Academic Integrity @Puget Sound

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Common Knowledge Standard

When a person who is completely familiar with a field writes a review paper, the author knows which information is considered the common knowledge of the field, and no sources are given for statements of that kind. If, for example, the reviewer wished to state that in the United States women have a higher life expectancy than men, no source would be given because that is common knowledge. However, if the reviewer says that the difference in life expectancies as reported in 1983 was 8.2 years, a source would be given because that is specific information, not known by everyone, and the reader might very well want to know the source so that the statement could be verified. This case illustrated the general practice of deciding when citations should be given: no sources are given for common knowledge, but sources are given for statements which are not commonly known, statements about which there may be disagreement, or for opinions that are clearly those of a particular author. To continue the example, if one of the papers being reviewed attributes the difference in life expectancies of men and women to the greater incidence of smoking among men, the author should be given credit for the statement and its source should be stated.

One of the problems students face when they are writing review papers in fields where they are not expert is deciding which information comes under the heading of common knowledge. In cases of uncertainty, two suggestions may be helpful:

  1. if many papers being used make similar assertions without giving sources, the information probably is common knowledge;
  2. in cases of doubt, it is better to give too many references than too few.

Standard of Originality

Sometimes it is said that when one writes a paper, one should give credit for every idea that is not original to oneself. Taken literally, this is clearly nonsense, for most of us can claim few ideas that are entirely original. If, for instance, one says that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, it is not necessary to give a reference to the source, even though that is not an idea original with the author. Similarly, if one says that the sum of the squares of the sides of a right triangle equals the square of the hypotenuse, it is unnecessary to give a reference to Euclid. However, some kinds of statements do require a reference to the source, and we shall try to explain how one decides when such references are required.

There is one rule for which there are no exceptions: when the exact words of another author are used, that fact must be appropriately noted and a reference must be given to the source of the quotation. Quotation marks or indentation are the usual way of indicating that someone else's words are being used.

Papers which students write, like papers published in scholarly journals, can be divided into those which present the author's own ideas and those which review a body of literature. For example, if a student writes a paper arguing the thesis that in Milton's Paradise Lost, Satan is an admirable character, that argument might make use of ideas that are almost entirely original. Of course, if quotations from the poem are used, they should be properly noted, and if some of the ideas come from other persons (either from printed material or in conversation), credit should be given for those ideas. When no credit is given to another, it assumed that the ideas are those of the author; claiming credit for ideas which have been borrowed is dishonest. If a student in an astronomy course writes a paper on Black Holes, however, few if any of the ideas will be original, and the paper will be much more nearly a literature review. The author of a review may very well contribute no original ideas, but he or she is responsible for bringing together information from several sources, showing areas of agreement and disagreement, and summarizing in one place what many authors have said.

Citation Tools

Listed below is a link to various citation guides and resources. Each discipline has a preferred style of formatting citations. Ask your instructor which style he or she prefers.

Citation Tools


Violations of academic integrity take many forms, including data falsification, lying to university officials, working with other students on projects or papers that are assigned as individual efforts, and using the same paper for more than one course.

This web guide focuses on one narrow aspect of academic integrity, namely plagiarism.  It  is intended to help students understand the customs of academic life relating to plagiarism and to help students use quotation and paraphrasing both effectively and honestly. There are five sections:

  • Intellectual Ownership
  • Common Knowledge Standard
  • Standard of Originality
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Style Guides

By clicking on the tabs above, students can go through a series of exercises to test their knowledge.


Intellectual Ownership

The academic world considers ideas and particular ways of expressing ideas to be of such great importance that presenting the ideas of another as if they were one's own, or using the using the words of another author without giving credit to that person, is considered serious academic misconduct, usually treated under the title plagiarism. With the proliferation of electronic resources, it has become easier to plagiarize by cutting and pasting the work of others.

To avoid representing the ideas, facts, or phrasing of others as your own, you must learn to recognize plagiarism. It is common for beginning researchers to plagiarize without even knowing it. The result can be devastating: if you plagiarize, whether intentionally or not, not only will you jeopardize your performance in the class and risk failing and even expulsion, but, more importantly, you will also unwittingly undermine the mutual trust upon which educational institutions rest.

Recognizing Plagiarism

You would be plagiarizing in any of the following three basic instances:

  1. If you fail to enclose quoted material within quotation marks.
  2. If you do not cite the source of a direct quotation in the text of the paper and/or on the Works Cited or Reference page, or if you do not identify the correct source of a quotation.
  3. If you include paraphrased or summarized information (that is not "common knowledge") but do not properly acknowledge its source within parentheses and in the Works Cited list.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Excerpts from The Academic Handbook on  Academic Integrity about avoiding plagiarism

  • Misrepresenting one’s own work, which includes submitting the same paper or computer program for credit in more than one course without the prior permission of the instructors for all of the courses; and misrepresenting of one’s attendance in class or at events required of students enrolled in a course (e.g., visiting museums, attending films or concerts, etc.).
  • Inappropriate collaboration with other students on course work, which includes working together on projects designed to be independent work; copying another student’s work; and seeking or providing oral or written assistance that would give the recipient an advantage over other students in an exam or quiz or other course exercise.
  • Violation of honesty in research, which includes falsifying or inventing sources, data, results or evidence; hiding, destroying, or refusing to return sources in order to prevent others from using them; and marking, cutting, or defacing library materials.
  • Violation of copyright laws - Review the University's Copyright Policy for more information.

 Source: Academic Handbook

Note: If you copy ANY work of others and submit it as your own work, you are plagiarizing. Examples of works include journal articles, websites, online file sharing communities, paper mills, Wikipedia articles, Google books, etc.

In addition, anyone who posts faculty created course content (including syllabi, exams, exercises, etc.) to online file sharing communties without express permission from the faculty may be liable for copyright and intellectual property infringement.


Setting Authorship

EdTech has created a document about changing authorship settings in Word and other Office sotware. It explains what authorship settings are used for along with two brief videos.

Last Update: 18 Oct 09:11 | Tagged with: academic honesty plagiarism