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Academic Honesty Self-Test

To get the most out of this self-test, please read the introduction to the Pomona College Academic Honesty Policy and Procedures and review the Overview of Terms. The self-test refers to specific types of plagiarism that are defined and described in the Overview of Terms. The self-test contains several scenarios that simulate the types of dilemmas you may encounter during the course of an academic year. It should take about fifteen minutes to complete.

Navigating the Self-Test

The self-test includes a navigation bar that not only lets you know where you are in the process but also allows you to move backwards to review questions, should you want to do so.

This self-test was developed collaboratively by Colby, Bates and Bowdoin Colleges and has been adapted for Pomona College.

Question 1

Last semester you wrote an essay on Emily Dickinson for Professor Belin's "American Literature 101" course. This semester you are taking a course called "Interrogating Gender in American Culture," and Professor Arecco has assigned a paper topic that references Dickinson's life and work. It would be very easy for you to re-tool whole sections of your first essay to satisfy the requirements of the second. It is acceptable practice to re-submit this paper - without checking with either professor -- because you are writing a paper for a different professor and a different course.

Answer

Yes!

You are correct. You need to check with BOTH Professor Belin and Professor Arecco before re-submitting this paper. If you were to superficially revise this paper and submit it without prior approval from both professors, you would be committing self-plagiarism by dual submission.

Question 2

Plagiarism is not limited to taking something from a book; it also includes stealing ideas from a movie, a professor's lecture, or from an interview on a radio news program.

Answer

You are right!

Plagiarism is a form of intellectual theft, and the medium is less important than the fact that an idea - whether in the form of a musical composition or a string of computer code - has been stolen. Students can be brought before their schools’ judiciary boards for any suspected act of plagiarism, regardless of subject or medium.

Question 3

You are writing a research paper on the history of public education in the United States. You have cut and pasted a lot of information from articles you found on web sites and databases into a Word file on your computer. While writing your essay, you find yourself patching together pieces from different sources, and you have occasionally lost track of which ideas were your own and which were from various articles and websites. You consider going back to the original sources but the prospect is daunting. In any case, you figure that if your professor queries your sources, you can say that you didn't intentionally plagiarize, and this will result in a lesser punishment.

Answer

Right!

As a general rule, unintentional plagiarism is still intellectual theft and bad note-taking skills are not a mitigating circumstance when punishment is meted out. If you take notes on the computer rather than on paper, create a special folder for citation information. In fact, it would be a good idea to create a number of folders: one for your paper; another for sources, with individual files for each and every source; and another folder for the notes you take from each source. Maintain all the information for the bibliography as you go - it'll save time and effort later.

Here are some tips for avoiding unintentional plagiarism:

When taking notes, identify your source. Put quotation marks around direct quotes and double check to make sure you've duplicated every punctuation mark. Avoid using the author's language when paraphrasing or summarizing information - unless, of course, you quote verbatim from the original. Here's a tip for keeping your ideas separate from those in your sources; you can either identify each idea as your own, that is, cite yourself, or put your ideas in a different font, case, or color on the screen. Another good idea is to print out your sources whenever possible, even when you have a file-version on your computer. Working from the paper sources will allow you to check quotations for accuracy.

Question 4

Your professor has recommended a particular text as a secondary source for an assigned essay on Kant’s ideas about war and peace. You find a quotation that seems to speak directly to Kant’s idea of perpetual peace and you plug it in your essay, but it doesn’t quite relate to what goes before and you don’t know how to discuss it. You realize that you don’t really understand what the quotation means, or how you might discuss it within the larger context of your essay. You think of approaching your professor to ask for help, but decide that she will think less of you for not grasping the import of this text. Instead you find a website that discusses this very idea, and you summarize its explanation in your paper without citing it. Is this plagiarism?

Answer

Right!

You’re right! Even if it is a website, and even if you are summarizing rather than quoting or paraphrasing from the site, you are still “kidnapping” someone else’s ideas. A summary is written in your own words, but it still makes reference to another person’s intellectual property. Think of it this way: you are collaborating with the authors of your sources, working with their ideas and recasting them to come up with your own. Finally, a word of advice: always go to your professor for help. They should be your first and best resource for questions about texts or anything relating to your class.

Question 5

At many colleges and universities, students caught and found guilty of academic dishonesty are commonly suspended or expelled from school. What is the policy at Pomona?

Answer

Correct!

At Pomona, in the first instance of academic dishonesty, the instructor -- in consultation with the Dean of Students -- may handle the case and any academic penalty may be assigned, including failure of the course. In the second instance, the case is sent automatically to the Academic Discipline Board; if warranted, suspension or withdrawal may occur and will be posted to the student's permanent record.

Please review Pomona's Academic Honesty Policy and Procedures.

Instances of plagiarism and other types of academic dishonesty have been on the rise nationally in recent years. It has become common practice to suspend or expel students found guilty of such actions.

Question 6

You are studying with a classmate from your American History course. Your assignment: to read Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia and explain Jefferson’s attitudes toward slavery in a 3-5 page essay. Your friend asks you to give her some feedback on the first draft of her essay. You read:

Jefferson says that slavery is a threat to the political liberties of the nation because slavery is unjust. It undermines the notion that liberties are the gift of God. He worries that God’s justice may one day lead to a revolution in the wheel of fortune. “The commerce between slave and master is an exercise of the worst passions” (Jefferson, 288-9).

Something about this paragraph strikes you as familiar. You take out the Notes and find the following passage in Jefferson’s own words:

There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it. . . . The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose to the worst of passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances. . . . Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? . . . I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest. (From Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia [Boston, 1829; reprint ed., New York: Library of America, 1984], 288-89.)

Which option best characterizes this note?

Answer

Right!

Your friend is committing mosaic plagiarism.

Jefferson says that slavery is a threat to the political liberties of the nation because slavery is unjust. It undermines the notion that liberties are the gift of God. He worries that God's justice may one day lead to a revolution in the wheel of fortune. "The commerce between slave and master is an exercise of the worst passions" (Jefferson, 288-89)

While she cites Jefferson in the last sentence, there are several original phrases from Jefferson that your roommate has failed to put in quotations, leading one to think that they are your roommate's words. The omission of quotation marks could lead your roommate to claim the idea as her own without intending to do so.

A better option would be:

Jefferson connects domestic life with public politics. He asks, "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?" Jefferson also fears divine justice for enslavement of Africans: "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever" (289). Maybe the safest route is to simply abolish slavery?

In this version of the paragraph, all of Jefferson's ideas are clearly cited, including quoted passages. (Note that, since both quotations come from the same page of Jefferson’s book, and they follow sequentially, it is okay to have only one page reference.) It is clear that your friend has come to her own conclusion ("Maybe the safest route is to abolish slavery?") from Jefferson's previous ideas.

Question 7

You have now completed your first draft of the assignment and you ask your friend to read it and give you some feedback. She has a few questions about a section in which you deal with the same passage she quoted from the Notes. Your paragraph reads:

Jefferson believed that the relationship between master and slave had an unhappy impact on the manners of Americans. It led to violent passions and great despotism. 'Our children see this, and learn to imitate it,' he said. Could the liberties of the nation be secured when the people no longer thought that they were a gift from god? Ultimately, Jefferson feared some shift in fate that would make masters pay for enslaving Africans. He wrote, 'I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.'2

2 Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (Boston, 1829; reprint ed., New York: Library of America, 1984).

Original Passage:

"There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it. . . . The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives a loose to the worst of passions, and thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities. The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances. . . . Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? . . . I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest."

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (Boston, 1829; reprint ed., New York: Library of America, 1984), 288-89.

You decide that this passage:

Answer

Yes!

You have improperly paraphrased from the original and you have used synonyms for Jefferson’s actual words.

Jefferson believed that the relationship between master and slave had an unhappy impact on the manners of Americans. It led to violent passions and great despotism. 'Our children see this, and learn to imitate it,' he said. Could the liberties of the nation be secured when the people no longer thought that they were a gift from god? Ultimately, Jefferson feared some shift in fate that would make masters pay for enslaving Africans. He wrote, 'I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.'

Your friend also points out that you used single rather than double quotes for the verbatim passage, and that you have neglected to provide page numbers for the whole. You revise the paragraph to read as follows:

Jefferson's concern with slavery united family practices with public politics. He believed that domestic habits had an important impact on national policy. Jefferson feared that slavery corrupted the slave owner, encouraging the misuse of power – the opposite of the kind of political liberty he advocated for American citizens. The master-slave relationship was for him "an exercise of the most boisterous passions," in which the children of white masters were “daily exercised in tyranny" (288). Jefferson cared most about the bad influence of slavery on the masters, rather than about the enslaved themselves. Indeed, it seems that his greatest fear was that God might one day reverse their roles. "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just," Jefferson wrote. He feared "a revolution of the wheel of fortune" which might place Africans in the position of superiors over Europeans (289). The safest course for whites, then, was to bring about an end to slavery.

Question 8

You and your lab partner in Chemistry 101 have been asked by your professor to write up the results of your experiments. You soon realize that the results of your experiment are different from the rest of the class. Your partner would like to write a lab report reporting what you actually observed, but having spoken to other students in the class and decided that they must be right and you and your partner are wrong, you want to write a report that fabricates your observations so that they are “correct.” Would this be an instance of academic dishonesty?

Answer

Yes!

Fabricating data and falsifying the results of an experiment are another form of plagiarism. Your report should be true to the results you observed. If you have questions about these results, talk with your lab instructor or your chemistry professor. If you and your partner disagree about the results, write your own report.

Question 9

In the lab for your course on Chaos Theory, you are asked to do an experiment about fractals. While you and your lab partner are describing the experiment and your data to your roommate, she helps you come up with a formula that allows you to make a graph of the perimeters of linear fractals. In writing up the lab report, do you need to acknowledge her contribution?

Answer

Correct!

You need to cite your roommate’s contribution in your Literature Cited section as a private communication. The lab was the collaborative work of you and your lab partner, both of whose contributions are indicated on the report itself. But any additional assistance should be properly cited – including when, as in this case, it is supplying you with an idea or tool.

Many faculty have policies concerning collaborative work and how best to acknowledge people’s formal and informal contributions. Be sure to ask your professors when questions come up.

Question 10

You are writing a paper about Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony for a course about the arts during the Napoleonic Era. You want to include a musical example in your paper –- a section from the first movement of that symphony -- but you do not know how to cite the musical example, or whether it is permissible to use it. You decide to:

Answer

Correct!

You should label this musical illustration “Example” and list the composer, title, and selection. Give the source of the example immediately below it.

If you don't know which citation quide to select, see Hacker and Fister's Research and Documentation Online or Hacker and Sommers' Pocket Style Manual for suggestions.

Question 11

You are writing a biology report and you have included information that you read in your biology textbook. You aren’t sure if this information can be considered common knowledge, or whether you need to cite it. You:

Answer

Correct!

You should cite the textbook regardless of whether or not you quote from it directly. While it is not necessary to give citations for certain well-known equations, it is important to acknowledge your debt for any information you did not come up with independently.

For a more extensive explanation of common knowledge, see: Common Knowledge.

For more information on citation practices in the sciences, see Hacker and Fister’s Guide to Research and Documentation.

Question 12

You decide to take an introductory anthropology class. You are instructed to write a short essay on a traditional English pastime (such as cricket, polo, or fox hunting). You have never done direct quotations using the APA style before, so you ask a classmate for help. She says that you must have the author, date, and page number together in parentheses directly after the quotation, and gives you an example from her own paper:

Wheeler stated that "polo was considered important to army tradition and recreation," (Wheeler, 1998, p 57), but he did not clarify exactly how polo became a part of army life.

Just to make sure this is right, you call your brother who is a junior in college and see what he has to say. Interestingly, his advice is different. Your brother suggests rephrasing your classmate's example like so:

Wheeler (1998) said that "polo was considered important to army tradition and recreation," (p 57) without explaining exactly how polo became a part of army life.

You are now thoroughly confused, and stressed out because your paper is due soon and you have lots of other work to do as well.

Where do you go for help?

Answer

Yes!

Any of these choices are appropriate ways to find accurate information on citing in accordance with APA style:

“Quotations of less than 40 words should be incorporated in the text and enclosed with double quotation marks. Using the ‘author-date method’ of citation, the quotation is followed with a reference to the author, the publication year, and the page number. These elements must be enclosed in parentheses, together or separately. A complete reference must appear in the reference list at the end of your paper” (APA Publication Manual, § 3.34)

Thank you for taking the time to complete this self-test. Remember that your best resource for course - or discipline - specific questions are your professors. The Writing Fellows can also help you integrate sources into your papers responsibly and in ways that help you develop your own ideas and arguement.