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Academic Integrity & Plagiarism

Integrity and the Scholarly Process

Researchers must be able to trust the accuracy and truthfulness of one another's work.  The University of Charleston takes seriously any violations of academic integrity by students, faculty, or staff. The Student Handbook outlines consequences for violations of academic integrity, including expulsion from the University.

Academic integrity involves doing your own work, reporting that work accurately, giving others credit for the work they have done, and never deliberately impeding someone else’s research. As well, it requires respect for copyright and other intellectual property laws. Listed below are some examples of behavior that violates standards of academic integrity.


Plagiarism is copying someone else’s ideas or the way they explain those ideas and presenting the work as your own. The source of ideas used in your research reports, term papers, presentations or projects must always be attributed to the original author(s).  Check with your instructor or a librarian for help citing sources correctly.

  • Word-for word plagiarism is the exact or nearly exact copying of someone else’s work. Minor changes in wording or word order while using the same words and sentence structure does not free you from charges of plagiarism.
  • Lifting is copying what you think is the perfect phrase or expression from someone else’s work and pasting it into your own paper. Most lifting involves descriptive phrases, which are often very recognizable to people familiar with the original author's work. The way particular ideas are expressed is as much the property of the original author as the idea itself.  Be careful when you are paraphrasing or summarizing to use your own words and sentence structure, and remember to cite the source of the idea.
  • Patchwork, sometimes called Quilting, is akin to lifting. Perfect words or phrases are lifted from works of several authors and pasted together to construct a sentence, paragraph, or whole paper. This technique is often innocently learned when writing elementary school reports.

Claiming Credit for Work You Have Not Done

  • Quoting a quote without citing the source. If Ms. X quotes Mr. Y in her work, you may write "Ms. X quotes Mr. Y as saying such and such." You cannot quote Mr. Y directly, or cite the work from which Ms. X took the quote. You did not hear him say the words, or read the words as written by him. Ms. X did the work of finding the quotation or of interviewing Mr. Y, and thus deserves the credit. In addition, she might have misquoted Mr. Y, or may even have made up the entire quote. The problem can be avoided by using primary sources instead of secondary sources for your research.
  • Citing a work you have not read. Like the practice of quoting a quote, citing a work you have not read implies you have done work that in fact, you have not. Padding a bibliography in this manner can also lead to embarrassment when an instructor asks you to discuss the works cited more fully.
  • Fabricating or falsely reporting data. Experimental data must be carefully recorded and faithfully reported. Altering data to "make it fit" your hypothesis, or fabricating data because you failed to perform the experiment or conduct the survey, is an extremely serious violation of academic integrity, and fatal to the scholarly process.
  • Fabricating quotations, persons, or situations. If you create a "composite" person or situation to illustrate a point in a paper, that fact must be clearly stated in the paper. Fabricating a quotation from a non-existent person is a violation of academic integrity. If the person you are "quoting" is real, your actions may have further legal implications. In any case, once again you are implying that you have interviewed people or researched situations when in fact you have not.

Copyright Violations

Copyright protects the work produced by writers, artists, composers, performers, and others who create works from their own imagination, giving them the sole "right" to "copy" (or perform) the work.

If you are not sure whether or not a work is copyrighted, check with your instructor or a librarian for advice. Be aware, however, that material is more likely to be covered by copyright than not. Most information on the Internet is copyrighted, and can be used only with the permission of the author. Some trouble areas to avoid are:

  • Photocopying music. Making multiple copies of a piece of music for the use of a class or a band is against the law. Even if you bought one copy, the others are illegal. Even making a copy for an accompanist is not allowed. Multiple copies must be purchased.
  • Copying records, tapes, videos, or CDs. These copies are illegal.
  • Copying software, unless it is an archival copy of software you purchased.
  • Downloading images or other material from the Internet and using them in your schoolwork, unless the web site clearly states that such use is permitted.

Other Violations of Academic Integrity

  • Turning in work of any kind done by someone else, with or without his or her permission, as if it were your own.  This includes using purchased or downloaded term papers.
  • Mutilating, destroying, or preventing access in any manner to library or other materials needed by others for their academic work.
  • Intentionally altering software programs on public computers or damaging the machines themselves.  Actions that seem harmless to you may have unintended consequences.
  • Interfering in any way with the access of others to campus computers or the campus network.

Maintain high standards of academic integrity. Do your own work, credit others for their work, report data truthfully, and follow copyright laws.

This document may be freely copied as long as this notice is included.

Donna Lewis Copyright July 2, 1998
Director, Library Services
University of Charleston