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English Composition (100, 101, 102): Academic Integrity & Plagiarism

Academic Integrity Introduction

The legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of information goes beyond properly citing sources and avoiding plagiarism. Researchers should be knowledgeable about issues related to privacy and security, censorship and freedom of speech, as well as have an understanding of intellectual property, copyright and fair use.

Ashland University's Academic Integrity Policy (excerpts)

At Ashland University academic integrity is to be revered, honored and upheld. Therefore, an academic integrity infraction is considered a very serious matter, as it corrupts the educational process and undermines the foundation of our community.

Proper acknowledgment of ideas and sources is central to academic honesty. To insure academic honesty, it is important to examine that which constitutes academic dishonesty. Academic dishonesty includes:


Plagiarism is the intentional or unintentional presentation of someone else’s words, ideas or data as one’s own work. In the event the faculty member deems the plagiarism is unintentional, he/she shall typically require the student to complete the assignment again. In the event the faculty member believes the plagiarism is willful, the sanctions in this document will apply. If the work of another is used, acknowledgment of the original source must be made through a recognized documentation practice.

                 A. Whenever one quotes another person’s actual words,

B. Whenever one uses another person’s idea, opinion or theory, even if it is completely paraphrased in one’s own words, or,

C. Whenever one borrows facts, statistics, or other illustrative materials, unless such 
information is of such common knowledge so as not to be questioned.


Fabrication is the intentional falsification or invention of research, data, citations, or other information.


Cheating is an act of deception in that a student represents mastery of information that he/she has not mastered. Cheating may be suspected if an assignment that calls for independent work results in two or more solutions, sequences, or language so similar as to merit the charge. Cheating may be suspected if there is a statistical inconsistency in the student’s performance and the student cannot explain or reproduce both the intricacies of the solution and the techniques used to generate the solution; or in the case of an essay examination, that the student cannot explain or reproduce the thought-processes used to generate the writing.


*Read the complete Ashland University's Academic Integrity Policy for details and consequences.



To avoid plagiarizing, you must change both the sentence structure and the words of the original text.

Steps to Paraphrasing

To paraphrase, follow the steps below:

  1. Read the original text until you grasp its meaning; then set it aside.
  2. Using your memory, write down the main points or concepts. Do not copy the text verbatim.
  3. Change the structure of the text by varying the opening, changing the order of sentences, lengthening or shortening sentences, etc.
  4. Replace keywords within the sentences with synonyms or phrases with similar meanings.
  5. Check your notes against the original to ensure you have not accidentally plagiarized. 

Common Knowledge?

Deciding if something is "common knowledge"

Generally speaking, you can regard something as common knowledge if you find the same information undocumented in at least five credible sources. Additionally, it might be common knowledge if you think the information you're presenting is something your readers will already know, or something that a person could easily find in general reference sources. But when in doubt, cite; if the citation turns out to be unnecessary, your teacher or editor will tell you.

excerpted from Is It Plagiarism Yet ?   from the OWL at Purdue

Plagiarism--it's not just for students

The NewYork Times regularly exposes cases of plagiarism. 


  • Senator Quits Montana Race After Charge of Plagiarism
  • Times Issues Editors’ Note in Response to Plagiarism Charge
  • A Debate About Plagiarism as The Times Investigates a Case
  • BuzzFeed Politics Writer Is Fired Over Plagiarism
  • Army War College Starts Plagiarism Inquiry of Senator John Walsh’s Thesis

Is it plagiarism?

Is It Plagiarism Yet? from the OWL (Online Writing Lab at Purdue U)

Is It Plagiarism Yet?


There are few intellectual offenses more serious than plagiarism in academic and professional contexts. This resource offers advice on how to avoid plagiarism in your work.


Contributors:Karl Stolley, Allen Brizee, Joshua M. Paiz
Last Edited: 2013-02-13 12:01:30


There are some actions that can almost unquestionably be labeled plagiarism. Some of these include buying, stealing, or borrowing a paper (including, of course, copying an entire paper or article from the Web); hiring someone to write your paper for you; and copying large sections of text from a source without quotation marks or proper citation.

But then there are actions that are usually in more of a gray area. Some of these include using the words of a source too closely when paraphrasing (where quotation marks should have been used) or building on someone's ideas without citing their spoken or written work. Sometimes teachers suspecting students of plagiarism will consider the students' intent, and whether it appeared the student was deliberately trying to make ideas of others appear to be his or her own.

However, other teachers and administrators may not distinguish between deliberate and accidental plagiarism. So let's look at some strategies for avoiding even suspicion of plagiarism in the first place

When do we give credit?

The key to avoiding plagiarism is to make sure you give credit where it is due. This may be credit for something somebody said, wrote, emailed, drew, or implied. Many professional organizations, including the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA), have lengthy guidelines for citing sources. However, students are often so busy trying to learn the rules of MLA format and style or APA format and style that they sometimes forget exactly what needs to be credited. Here, then, is a brief list of what needs to be credited or documented:

  • Words or ideas presented in a magazine, book, newspaper, song, TV program, movie, Web page, computer program, letter, advertisement, or any other medium
  • Information you gain through interviewing or conversing with another person, face to face, over the phone, or in writing
  • When you copy the exact words or a unique phrase
  • When you reprint any diagrams, illustrations, charts, pictures, or other visual materials
  • When you reuse or repost any electronically-available media, including images, audio, video, or other media

Bottom line, document any words, ideas, or other productions that originate somewhere outside of you.

There are, of course, certain things that do not need documentation or credit, including:

  • Writing your own lived experiences, your own observations and insights, your own thoughts, and your own conclusions about a subject
  • When you are writing up your own results obtained through lab or field experiments
  • When you use your own artwork, digital photographs, video, audio, etc.
  • When you are using "common knowledge," things like folklore, common sense observations, myths, urban legends, and historical events (but not historical documents)
  • When you are using generally-accepted facts, e.g., pollution is bad for the environment, including facts that are accepted within particular discourse communities, e.g., in the field of composition studies, "writing is a process" is a generally-accepted fact.

Is It Plagiarism Yet ? from the OWL at Purdue

Plagiarism --From the database CQ Researcher

Paraphrasing Examples

Paraphrasing Example 1.

Original Text
If the existence of a signing ape was unsettling for linguists, it was also startling news for animal behaviorists (Davis 26).

Unacceptable Borrowing of Phrases
Davis observed that the existence of a signing ape unsettled linguists and startled animal behaviorists (26).

Unacceptable Borrowing of Structure
Davis observed that if the presence of a sign-language-using chimp was disturbing for scientists studying language, it was also surprising to scientists studying animal behavior (26).

Acceptable Paraphrase
Davis observed both linguists and animal behaviorists were taken by surprise upon learning of an ape’s ability to use sign language (26).

Paraphrasing Example 2.

Original Text
The automotive industry has not shown good judgment in designing automotive features that distract drivers. A classic example is the use of a touch-sensitive screen to replace al the controls for radios, tape/CD players, and heating/cooling. Although an interesting technology, such devices require that the driver take his eyes off the road.
- Tom Magliozzi and Ray Magliozzi, Letter to a Massachusetts state senator, p.3

Unacceptable Borrowing
Radio show hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi argue that the automotive industry has not demonstrated good judgment in devising car features that distract drivers. One feature is a touch-sensitive screen that replaced controls for radios, tape/CD players, and heating/cooling. Although the technology is interesting, such devices require that a driver look away from the road (3).

Acceptable Paraphrase
Radio show hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi claim that motor vehicle manufacturers do not always design features with safety in mind. For example, when designers replaced radio, CD player, and temperature control knobs with touch-sensitive panels, they were forgetting one thing: To use the panels, drivers would need to take their eyes off the road (3).

Examples taken from, Hacker, Diana. Rules for Writers. 5th ed. Boston: Beford/St. Martin’s, 2004.

Avoid Plagiarism by Paraphrasing

From Emily Nimsakont.

A Fair(y) Use Tale (Copyright)

Parts of this page have been adapted from Johnson & Wales, The Research Process