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Plagiarism and Academic Honesty

Photo: UH Relations

Photo: UH Relations

Rules regarding academic honesty and intellectual property are different in different cultures. Acceptable ways of using other people’s ideas may be quite different where you are from than in the United States. The ELI certainly respects different ways of doing things, but at the same time, because the University of Hawai`i is an American university, we have a responsibility to follow the rules here (and so do you). Throughout the United States, what is called “academic honesty” is expected of all students, and “academic dishonesty” is not tolerated. Look at this excerpt from the 2001-2002 General and Graduate Information Catalog for the University of Hawai`i at Manoa:


The integrity of a university depends upon academic honesty, which consists of independent learning and research. Academic dishonesty includes cheating and plagiarism. . . . violations of the Student Conduct Code that may result in suspension or expulsion from the University.

2001-2002 General and Graduate Information Catalog (2001), p. 533


Throughout the university, common punishment for academic dishonesty can range from failing the assignment to failing the course up to being suspended or even expelled from the university. In many cases, an instructor or department may file an official complaint with the Dean of Students office, which may end up on the student’s permanent record.

In other words, don’t take a chance. The consequences for plagiarism are too serious.

What is Plagiarism?

The following definition of plagiarism comes from the UH-Manoa Student Conduct Code:

Plagiarism includes but is not limited to submitting, in fulfillment of an academic requirement, any work that has been copied in whole or in part from another individual’s work without attributing that borrowed portion to the individual; neglecting to identify as a quotation another’s idea and particular phrasing that was not assimilated into the student’s language and style or paraphrasing a passage so that the reader is misled as to the source; submitting the same written or oral or artistic material in more than one course without obtaining authorization from the instructors involved; or “drylabbing,” which includes obtaining and using experimental data and laboratory write-ups from other sections of a course or from previous terms.

University of Hawai`i at Manoa Student Conduct Code (1992), p. 6

It is ultimately each student’s responsibility to learn about plagiarism and how to avoid it. Ignorance of the rules, saying “I forgot about that” or “I made a mistake” are not considered valid excuses when it comes to plagiarism.

I Know What Plagiarism Is, But How Do I Avoid Plagiarizing?

The pressures of university study can make it very tempting, at times, to try downloading a paper from the internet, borrowing someone else’s work without referencing them, or turning in a paper you’ve already written or are writing for another course. If you find yourself considering something like this, contact your ELI instructor and get help with the paper. This is a much better alternative than failing a course.

All ELI writing courses include work on ways to avoid plagiarism. However, if you are not currently enrolled in an ELI writing course, here are some ideas to help you avoid plagiarism:

  1. Start your papers early! This way you won’t face a last-minute situation that can foster some nasty temptations.
  2. If you’re having trouble, talk to your instructors, either during their office hours or by separate appointment. They can help you out.
  3. Be sure to cite any words, ideas, charts, etc. which are not your own. Some useful ways to do this are by using:
    1. direct quotes, which are exact (verbatim) words, phrases, or passages you take from a source (use quotation marks and cite the author, year, and page number of the source)
    2. paraphrases, which are essential ideas and/or detailed information from a source, written in your own words (cite the author and year)
    3. summaries, which are less detailed than paraphrases, usually focusing concisely on the main idea(s) of a source and again, written in your own words (cite the author and year). If you are unsure, talk to your instructor.
    4. a reference list that includes all the sources you have used. This will help your instructor to know what different sources you have read to help in your writing, and it will also help you to remember whose ideas you are working with.
  4. Always err on the side of caution: cite your sources!


Additionally, here are a few other resources that have useful information about plagiarism and strategies that will help you to avoid it:

A Final Note

With the growing popularity of the Internet, plagiarism has become more common. A vast amount of information is available on the Net, making it tempting and easy for students to use other people’s material without proper citation. As a result, instructors and program administrators have become very good at finding plagiarized work. In addition, many schools and other organizations have invested in software to track and detect plagiarism, and there are also a number of companies that conduct plagiarism searches for teachers and schools.

So don’t do it! The chances are very high that you will be caught.