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Washington State University Graduate School
 

PLAGIARISM and why it matters

An overview of the issue

Integrity is a core value at Washington State University as spelled out clearly in its strategic plan. In opposition to that core value, plagiarism is a growing and serious problem that reflects academic dishonesty and unethical writing practices. Graduate students are uniquely faced with the issues of potential plagiarism both in their scholarly writing and in their work as teaching assistants. Dictionary.com defines plagiarism as: “An act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author.” To understand the problem better, in 2002 Washington State University created a group of WSU employees from a wide range of campus organizations to create an effective website that would provide a comprehensive overview and educate the WSU community about the policies and procedures regarding plagiarism. The website, hosted by the WSU library, covers these topics:

Academic integrity at WSU

Academic integrity issues at WSU are handled by the Office of Student Conduct, which clearly spells out the standards of conduct for students as regulated by the Washington State Legislature. Under section 504-26-010 of the policy, plagiarism is defined and addressed as an act of cheating.  The Academic Integrity Guide for faculty addresses a number of issues, including plagiarism, and provides clear instruction on how to address the issue in a course syllabus, how to report offenses, and a sample letter to a student who has plagiarized. The Guide also includes information on the appeals process, the student, faculty, and staff rights and responsibilities, documentation, and consultation. The Division of Student Affairs also provides information on academic integrity, with links to tutorials and off-campus resources to assist in your understanding and avoidance of plagiarism. WSU provides an online Incident Reporting Form for reporting a number of campus violations, including plagiarism.

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Tools for checking plagiarism

iThenticate is a software tool created by graduate student instructors at Berkely to help verify the originality of scholarly writing by using text-searching algorithims against an extensive database of published scholarly writing. This powerful tool is used by federal granting agencies such as DOE, NSF, and NIH to check for proper attribution, and has been licensed by WSU. It is available free to WSU faculty and graduate students to help them more efficiently achieve the highest standard of academic integrity in their proposals, theses, dissertations, and research publications. A second software program for promoting academic integrity that is available at WSU is SafeAssign. Faculty are encouraged to utilize SafeAssign, the tool within Blackboard that can prevent plagiarism and help teach students how to attribute sources. For more information on academic integrity and the tools available, visit academicintegrity.wsu.edu or visit teach.wsu.edu. If you have questions about academic integrity, email academicintegrity@wsu.edu. For questions regarding SafeAssign, please email to provost.social@wsu.edu.

Research on plagiarism

Professor Miguel Roig of St. John’s University in New York has carried out research with his students in the area of academic dishonesty with an emphasis on student plagiarism. He has published a number of scholarly papers on his research on his website, including this one on plagiarism. View his publications page for more of his research on plagiarism.