Thursday, July 21, 2016

Plagiarism, part 2

I became involved in a discussion of plagiarism two days ago ( when news broke about the unquestionable recycling of several sentences from a 2008 speech by Michelle Obama in a recent speech by Melania Trump. The news sparked memories of the many times I've worked with students who deliberately or ignorantly (maybe I should say "confusedly") violated accepted standards of integrity by plagiarizing some of the content in their papers.

In all of this I in no way intended to attack Melania Trump. I saw her as a victim in the scandal--though it turns out she may have more of a hand in writing her speech than I had assumed, but still with innocent intent. (See "Melania and the speech writer" below for more on this.)

I assumed that there would be reaction to my blog post. I posted a link on Facebook and was hoping for some reaction, since many of my posts get very little response. So I was pleased when I saw comments.

But I was surprised at the degree to which some comments were partisan, several of them echoing Fox News or online sources that viewed the controversy as a way of scoring political points, not of seeking for clarity and integrity on the important matter of how words are used in public discourse.

Many of the public responses listed instances of plagiarism by figures "on the other side" to show that the "accusers" were as guilty as the "accused." (I question the words "accuser" and "accused" because most reports I saw focused simply on the facts of the case, that is, the clear evidence that several sentences in Melania's speech were lifted from Michelle's. Those who were seeking for someone to blame focused on the then unknown speechwriter--even wondering if this were deliberate sabotage--or on the campaign for not vetting the speech more carefully. Melania was generally treated with sympathy.)

Some public responses, including from the Trump campaign, excused the plagiarism as insignificant because similar phrases can be found in My Little Pony or popular songs or because "Michelle Obama didn't invent the English language." (If this last rationale is taken seriously, then no one is ever guilty of plagiarism, at least as long as they use words found in the dictionary. On this view, we might as well throw the whole concept out of the window.) Others, including the Trump campaign chair, claimed that no plagiarism had taken place--that the offending sentences were not taken from Michelle Obama's 2008 speech, that any perceived similarities were an illusion. That, I can affirm with absolute confidence, is simply a denial of reality. It is like saying that the sun is black or that water is dry. [See footnote 1 below.] Such a claim represents a serious offense against either sanity or the moral responsibility to speak truly.

These attempts to rationalize or deny the obvious dragged the controversy out longer then necessary and I suspect subjected Melania and the speech writer (who has now revealed her identity) to extended pain.

I honestly had assumed the campaign would apologize for the mistake (or misdeed) within a few hours at most and that everyone could move on. Instead they created two days of unnecessary turmoil by trying to move on without an admission of error. I think there's a lesson here for all of us.

So what after all does count as plagiarism?

Back to the question of plagiarism. What bothered me most in all of this was that the various denials and rationalizations promoted twisted and confused ideas about what constitutes plagiarism. No, plagiarism does not consist in using an occasional common phrase, like "live your dream" or "your word is your bond" or "work hard." Nor does the appearance of such phrases in a clear case of plagiarism somehow mean that it is no longer a case of plagiarism.

Plagiarism consists either in using very distinctive phrasing (so distinctive that it is clearly associated with a particular source) without giving credit or in using whole sentences that have been taken from a source that is not credited. Even when the words and ideas are common, if someone has put them together in a certain order, especially in a passage that is several sentences in length, simply copying those sentences (even after making a few changes) is considered plagiarism if the source is not credited or if the words being quoted are not put in quotation marks. The odds against such copying being merely coincidental are global if not astronomical.

The many counter instances of supposed plagiarism that were offered during the two days of controversy include a range of cases from genuine plagiarism to completely acceptable practice. It's unfortunate that the distinctions among these cases were blurred because of the partisan passions or propaganda involved in presenting them.

Here are some cases that people brought up:

Joe Biden: The plagiarism of which he was guilty was revealed some 20 years ago and led him to drop out of a presidential race. Yes, what he did was plagiarism, and he acknowledged it.

Michelle Obama: Some have pointed out that Elizabeth Dole and Laura Bush also talked about hard work and integrity. Sorry, talking about the same topics and even using some of the same words does not constitute plagiarism. Someone also pointed out that, in a particular speech, Michelle Obama had used the words "military families," "love," and "an empty seat at the table," just as Laura Bush had (more or less). Sorry, that doesn't count either. The only distinctive phrase in the two passages is "an empty seat at the table," something commonly used when talking about military families--or any family with an absent member. Everything else in the two passages is worded very differently. Even if the echoing were deliberate, it would not be considered plagiarism.

More seriously, some have accused Michelle Obama of quoting from Saul Alinsky without giving credit. This is a more complicated but instructive case, partly because Michelle was quoting her husband (she put the phrases in question in quotation marks) and partly because Barack's use of the phrases probably derives from his work with community organizing and with the Black community, both places where the phrases are common.

What are the phrases? "The world as it is" and "the world as it should be." It's not exactly as if these aren't phrases that could occur to thousands--even hundreds of thousands--of people independently. The phrases are widely used, as Internet searches show. The fact that the phrases are widely used by community organizers and other activists is not surprising, given that their aim is to change things as they are. And it's possible that Saul Alinsky had something to do with the popularity of these phrases among such activists.

What's interesting, though, is that most people use these phrases to make a very different point than Alinsky was making. He was arguing basically that we need to deal with "the world as it is" and not with our fantasy of what we would like it to be ("The standards of judgment must be rooted in the whys and wherefores of life as it is lived, the world as it is, not our wished-for fantasy of the world as it should be"). The Obamas, by contrast, have used the phrases to encourage positive change. What Michelle said was: "And Barack stood up that day, and he spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about ‘the world as it is‘ and ‘the world as it should be.’" She was probably thinking of something similar to the idea expressed in a famous quotation from Robert F. Kennedy: "Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not."

The reason some media outlets have been so eager to say that Michelle or Barack Obama were quoting Saul Alinsky is that Alinsky was a radical and in particular the kind of hard-nosed (and somewhat snarky and cynical) secular radical that some would like to believe the Obamas are, but that they are not. Besides using the phrases to make a point that is almost the opposite of Alinsky's, the Obamas' tone is much more positive and hopeful. And their point--even with some of the same wording--has been made by many others, including those speaking from a definitely religious viewpoint. In fact, I've found similar wording in Latter-day Saint publications. For details you'll need to check footnote 2 below.

To put this matter in a nutshell, Michelle Obama's use of the phrases "the world as it is" and "the world as it should be" is definitely NOT a case of plagiarism. Nor is it an indication of her malign intentions to turn America into a Soviet state.

Donald Trump, Jr.: This is another interesting case that probably passes fairly easily the bar of ethical acceptability. Someone (again probably with partisan motivations) discovered that part of the speech by Donald Trump, Jr. at the 2016 Republican Convention was copied very closely from an article by F. H. Buckley. Buckley wrote: "Our schools and universities are like the old Soviet department stores whose mission was to serve the interests of the sales clerks and not the customers." Donald Jr. said: "Our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class. Now . . . They're like Soviet-Era Department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers." (By the way, as a university teacher I have a problem with the idea of viewing myself as a sales clerk and students as customers to whom I am selling "stuff.")

The main reason this doesn't count as plagiarism is that Buckley helped write Donald's speech. In other words, Buckley was using his own previously published ideas and words (somewhat modified) in a speech he was working on for someone else. I think most people would see that as quite acceptable. There are cases when repeating something one has published elsewhere can get sticky and maybe inappropriate, especially if done at length--but it would have to be at much greater length than in Donald Jr.'s speech.

Barack Obama: This is another middling case--a case where Obama used the words and ideas of a friend, a friend who did not object to his using them, who in fact defended Obama's use of them. The difference from Donald Jr., though, is that Obama apparently didn't check in advance with his friend. And he could have saved himself a lot of grief if he had simply said, "As my friend Deval Patrick might put it, . . ."

Apparently what happened is that Obama went off script during a 2008 speech in Milwaukee, ad-libbing comments that were not in his prepared text and that clearly echoed ideas and phrasing he was familiar with from Deval Patrick. Obama said: “Don’t tell me words don’t matter! ‘I have a dream.’ Just words. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Just words! ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ Just words — just speeches!”

In an earlier speech, Patrick, while running for governor of Massachusetts, had said: “But [my opponent's] dismissive point . . . is that all I have to offer is words — just words. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Just words – just words! ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ Just words! ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ Just words! ‘I have a dream.’ Just words!”

Discovering the similarities, Hillary Clinton's campaign accused Obama of plagiarism. And he was in fact echoing Patrick's words and ideas and should have given him credit.

I think it's good to hold public figures accountable on such matters, if only to maintain standards in our use of words. Clearly some cases are more serious than others, and some of what people have called "plagiarism" is definitely not plagiarism. It's also important to not let such false or exaggerated accusations pass unanswered for the same reason: to maintain clarity about what those accepted standards are.

Melania and the speech writer

As of midday yesterday, the Trump campaign has released a statement by the speech writer who worked with Melania Trump apologizing for the unacknowledged borrowing of passages from Michelle Obama. That clear (and contrite) confession brings a stream of fresh air to the situation, ending the denials and rationalizing.

One thing we learn is that the plagiarism resulted from carelessness or clumsiness--lack of careful review and communication, which is often what happens in cases of unintentional plagiarism. A couple of professional political speech writers had prepared a speech for Melania which was largely discarded, though parts were used. Meredith McIver, an "in-house staff writer for the Trump Organization" who helped Trump write some of his books, took over to help Melania craft her speech. McIver says:
In working with Melania Trump on her recent First Lady speech, we discussed many people who inspired her and messages she wanted to share with the American people. A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama. Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples. I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech. I did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches. This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant.
So Melania read Michelle Obama's words to McIver over the phone; McIver wrote them down and then at some point either forgot their source or assumed they were not directly quoted and then inserted them into a draft of the speech. Melania Trump either forgot that the words were a direct quotation (which she had supplied to McIver) or was not aware of the problems that would be caused by using the quotation without crediting the source.

McIver apologized for not checking the language more carefully and even offered to resign (an offer that was rejected). In any case, the error was an innocent one in the sense that no one appears to have intended to deceive or wrongfully appropriate the words.

One thing that touches me in this story is Melania's admiration for Michelle Obama. She has many reasons to feel a connection to Mrs. Obama's personal story and many reasons to admire her ideals and her character. I am happy that Melania Trump has not fallen for (what I think there is good reason to call the genuinely evil) hatred of the Obamas that some in the country feel.

Melania's attitude points to the possibility of a much different public spirit than we have seen in recent years--one that would allow people to disagree and argue but still feel and express sympathy, gratitude, and respect for each other. Melania's attitude reminds me that most Americans have much more in common than they may realize, that the spirit of enmity (besides being evil) is based on illusions, illusions that are promoted by a relatively small group of people who thrive on drama and contention or who are caught up in an almost blood-thirsty craving for victory at any cost.

Which in turn reminds me of one of my favorite passages from Lincoln's first inaugural address: 
 We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. 
Is it too much to hope for that we can do better at living up to Lincoln's words? I don't think so. And you can quoted me on that.


Footnote 1: I've borrowed the images of a black sun and dry water from C. S. Lewis's book The Last Battle, though he uses them to make a somewhat different point.

Footnote 2: Passages resembling "the world as it is" and "the world as it should be" in LDS publications:

(a) In a speech in October 1971, John H. Vandenberg said: "In accepting life, we must relate to the world as it is—to the struggle between good and evil." The main thrust of his speech, though, was to "turn our eyes heavenward" and not be discouraged in dealing with the world as it is. (See

(b) A February 1971 article quotes Hari N. Dam, who summarizes one of the attitudes of Hinduism and its contrast with the Western approach as follows: "We accept the world as it is; you try to change it according to your blueprint." (See

(c) A June 1993 article by Joseph Walker on the distortions found in movies and TV presents wording very close to the Obamas' but with "life" instead of "world":
The thirteenth Article of Faith encourages us to seek out that which is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.” Such things may not always represent “life as it is.” But they certainly represent life as it should be. 
(d) The most interesting example is in an article by Neal A. Maxwell, a beloved leader and brilliant thinker. In "Spiritual Ecology," published in February 1975 (, he wrote:
The rising generation within the Church become “idealists without illusions,” prepared to cope with the world as it is, prepared to bring the message of the Master to bear on the world’s problems, with the inner confidence that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer to human problems, able to say this (not condescendingly or with false pride) but humbly and with a sense of certitude born of their own experience. 
His point is a somewhat like Alinsky's but more positive and certainly more spiritually grounded: we must deal with "the world as it is" (compare Alinsky's "The standards of judgment must be rooted in . . . the world as it is, not our wished-for fantasy of the world as it should be") but we must also have confidence that we can solve the world's problems--in effect, bring it closer to the way it "should be."

Notice that this passage from Elder Maxwell includes a quoted phrase: "idealists without illusions." He doesn't credit the phrase's source, probably because it was at this time a phrase in wide circulation. But it probably would have been wise (perhaps in a footnote) to credit John F. Kennedy, to whom the phrase is generally attributed. These sorts of phrases that get picked up and quoted by lots of people constitute a bit of a gray area. People tend to assume either that everyone knows who the source is or that the phrase has become so common as to enter into the public domain. But 40 years later, we may no longer recognize the source of the phrase, and it may no longer be so commonly used.

By the way, it's also interesting that many of these uses of "the world as it is" date from the 1970s. Saul Alinsky published his Rules for Radicals in 1971--which suggests either that he suddenly made the phrases "the world as it is" and "the world as it should be" popular or that these phrases were already in wide circulation. I think the latter is more likely.

For one thing, I doubt that LDS Church leaders were reading Alinsky, though Elder Maxwell may have been part of circles where such ideas were discussed. My guess is that the phrases became popular as a result of the idealism of the 1960s. I suspect that if someone searched carefully enough, they would find examples of this pairing of phrases during the decade preceding the publication of Alinsky's book.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What counts as plagiarism?

As a teacher at Brigham Young University--and as the English Department ombudsman, tasked with helping resolve conflicts between students and teachers--I've had many dealings with plagiarism. Students fall into plagiarism in a number of ways--because they genuinely don't understand the concept or, more often, because of laziness or out of desperation. In the old days, when students typed their papers, I could sometimes catch plagiarism because I recognized the content or because the style of a paper differed so much from a student's usual style--or from anything I would normally encounter in an undergraduate's authentic writing. Now we have programs to catch plagiarism--though it still requires judgment to determine what counts as plagiarism. A short phrase here and there could be a matter of coincidence or common phrasing. But a whole passage--with most of the words, or clumsy synonyms for the words, being the same, in the same order--clearly counts as plagiarism. It defies credibility that such clear copying and pasting, even with minor modifications, could be accidental.

Most students I've known have confessed to plagiarism when confronted. We've managed to turn the wrongdoing into a learning experience, not only about the technicalities of plagiarism but about the deeper question of integrity. And some students have found the experience cathartic and helpful in moving forward with a more clearly defined sense of personal responsibility and a determination to be as completely honest as they could be.

The hardest and saddest cases I've dealt with have been when a student denies plagiarism even when faced with obvious evidence. Some have apparently felt they could avoid consequences by maintaining a denial to the bitter end. I've worked with a few who suffered from what seemed to me serious pathologies.

One young woman claimed that the long passages she had plagiarized came from her "photographic memory" of passages she had read online and then forgotten she had seen there. These passages then, she argued, worked their way spontaneously into her writing with the exact wording AND punctuation of the original. I told her that if she really had that remarkable ability, it would be newsworthy and ought to be better known and even studied. But I had no evidence from her other work in the class that she really had such an ability--and that, coupled with learning she had faced accusations of plagiarism in previous classes, led me to plead with her to make a clean break with past patterns and to deal with the current situation honestly. When she still refused to admit any wrongdoing, I pleaded with her to consider the consequences for her character, even her soul. Because of the religious affiliation of the university where I teach, I tried to appeal to her sense of her eternal identity and possibilities. Nothing I said appeared to persuade her.

The Honor Code at Brigham Young University includes the following: "BYU students should seek to be totally honest in their dealings with others. They should complete their own work and be evaluated based upon that work. They should avoid academic dishonesty and misconduct in all its forms, including but not limited to plagiarism, fabrication or falsification, cheating, and other academic misconduct." (See the Appendix at the end of this article for BYU's complete "Academic Honesty Policy.")

Such standards are not limited to religiously affiliated universities. All universities--and I think it's fair to say, all institutions of learning in the United States--have essentially the same expectation: that students present as their work only work they have actually done. And that includes presenting as their own writing only what they have written (not just copied and pasted from elsewhere) and giving credit for words and significant ideas they have borrowed from elsewhere, with quoted words in quotation marks.

One of the things we especially warn students against is "half-baked paraphrase," where a source is quoted but with occasional substitution of similar words and minor omissions or additions. This is considered a very bad practice, even when credit is given to the source. Why? For one thing, the source is not accurately quoted (so the "paraphrase" should not be put in quotation marks) but the same material is presented, at essentially the same length, with modifications that either maintain or diminish the quality of the original. (In other words, it would make more sense to quote the original rather than make a few "half-baked" modifications.) Worst of all, because "half-baked paraphrase" is not put in quotation marks, it is presented deceptively as the student's own language when it is mostly echoing the source. The point is that genuine paraphrase needs to represent a more thorough digesting and recasting of the original--and usually that means the paraphrase will be much shorter than the original. (And the source still needs to be credited.)

Though cultural standards vary somewhat, the expectation that writing submitted as one's own actually be one's own is not just American, but for the most part is worldwide. And it is not limited to educational institutions. This expectation applies in all fields that involve words, including professional writing and publishing, speech making, public communication in general, and therefore many aspects of business, journalism, and politics.

In the world of business and politics, however, some allowance is made for assistance especially in speech writing. Speech writers--usually professionals paid to do such work--draft a speech for a business leader or a politician, who then modifies it (either superficially or profoundly) and approves what has been written and presents it in his or her own voice. Ideally, the speaker also has some input at the beginning of the process, and in some cases the speech writers know the speaker so well that they can convey not only the ideas but the personal style of the speaker. In any case, this is a widely accepted practice, and of course the speech writers allow the speaker to claim the words as his or her own because that is what the writers are paid to do.

Nevertheless, it is a commonly accepted moral and professional standard that such speeches must still avoid plagiarism. That is, any quotations from other sources--other speakers or writers or public figures--should be credited. Half-baked paraphrase would still be considered plagiarism, especially if the original source is not credited.

As I write this, a public controversy has erupted involving a speech given at the Republican National Convention. Last night (July 18, 2016), Melania Trump gave a speech--well delivered and well received, upbeat, and more positive and inclusive than most of the previous speeches of the day. This was her biggest public moment to this point in her life. That moment was soon marred by suggestions that parts of her speech were plagiarized--taken, almost word for word, from Michelle Obama's speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. (See below for a comparison of the speeches.)

Let me start by saying that, in at least one respect, this is an open and shut case. The passages in question were without doubt lifted from Michelle Obama's earlier speech. This is a clear case of plagiarism. It is as clear as any case I have encountered when dealing with students I have worked with as a teacher or as the English Department ombudsman. Teachers differ in the consequences they mete out for plagiarism. At the very least, almost any teacher would fail a paper with egregious plagiarism of this kind or would require the student to rewrite it. Some would give the student a failing grade for the course. I've known of one case where--even though the student may have simply been unable to wrap his mind around how to properly use sources in a paper--the student ended up leaving the university as a result of plagiarism.

 As of this morning, the Trump campaign chair has denied that any part of Melania Trump's speech was lifted from Michelle Obama's and has even called the accusation "just really absurd." (See for an article about the controversy.) He further says that "These were common words and values. . . . To think that she'd be cribbing Michelle Obama's words is crazy." Of course, plagiarism has to involve more than simply expressing common values in common words--it's a question of using essentially the same phrasing in the same order so that the passages are so recognizably similar that it defies belief to think the similarities are merely accidental. In this case, the campaign chair is trying to cover by denying the obvious.

In all of this I don't blame Melania Trump. For one thing, she is not an experienced politician. Though she said (before giving the speech), "I wrote it . . . with little help as possible," almost everyone assumes that the speech was written by a speech writer (who had consulted with her in some way) and that she then read over and approved what she was given, possibly making a few changes. I suspect she had no way of knowing that part of her speech was plagiarized. (If, on the other hand, she really did write the speech, she must have done some copying and pasting from the Internet and perhaps simply doesn't understand accepted standards concerning plagiarism.)

Almost certainly a speech writer knowingly lifted the passages from Michelle Obama's speech and made a few "half-baked" changes. And almost certainly that writer knew that such plagiarism would be considered unacceptable--unprofessional and morally wrong. Either that speech writer hoped no one would notice or, if he or she thought the plagiarism would be discovered, had some other, perhaps nefarious, agenda. It seems obvious that the speech writer in question should confess and probably resign.

I can understand the campaign chair wanting to give a positive spin to the whole episode. But I believe simply denying that the passages were plagiarized will have seriously negative consequences. People are used to politicians stretching the truth. But this is such a blatant denial of clear-cut reality that it is likely to lead to even deeper public cynicism or, for those who manage to persuade themselves to agree with the denial, a dangerous submission to willful self-deception. For many it may also lead to confusion. Some, including the very students we try so hard to educate about plagiarism, will wonder whether the accepted standards of integrity on such matters really apply in the "real world."  Some will be tempted to redefine plagiarism to mean something different from what it normally means. In any case, the lines of both moral and intellectual integrity will become fuzzier. This is not a good thing.

In case you haven't had a chance to compare the passages in question, here they are (I'll also supply a video version so you can hear them):

This is a clear case of "half-baked paraphrase"--or more properly, of "barely warmed" paraphrase, since very few changes were made. The parallels--and in most cases straight copying--are clear:

Melania: "the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect."

Michelle: "the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, . . ."

Melania: "And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."

Michelle: ". . . and to pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children--and all children in this nation--to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."

The first pair of passages are essentially the same except for Melania's addition of the phrase "and keep your promise" and omission of "you're going to do" and "dignity." The second pair are almost identical except that Melania's speech omits a few phrases ("and all children"; ""the height of") and provides substitutes for a couple of Michelle's words: "to follow" in place of "next" and "strength" in place of "reach." These are the standard ways that "half-baked" paraphrase works (also called "Plagiarism mosaic" in BYU's Academic Honesty Policy), but they are applied so lightly here that the passages are much closer to being the same than different.

I hope that the Trump campaign can stop denying that this is a case of plagiarism (and stop blaming anyone beyond their campaign for the problem). A clear admission, especially by the person responsible, would help reaffirm the standards of integrity that we should all want to be maintained in public life.

[NOTE: For a follow up to this blog post including a report of what ended up happening, see "Plagiarism, part 2"--]

APPENDIX: BYU's Academic Honesty Policy
The first injunction of the Honor Code is the call to "be honest." Students come to the university not only to improve their minds, gain knowledge, and develop skills that will assist them in their life's work, but also to build character. "President David O. McKay taught that character is the highest aim of education" (The Aims of a BYU Education, p. 6). It is the purpose of the BYU Academic Honesty Policy to assist in fulfilling that aim.
BYU students should seek to be totally honest in their dealings with others. They should complete their own work and be evaluated based upon that work. They should avoid academic dishonesty and misconduct in all its forms, including but not limited to plagiarism, fabrication or falsification, cheating, and other academic misconduct:


Intentional plagiarism is a form of intellectual theft that violates widely recognized principles of academic integrity as well as the Honor Code. Such plagiarism may subject the student to appropriate disciplinary action administered through the university Honor Code Office, in addition to academic sanctions that may be applied by an instructor. Inadvertent plagiarism, whereas not in violation of the Honor Code, is nevertheless a form of intellectual carelessness that is unacceptable in the academic community. Plagiarism of any kind is completely contrary to the established practices of higher education, where all members of the university are expected to acknowledge the original intellectual work of others that is included in one's own work. In some cases, plagiarism may also involve violations of copyright law.
Intentional Plagiarism—Intentional plagiarism is the deliberate act of representing the words, ideas, or data of another as one's own without providing proper attribution to the author through quotation, reference, or footnote.
Inadvertent Plagiarism—Inadvertent plagiarism involves the inappropriate, but nondeliberate, use of another's words, ideas, or data without proper attribution. Inadvertent plagiarism usually results from an ignorant failure to follow established rules for documenting sources or from simply being insufficiently careful in research and writing. Although not a violation of the Honor Code, inadvertent plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct for which an instructor can impose appropriate academic sanctions. Students who are in doubt as to whether they are providing proper attribution have the responsibility to consult with their instructor and obtain guidance.
Examples of plagiarism include:
Direct Plagiarism—The verbatim copying of an original source without acknowledging the source.
Paraphrased Plagiarism—The paraphrasing, without acknowledgment, of ideas from another that the reader might mistake for your own.
Plagiarism Mosaic—The borrowing of words, ideas, or data from an original source and blending this original material with one's own without acknowledging the source.
Insufficient Acknowledgment—The partial or incomplete attribution of words, ideas, or data from an original source.
Plagiarism may occur with respect to unpublished as well as published material. Acts of copying another student's work and submitting it as one's own individual work without proper attribution is a serious form of plagiarism.

Fabrication or Falsification

Fabrication or falsification is a form of dishonesty where a student invents or distorts the origin or content of information used as authority. Examples include:
1.     Citing a source that does not exist.
2.     Attributing to a source ideas and information that are not included in the source.
3.     Citing a source for a proposition that it does not support.
4.     Citing a source in a bibliography when the source was neither consulted nor cited in the body of the paper.
5.     Intentionally distorting the meaning or applicability of data.
6.     Inventing data or statistical results to support conclusions.


Cheating is a form of dishonesty where a student attempts to give the appearance of a level of knowledge or skill that the student has not obtained. Examples include:
1.     Copying from another person's work during an examination or while completing an assignment.
2.     Allowing someone to copy from you during an examination or while completing an assignment.
3.     Using unauthorized materials during an examination or while completing an assignment.
4.     Collaborating on an examination or assignment without authorization.
5.     Taking an examination or completing an assignment for another or permitting another to take an examination or to complete an assignment for you.

Other Academic Misconduct

Academic misconduct includes other academically dishonest, deceitful, or inappropriate acts that are intentionally committed. Examples of such acts include but are not limited to:
1.     Inappropriately providing or receiving information or academic work so as to gain unfair advantage over others.
2.     Planning with another to commit any act of academic dishonesty.
3.     Attempting to gain an unfair academic advantage for oneself or another by bribery or by any act of offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting anything of value to another for such purpose.
4.     Changing or altering grades or other official educational records.
5.     Obtaining or providing to another an unadministered test or answers to an unadministered test.
6.     Breaking and entering into a building or office for the purpose of obtaining an unauthorized test.
7.     Continuing work on an examination or assignment after the allocated time has elapsed.
8.     Submitting the same work for more than one class without disclosure and approval.

Procedures for Handling Incidents of Academic Dishonesty or Other Academic Misconduct

Faculty are responsible to establish and communicate to students their expectations of behavior with respect to academic honesty and the student's conduct in the course. Responsible instructors will investigate these incidents, determine the facts, and take appropriate action. Finally, the instructor must notify the Honor Code Office of the final disposition of the incident as a means of encouraging behavior change and discouraging repeat violations. If the incident of academic dishonesty involves the violation of a public law, e.g., breaking and entering into an office or stealing an examination, the act should also be reported to University Police. If an affected student disagrees with the determination or action and is unable to resolve the matter to the mutual satisfaction of the student and the instructor, the student may have the matter reviewed through the university's grievance process (Student Academic Grievance Procedure).

Applicable Actions

A wide range of possible actions exists for cases of academic dishonesty. Instructors should take actions that are fair and equitable under the circumstances and should attempt to reach an understanding with the affected student on the imposition of an appropriate action. In some cases, the department, the college, or the university may also take actions independent of the instructor. Examples of possible actions include but are not limited to the following:
For instructors, programs, departments, and colleges:
Reprimanding the student orally or in writing.
Requiring work affected by the academic dishonesty to be redone.
Administering a lower or failing grade on the affected assignment or test.
Administering a lower or failing grade for the course (even if the student withdraws from the course).
Removing the student from the course.
Dismissing the student from the program, department, or college.
Recommending probation, suspension, or dismissal.
For the university:
The university may elect to place an affected student on probation or to suspend or dismiss the student and to place a temporary or permanent notation on the student's permanent academic transcript that he or she was suspended or dismissed due to academic misconduct.
The university may report an incident of academic misconduct to appropriate law enforcement officials and may prosecute an affected student if the act in question involves the commission of a crime (e.g., breaking into an office or building, stealing an examination, etc.). 

Honor Code Office Involvement

The Honor Code Office will maintain a record of all violations of the Academic Honesty Policy reported to it by the faculty. If the occurrence is sufficiently egregious or if a pattern of dishonesty or misconduct is discovered, the Honor Code Office may take additional action on behalf of the university based upon the nature of the infraction(s). The Honor Code Office, in consultation with the involved academic personnel, including the associate academic vice president in charge of undergraduate studies as needed, may determine to place a student on probation or to recommend that a student be suspended or dismissed for academic dishonesty and other forms of academic misconduct.

Shared Responsibility Policy Statement

Students are responsible not only to adhere to the Honor Code requirement to be honest but also to assist other students in fulfilling their commitment to be honest.

Faculty Academic Integrity

The substantive standards of academic honesty stated in this policy apply a fortiori to faculty. Indeed, all members of the BYU community are expected to act according to the highest principles of academic integrity.
A large number of publications and policies of colleges and universities were reviewed in creating BYU's Academic Honesty Policy. Some of the content and structure of this policy were adapted from the following sources:
“Academic Honesty,” a brochure produced by the Office of Judicial Affairs, University of Florida.
“Academic Honesty and Dishonesty,” a brochure produced by the Office of the Dean of Students, University of Delaware.
“Academic Honesty and Dishonesty,” a brochure produced by the Dean of Students Office, Louisiana State University.
“A Statement on Plagiarism,” a committee report from the October 1994 Conference on the Center for Academic Integrity, Tom Langhorne, Binghamton University (chair).
“Definition of Plagiarism,” by Harold C. Martin, taken from The Logic and Rhetoric of Exposition, by Harold C. Martin, Richard M. Ohmann, and James H. Wheatly, 3rd ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969).
Legal Aspects of Plagiarism, by Ralph D. Mawdsley (Topeka, Kansas: National Organization on Legal Problems of Education, 1985).
“Plagiarism—The Do’s and Don’ts,” a brochure produced by the Office of Student Judicial Affairs of the University of California—Davis.