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Plagiarism and Issues of Academic Honesty

Plagiarism and Issues of Academic Honesty

College policy
What is plagiarism?
How can plagiarism be avoided?
Secondary sources
Other forms of academic dishonesty
Possible consequences of plagiarism

College Policy (Top)

Below is the statement on plagiarism from the Geneseo 2002-2004 Undergraduate Bulletin, p. 399-401.

Plagiarism is the representation of someone else’s words or ideas as one’s own, or the arrangement of someone else’s material(s) as one’s own. Such misrepresentation may be sufficient grounds for a student receiving a grade of E for the paper or presentation involved or may result in an E being assigned as the final grade for the course.

Any one of the following constitutes evidence of plagiarism:

  1. direct quotation without identifying punctuation and citation of source;
  2. paraphrase of expression or thought without proper attribution;
  3. unacknowledged dependence upon a source in plan, organization, or argument.

What is plagiarism? (Top)

The above quotation represents the official SUNY Geneseo policy on plagiarism. Pauk (1984) provides a more complete description:

Plagiarism is stealing other peoples’ words and ideas and making them appear to be your own. It need not be as blatant as copying whole passages without giving credit. If you paraphrase something from already published material and do not give the reference, you’re guilty of plagiarism even though you have no intention of stealing! Simply rearranging sentences or rephrasing a little without crediting is still plagiarism. (p. 354)

In many cases, plagiarism in undergraduate papers in unintentional. One purpose of this document is to inform students about the nature of plagiarism; unintentional plagiarism is still plagiarism.


Plagiarism can be avoided by using a direct quote (A) or a paraphrase (B).

A. Direct Quote

Whenever your paper includes an exact, word-for-word copy of original material from another source, you are using a direct quote, and the original material must appear in quotation marks.

A direct quotation may be one or more words, phrases, clauses, complete sentences, or paragraphs. You must include a page number for any material in a direct quotation. Be sure to double-check the accuracy of all direct quotations before submitting your paper.

When It May Be Appropriate To Quote. In general, professors far prefer to see statements in your own words, rather than quotations. After all, they are grading you, not the authority you cite, and they want to see evidence of your original thinking and synthesis. However, an occasional direct quote may be appropriate when you need to provide (1) authority, (2) originality of wording, or (3) accuracy. Firstly, (1) Direct quotation lends authority for controversial positions. Also, (2) when an author has stated an idea so creatively or forcefully that you cannot do it justice in a paraphrase, you may wish to quote directly to lend color and power to your own work. Direct quotation also is appropriate when you want to give your reader the flavor of the original. Finally, (3) for statements in which accuracy is extremely important, such as laws, mathematical formulas, and complex theoretical formulations, direct quotation assures precise presentation of the material.

Typing style for a direct quote. The Publication Manual (American Psychological Association, 1994) specifies two formats, depending upon the length of the quotation, for material that is quoted word for word (for a direct quote).

    1. If it is a short quotation (fewer than 40 words), incorporate the material in the flow of the text and use double quotation marks around the quoted text.


    The popular press has certainly overstated the case for hemispheric specialization. For example, Efron (1990) writes, "Every reader of this book--indeed everyone who reads a daily newspaper--has heard that the left hemisphere is specialized for language, mathematics, detailed analysis, logical thought, temporal and sequential analysis, and serial processing of sensory information" (p. 1).

    In this example, the first sentence is your own text. When you are about to quote, cite the author’s name, and the year in parenthesis, then include the word-for-word quote in double quotation marks. After the final quotation mark, skip one space, place the page number in parentheses, and end with a period.

    2. Display a quotation of 40 or more words in a freestanding block of typewritten lines, and omit the quotation marks. Start such a block quotation on a new line, and indent it five spaces from the left margin (in the same position as a new paragraph). Type subsequent lines flush with the indent. If there are additional paragraphs within the quotation, indent the first line of each five spaces from the margin of the quotation. Type the entire quotation double-spaced.


    The popular press certainly has overstated the case for hemispheric specialization. For example, Efron (1990) writes,

    Every reader of this book--indeed everyone who reads a daily newspaper--has heard that the left hemisphere is specialized for language, mathematics, detailed analysis, logical thought, temporal and sequential analysis, and serial processing of sensory information. You also have heard that the right hemisphere is specialized for emotional expression, intuition, the recognition of faces and the emotions expressed in faces, artistic achievement, attention, recognition of musical passages and other musical aptitudes, visual-spatial analysis, and parallel processing of sensory information (p. 1).

    In this example, the first sentence is your own text. The quoted material is indented, with no quotation marks. After the last words skip one space and place the page number in parentheses, and end with a period. Also, this passage was single-spaced to save space; in your paper, you must double space an indented quote, just as you double-space all other material in an APA-style paper.

    B. Paraphrase

    Use paraphrasing when you cannot justify direct quotation by one of the criteria described in the first full paragraph on page 2. Paraphrasing is not simply changing the order of the words or the tense of the verb, or substituting a few synonyms. Instead, your summary or paraphrase should be stated entirely in your own words.

    A good way to avoid plagiarism when you are paraphrasing is to read the sections in the source you wish to paraphrase until you have a good understanding of the material. Next, put the material aside and write what you need without looking at the original source. Then critically compare your paraphrase or summary with the original source, checking for duplication of wording and accuracy in statements of the ideas. If you have used more than two consecutive words from the original (with the exception of articles and prepositions), then you have not paraphrased adequately. The passage should sound like something you have written!

    The following three versions of a passage demonstrate the original passage, a plagiarized passage, and an appropriate paraphrased passage:


    By this I do not mean that the faith on which science depends is religious in nature or involves the acceptance of any of the dogmas of the ordinary religious creeds, yet without faith that nature is subject to law there can be no science. No amount of demonstration can ever prove that nature is subject to law (Wiener, 1967, pp. 262-263).


    Science is impossible without faith that nature is subject to law [borrowed wording without quotation]. Faith makes science possible. This does not mean that science rests on religious faith or the acceptance of religious dogmas, but without the faith those nature functions according to laws, science cannot exist [imitated sentence structure].


    The belief that nature functions in accordance with laws makes science possible (Wiener, 1967). Science depends on faith, not religious faith, but the faith that "nature is subject to law" (Wiener, 1967, pp. 262-263). [adequate summary with a phrase quoted to preserve the tone of the original]


    If you use what some author states about another reference without reading the original work, the source you read is called a secondary source. Professors look upon secondary sources with disdain (unless the information is available only through the secondary source). Unless absolutely necessary, you should not use secondary sources.

    You should avoid secondary sources for two reasons. First, you are borrowing the interpretation from the author of the secondary source, a form of plagiarism. Second, that secondary source may not have summarized the original work accurately. Therefore, you must find the original work, read it yourself, and come to your own independent judgments of the adequacy of the research and the validity of the criticisms.

    In a very limited number of situations, you have no alternative but to rely on a secondary source. There are three examples of acceptable use of secondary sources for student papers: (1) The original paper has not been published (for example, it was a paper presented at a conference/convention); (2) The original paper is not available through Inter-Library Loan; (3) The original paper is in a language with which you are unfamiliar.

    For example, let’s say that you want to cite Gregor’s 1947 study, which was published in the Himalayan Journal for the Study of Yak Behavior, and the article is written in Russian, without any English translation. However, a book by Smith--published in 1986--briefly summarizes Gregor’s article. In the body of your manuscript, you would use the following citation:

    …Gregor (1947, cited in Smith, 1986) observed that…

    In your reference list at the end of your manuscript, you would give the complete bibliographic citation for Smith, 1986. APA style specifies that you do not list the Gregor article in your reference list. However, some SUNY Geneseo professors may ask you to include a list of "supplementary references" noting the complete citation for any article that you did not read. (Those professors may want to establish that the original reference was indeed a resource you could not be expected to obtain.)

    Additionally note that item (2) above (The original paper is not available through Inter-Library Loan) means that the article cannot be obtained through inter-library loan. (Some libraries will not loan certain materials.) It does not mean that you failed to begin your library work in time to send for inter-library loan material.


    Here are some examples of other forms of academic dishonesty related to plagiarism:

    1. A student hands in a paper that is the same as (or similar to) a paper the student handed in for another course. Students are expected to submit original work for every course.
    2. A student asks another individual to write a paper, which is then turned in with the student’s own name.
    3. A student obtains or buys a paper written by another person and turns it in with the student’s own name.
    4. A class requirement is to attend a relevant event outside of class. The student does not attend the event, but relies on a friend’s summary or writes an intentionally vague summary.
    5. A student makes up data as part of an assignment involving original research, and presents the data as if they had actually been collected.


    Usually, the disciplinary action is left to the discretion of the professor, often in consultation with the Department Chairperson and the Dean of Students. The professor may assign a grade of E for the paper/presentation, or the professor may assign a grade of E for the course. Plagiarism or any form of academic dishonesty may lead to dismissal from the college.


    American Psychological Association. (1994). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.Pauk, W. (1984). How to study in college (3rd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 

    We would like to acknowledge the useful guides to academic honesty that were prepared by Bishop’s University (Quebec, Canada) and Marian College (Indianapolis, Indiana), which helped us formulate this document.