These cases most often arise when students are unaware of the severity of plagiarism in their own work and do not know how to avoid it.
If you follow the guidelines outlined in this document, you will be protecting yourself from unintentional plagiarism and conducting best practices when it comes to research and publishing. At JEI, it is the responsibility of student authors and their mentors to ensure that they are not plagiarizing.
When are citations needed?
There are only two cases where a citation is not needed:
- Your own ideas - If you are providing your own opinion or thoughts on a subject, then you do not need to provide a citation. However, it is important to be clear in your writing when you are providing a personal opinion, so that the reader doesn’t think you are stating a well-known fact.
- Common knowledge - If the information you are providing is common knowledge, then you do not need to provide a citation. It can sometimes be challenging to distinguish what is considered common knowledge, though. Ask yourself whether your peers at school would know and accept the information as reliable without having to look it up. If so, then it would probably be considered ‘common knowledge’. If not, you need to cite it. When in doubt, it is safest to cite your source.
In all other cases, a citation is needed to support your claims. Citations alone do not prevent plagiarism, you must follow additional guidelines in order to prevent plagiarism of others’ ideas in your manuscript.
How to cite your sources
There are two main ways to incorporate information from other sources into your writing:
- Direct Quotations - This is where you use the author’s exact words in your paper. You denote this by surrounding the quote with quotation marks (“ “). However, direct quotes are almost never used in academic writing, and thus, JEI discourages the use of direct quotes in published manuscripts.
- Paraphrasing - This is where you take the author’s ideas and rewrite them into your own words. You still need to cite your source when you paraphrase because the ideas belong to the original author. Most, if not all, of your citations should use paraphrasing with JEI.
Examples of Good and Bad Paraphrasing:
The following are examples of correct and incorrect paraphrasing from Professor Paul C. Smith from Muhlenberg College
- Original Passage: "Long-term memory, that immensely complex storehouse, has also been most extensively studied with the use of verbal materials, usually presented in the form of long lists. As we shall see, this approach has resulted in some extremely important findings, but it has also been a bit misleading. After all, remembering lists of words is somewhat different from remembering a conversation, a recipe, or the plot of a movie" (Klatsky, 1975, p.17).
- Inappropriate Paraphrase: Long term memory is a complex storehouse that has been studied extensively using verbal materials presented in the form of long lists. While this approach has resulted in some important findings, it has been misleading. Remembering a list is not like remembering a discussion or a movie (Klatsky, 1975).
- Appropriate Paraphrase: Researchers usually study long term memory by having subjects attempt to recall aloud items from long lists. Because such a task is different in important ways from the kinds of tasks long term memory is usually called upon to perform, our findings are somewhat questionable (Klatsky, 1975).
The inappropriate paraphrase would be considered plagiarism because the student does not really use their own words. Instead, they simply rearrange the words and phrases from the original passage, only omitting a few words. Importantly, the inappropriate paraphrase could have been written by someone who did not understand the original passage at all. When paraphrasing, it is important to make sure you understand the original passage before rewriting it into your own words. You should never include material that you don’t understand in your own work.
Tips to help you avoid plagiarism
- Keep detailed notes: By keeping detailed notes through the research process, you will not have to reference the original source material as you are writing. In this way you will have two rounds of paraphrasing ensuring that the final product is not too close to the original source.
- Use a citation manager: Citation managers are programs that allow you to add citations as you write. They will automatically populate your references page and allow you to move sentences around without your citations getting out of order. Free options include Mendeley and Zotero. Endnote has a free online option or a paid desktop version which may be available through school systems that use Microsoft Office.
- Take time for citations: Ensure that you designate enough time to focus exclusively on your citations. This is an important part of the writing process and can take several hours to complete properly.
- Critically read the final draft: When you feel you have a finished product, carefully read through each sentence and critically evaluate whether it needs a citation and if the works cited are appropriate.
- Ask for help: Teachers and librarians are wonderful sources of help. If you get stuck, have a question, or want to ensure that your manuscript is appropriately cited, reach out to someone who is an expert in writing. (Hint: Librarians get degrees in how to conduct research so they will be excellent sources of information)
- Academic Honesty
- A walkthrough course on academic honesty from Austin Community College, Austin, Texas.
- How to Avoid Plagiarism
- “Plagiarism and You” is a short video from Algonquin College, Canada, that defines plagiarism, provides multiple examples, and provides tips on how you can avoid plagiarizing.
- A Guide to Understanding Plagiarism
- A general flow chart provided by Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, for understanding written plagiarism.
- JEI discourages the use of direct quotations in published manuscripts.
- The majority of your citations should use paraphrasing.