Plagiarism and Falsification

Adopted and Revised from:
 Victoria E. McMillan, Writing Papers in the Biological Sciences (3rd edition, 2001)

Academic dishonesty, in any form, will not be tolerated.   You are responsible for upholding University Academic Honesty standards, understanding what constitutes acts of academic dishonesty, understanding academic honesty procedures, and understanding what penalties can be imposed for acts of academic dishonesty.  This is what is usually we see in the beginning of every course. Here are some details about it.



Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the representation of someone else's words, work, or ideas as your own.  It includes such acts as (1) turning in a friend's paper, or a paper copied from the WWW, and saying it is yours; (2) using another person's data or ideas without acknowledgment; (3) copying an author's exact words and putting them in your paper without quotation marks; and (4) using wording that is very similar to that of the original source, but passing it off as entirely your own even while acknowledging the source.  This last example of plagiarism is probably the most common one in student writing.   Here is an example.

Original Passage:

A very virulent isolate of Alternaria mali, the incitant of apple blotch, was found to produce two major host-specific toxins (HSTs) and five minor ones in liquid culture.  The minor toxins were less active than the major ones, but were still specifically toxic to the plants which are susceptible to the pathogen (Kohmoto et al. 1976, p 141).

Plagiarized Passage:

Kohmoto, Kahn, and others (1976) found that a very virulent isolate of Alternaria mali, the incitant of apple blotch disease, produced two main host-specific toxins, as well as five minor ones in liquid culture.  Although the minor toxins were less active than the major ones, they were still specifically toxic to the susceptible plants.

Although the writer has altered a few words here and there, the second passage is strikingly similar to the original.  It is still plagiarism if you use an author's key phrases or sentence structure in a way that implies they are your own, even if you cite the source.  The only way to make this passage "legal" as it now stands is to enclose everything retained nom the original wording it quotation marks.  Better yet, you should first determine which facts or ideas in a source are relevant for your purposes, and then put these in your own words and word order.

Plagiarism of this kind is usually unintentional, the result of poor note taking and an incomplete understanding of the ethics of research and writing.  Typically the problem arises when you lean heavily on notes that consist of undigested passages copied or half-copied from the original source.  These become the source of all the information and ideas for your paper. When you sit down to write the first draft, it is all too easy for this material to end up barely changed as the backbone of your paper.  Thus your text becomes an amalgamation of other people's words disguised as your own.  Even if you cite references for the facts and ideas, you are still guilty of plagiarism because the wording is not completely yours.

Another problem with this kind of note taking is that it consists of reading without thinking. It allows you to speed through a stack of references without necessarily understanding the material.  It conflicts with your major purpose in conducting a literature review: to evaluate and interpret information on a subject.  You need to start making judgments, comparisons, and contrasts while you are still working with the original sources; otherwise, your prose is just a mosaic of other people's material.  Your own paper, like professional papers, should be more than just a sum of its parts.

Form the habit of taking notes mainly in your own words. If you are not used to doing this, you may be frustrated by the additional time it takes.  However, once you start the first draft, these notes will save you much time and effort. You will have already worked through difficult material, weeded out many inconsistencies, responded to the conclusions of other authors, and made connections among related ideas.  Much of the preliminary work will have already been done.  To take notes effectively you need to understand how to paraphrase and summarize material.  A paraphrase expresses certain facts or ideas in different wording - your own - but in the same or fewer words as in the original.  A summary expresses the important facts and ideas in fewer words than the original; for example, the abstract of a research paper is a summary.  Both paraphrasing and summarizing require that you understand material fully before you write about it.  Although you will probably use both methods as you work through your sources, you'll find that learning how to identify and summarize the points that are most relevant to your particular needs is a highly valuable research skill.  For example, the writer of the plagiarized passage above might have written the following in his or her notes, to be incorporated later in the final paper.

Kohmoto. Kahn, and others (1976) cultured the fungus Alternaria mali, which causes apple blotch, and isolated seven different toxins. Of these, two were particularly toxic to susceptible plants.

Some times it is difficult to determine when you must cite information in a reference.  It is not necessary to cite the reference: 1) if the information is found in several books on the subject (is common knowledge); 2) is written entirely in your words; 3) is not paraphrased from a source; and 4) it is not summarized from a source.

Plagiarism also includes allowing YOUR work to be copied by another student.

Falsification

Falsification is the intentional fabrication or invention of information or citations.  It is a blatant act of academic dishonesty.  Falsification can be an act of inclusion.  If, for example, you write that 80% of GMOs produce toxic alcohols, but you not observed this in any citable source, you have falsified information.  If you claim that the same fact in included in a reference by Smith and Jones, but no such reference exists, you have also falsified information. Falsification can also be an act of omission.  If, for example, you report that all published reports indicate that 80% of GMOs produce toxic alcohols, but you omitted that two references in your possession reported that only 50% produce toxic alcohols, you have falsified information.

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