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Academic integrity is the commitment to and demonstration of honest and moral behavior in an academic setting. This is most relevant at the university level as it relates to providing credit to other people when using their ideas. In simplest terms, it requires acknowledging the contributions of other people. Failure to provide such acknowledgement is considered plagiarism.
At UNC, plagiarism is defined as “the deliberate or reckless representation of another’s words, thoughts, or ideas as one’s own without attribution in connection with submission of academic work, whether graded or otherwise.” (Instrument of Student Judicial Governance, Section II.B.1.). Because it is considered a form of cheating, the Office of the Dean of Students can punish students who plagiarize with course failure and suspension.
Often when international students and scholars plagiarize, they do not intentionally steal another person’s work. Instead, they plagiarize by accident because they do not have a complete understanding of what constitutes plagiarism. This is what we mean by “reckless”. Unfortunately, failure to give proper credit to someone else’s ideas because you didn’t know you were supposed to or because you didn’t know how to do so is considered just as bad as intentionally stealing someone else’s work. Therefore, it is your responsibility to understand when and how to acknowledge someone else’s contribution. See below for strategies.
Plagiarism can be hard to understand because what constitutes stealing someone else’s work in the US may not be considered stealing in other cultural contexts. In some domains outside of the US, it is fine to take ideas and even entire passages of text from other authors without mentioning where the information was obtained. This differs greatly from the US (and several other countries) in which all words taken from another author as well as every idea taken from another author – even if the words are changed – must be accompanied by a formal citation or acknowledgment of the original author.
Tell your professors that you’d like to make sure you’re not plagiarizing. Ask them if they’d be willing to meet with you to review your draft and to help you identify any passages that need better citation. Bring your draft, your notes, and your sources so your professor can see the original. Be proactive in this process! Point out areas you’re not sure about. Don’t wait silently, thinking that a passage must be okay if the professor doesn’t point it out. Have this conversation well before the draft is due, and explain to your professor that you are trying not to be reckless.
Make an appointment with a Writing Center tutor. Bring your draft and source materials, and show your tutor passages you’re concerned about. They’ll teach you strategies for paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting effectively, and for attributing properly.
Read the publication manual of your disciplinary citation style. Undergraduates most often use either MLA or APA style. The Libraries have copies of these manuals and citation tutorials online.
Take full advantage of the resources below.
Avoiding plagiarism and maintaining academic honesty can be learned just as any other skills, and they are essential to your success at UNC and to your work as a professional clinician, academic or researcher. Below are a list of resources to help you learn more.
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