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Information Literacy (LIBR 2100)

LIBR 2100 Course Materials

Academic Integrity & Avoiding Plagiarism

This tutorial was designed to explain to students the concepts of academic integrity and plagiarism, and outline why they are so important at Mount Saint Vincent University. Many professors and students expressed concern that there was not enough information available to students that defined plagiarism and outlined very specifically how it can be avoided.

By working through the topics of this tutorial you will learn:

  • the role academic integrity plays in the university;
  • what is plagiarism, citation, quotation and paraphrasing;
  • which citation styles to use; and
  • a little bit about copyright and intellectual property.

It is very important to remember that tied up with learning how not to plagiarism, is learning how to research and write. This tutorial will give you lots of information and writing tips, but it is only through the practice of researching and writing that you will become a skilled academic researcher and writer who never plagiarizes. This tutorial will help you if you apply what you learn here to all your research and writing.

To begin, click on a black arrow at the top or bottom of each page to move through the Book, or click on a Chapter listed to the left.


The big picture: Academic integrity at MSVU

The issue of academic integrity is taken very seriously at universities. This concept is so intrinsic to teaching, learning and research that professors and librarians can sometimes forget that new members of our academic community are not well versed in its importance. In addition, if you are a new student you are trying to figure out new teaching and learning styles, juggling a number of classes and assignments, and being required to do research without using Google. Add to this the requirement to cite properly and never plagiarize, and things can start to feel stressful!

This tutorial is designed to explain the concepts of academic integrity and plagiarism to you. It will review how they relate to specific situations, such as:

  • how to use other people's ideas in a fair and honest ways;
  • when and how to cite something directly (that is, put it in quotation marks “”);
  • when and how to use someone’s ideas without quotation marks.

The tutorial will provide examples of good and bad academic integrity decisions, identify research and writing pitfalls, and give you the opportunity to view some citation examples. The tutorial is designed to help you develop successful academic skills and learn to credit the authors or creators of all the sources you use, including those on the Internet.

Just as becoming a good writer takes time, learning how to do academic research and cite properly also takes time and practice. Working though this tutorial will not give you the “academic integrity seal of approval,” but it should give you the tools necessary to set academic standards for yourself that will let you be a full, participating member of the scholarly community.


What is academic integrity?

University values:
Some of the values most important to universities and the academic community include:

  • responsibility
  • integrity
  • honesty
  • academic freedom
  • respect
  • critical thinking
  • engagement
  • communication
  • community

These values govern university activities; as a member of the university, you should be governed by them too.

The Research Community:

Here are some important points to remember about research and scholarship:

  • Research does not take place in a vacuum. Very few ideas are truly original, rather we build on the work done by others.
  • Research is a “community” endeavor. Even if you are working on your essay or assignment alone, you are using the ideas of others: your professor, classmates, authors of books or articles you’ve read.
  • Research ideas and positions are dynamic: they evolve, morph, and often die.

Keeping in mind the ideas of “university values” and a “research community” consider the definition of “integrity” as provided by the Oxford English Dictionary: having soundness of moral principle; uncorrupted virtue, especially in relation to truth and fair dealing; uprightness, honesty, sincerity.

Integrity will guide the choices you make in life.

Academic Integrity:
Academic integrity will guide the choices you make in your studies and in your research. It applies not only to students, but also to faculty and researchers. It is the pursuit of scholarly activity based on the values of honesty, truth, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility.

Practicing academic integrity means that you maintain trustworthiness and believability of academic work. It means never plagiarizing or cheating, never misrepresenting yourself, never falsifying information or handing in the same work twice, never deceiving or compromising the work of others, never working in groups when you have been asked to complete work on your own.


Cultural differences: help for international students

Once arrived at MSVU, international students have many things in which to adjust: different language, different culture, different climate. You are missing family and home while trying to make new friends and adjust to a new educational environment that may be unlike anything you have experienced before.

In many non-Western countries, education systems are based on the model whereby only professors (or teachers) are experts in a certain kinds of knowledge and only they are qualified to pass on this knowledge. Students are expected to learn by listening, writing, repeating and memorizing what the professor shares with them. It is the professor who passes on information, ideas and solutions to problems to their students (Badke, 2003).

At MSVU we ascribe to a Western model of education. This model requires that students be active participants in the educational process. When some international students arrive at MSVU they may initially have some difficulty adapting to this model, including participating in classroom discussions, researching and writing. At MSVU we value debate, analysis, and critical thinking, and we expect students to participate in the entire education process. This can be challenging and a little scary if you have never done it before. MSVU has an International Education Centre with staff who can help you learn about some of these expectations.

This tutorial deals specifically with writing expectations. A key element of the writing process in Western countries is the need to always indicate where you got your information. If someone has written or created something and you are going to use it in your research you must indicate where you got the information (also called intellectual property.) This concept of noting where you located someone's intellectual property is called "citation", and is explained in detail in this tutorial.

Professors and staff at MSVU recognize that international students face an adjustment period if they are experiencing Western education for the first time. But, you are still expected to participate at the same level as Canadian students. This can make your first few months or first year very stressful. It is very important that you seek out help early in the process so you do not get behind or become overwhelmed. This does not make you look less capable, it makes you look SMART!

Go through this tutorial on Academic Integrity & Plagiarism carefully. Make note of anything you don't understand and ask for clarification.

Badke, W. (2003). Beyond the answer sheet: Academic success for international students. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.


MSVU regulations on plagiarism

Plagiarism is an academic offense. Please follow the link to the academic offenses regulations page in the academic calendar for the most up to date information.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is taking and using as your own, the ideas, or the expression of the ideas (literary, artistic, musical, etc.) of another (Oxford English Dictionary.) Basically, this means using the words or ideas of someone else without giving them credit, whether or not it is done intentionally.

Examples of plagiarism include:

  • buying or downloading entire papers from the Internet;
  • copying a section of a website into your paper and not giving credit to the author;
  • using any quantity of text -- even as little as a sentence -- written by someone else and not using quotation marks around the text or providing a citation;
  • paraphrasing or summarizing someone else's words or ideas without giving credit.
  • using any print or electronic written, musical, artistic or poetic work without acknowledging the original creator.


How big a problem is plagiarism?

In a 2005 survey of  80,000 students on 67 US and 16 Canadian campuses, 38% of students admitted to paraphrasing/copying few sentences from a  written source without footnoting it (McCabe, 2005). More recently, a 2014 CBC article reported that more than 7,000 students at Canadian universities were disciplined for academic cheating in the 2011-12 academic year. 50% of these cases related to plagiarism.

McCabe, D. L. (2005). Cheating among college and university students: A North American perspective. International Journal for Educational Integrity1(1). Retrieved from

Moore, H. (2014, February 25). Cheating students punished by the 1000s, but many more go undetected. CBC News. Retrieved from

People who have been accused of plagiarism include:

  • Journalists working for the New York Times, USA Today and Halifax's own Coast magazine. One writer with a Californian paper was found to have been "frequently" plagiarizing, fabricating and "presenting other reporters' work as her own" (Wenner, G. from A California Reporter's Web of Deceit.)
  • Authors such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Dan Brown, Kaavya Viswanathan.
Viswanathan was a Harvard student when the fiction books she had written were found to be plagiarised. She lost lucrative contracts for follow-up books.
  • Musicians such as Johnny Cash, Madonna and Michael Bolton:

Johnny Cash 
image source: wikimeida commons

Cash paid an out-of-court settlement after he plagiarized Folsom Prison Blues from Gordon Jenkins.

Madonna and Michael Bolton have both been sued for plagiarism. Madonna paid over $600,000 and Bolton paid $5.4 million in the largest music damages award ever made.


Why do people plagiarize?

  • "It was an accident."
    Accidents do happen, and sometimes you may truly forget you copied information from another source. Remember, even if plagiarism is unintentional you can still be charged. (Have you ever tried to talk youself out of a speeding ticket by saying, "but I didn't see the sign"?) Most professors (just like most police officers) will not accept this explanation.
  • "That’s such a good idea how can I possibly say it any other way?"
    As new writers, students sometimes struggle to put the ideas of someone else into their own words. This is most likely to happen if you leave an assignment until the last minute or if you under- or over-research a topic. We will come back to this in the section dealing with how to avoid plagiarism.
  • "I ran out of time."
    There is so much information, and cutting and pasting is just so easy. Again, this goes back to giving yourself enough time to research and write up your assignments.
  • "The end justifies the means."
    When faced with the choice between acting with integrity or doing what is unethical but may ensure success, many choose the latter. This idea is discussed by Matthew Willen in an article published in Liberal Education. He argues that students are under such pressure to succeed (in school, at getting into grad school, at getting the "good job") that plagiarism and/or cheating seems a worthwhile risk. It isn't. Don't let yourself ever fall into this trap.
  • "It's not a big deal."
    Actually, plagiarism is a very serious academic offence as demonstrated by the huge number of students charged each year.
  • "No one will notice."
    There will be consequences. If a professor suspects that you have plagiarised they will investigate and they will confront you - usually with lots of evidence.

Impact of plagiarizing

In addition to academic penalties, plagiarizing has a number of other serious consequences.

  • Student learning is affected. For every assignment copied or exam cheated upon, a learning opportunity has been lost. You never get that chance back again, and the next time you go to write something it will be no easier. It's like trying to get in shape: you have to do the work yourself to see any improvement. You can cheat (tell your friends you ran 5 km when you only went 2) but eventually it will catch up with you. Someone is going to ask you to go in that 10 km run, or your boss is going to ask you to write up the annual report. Either situation sounds pretty scary if you haven't been practicing.
  • Your university degree could be compromised. If plagiarism is found to be rampant at a particular institution, or in a particular department of a university, employers could be leery of hiring these graduates. This would be a case of guilt-by-association - something no one ever wants to experience.
  • Plagiarism is considered the theft of intellectual property and a violation of copyright.

Intellectual property is something that is an invention of the mind; something that has been created with one's intellect, and includes things like literature, art, music, visual works, inventions, software.

Copyright is the ownership of intellectual property. If someone holds the copyright to something, they have the exclusive right to publish, record, film and copy substantial amounts of that work.

Examples of plagiarism

Below you will find examples of plagiarism. Some illustrate exact copying without quotation and the last example shows improper paraphrasing. These examples and comments should offer you guidance about how a source may be used and when a source must be cited.

Exact Copying Examples

1.) Original Source Material:
Frick, T. (1991). Restructuring education through technology. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

Technology has significantly transformed education at several major turning points in our history. In the broadest sense, the first technology was the primitive modes of communication used by prehistoric people before the development of spoken language. Mime, gestures, grunts, and drawing of figures in the sand with a stick were methods used to communicate.


Plagiarized version: (copied passage is underlined)

In examining technology, we have to remember that computers are not the first technology people have had to deal with. The first technology was the primitive modes of communication used by prehistoric people before the development of spoken language.
Correct version:
In examining technology, we have to remember that computers are not the first technology people have had to deal with. Frick (1991) believes that "... the first technology was the primitive modes of communication used by prehistoric people before the development of spoken language" (p. 10).
In your reference list: Frick, T. (1991). Restructuring education through technology. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.
This version is copied, word-for-word, from the original source material. No credit is given to the author of the text and quotation marks are not used. Also, no reference is provided.
This version begins with the author and year of the publication. Quotation marks are used to indicate that the passage is a word-for-word citation from the original document, and a reference list entry is provided.

2.) Original Source Material:

Frick, T. (1991). Restructuring education through technology. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

The concept of systems is really quite simple. The basic idea is that a system has parts that fit together to make a whole; but where it gets complicated -- and interesting -- is how those parts are connected or related to each other.

Plagiarized version:
A system has parts that fit together to make a whole, but the important aspect of systems is how those parts are connected or related to each other (Frick, 1991).

References: Frick, T. (1991). Restructuring education through technology. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

Correct version:
Frick (1991) states that "... a system has parts that fit together to make a whole ..." but the important aspect of systems is "... how those parts are connected or related to each other" (p. 17).

References: Frick, T. (1991). Restructuring education through technology. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

This version is plagiarized. Although the author is cited at the end of the paragraph, the passage is copied word-for-word from the original source material and no quotation marks are used.
In this version the passage begins with the author and year of the publication. Quotation marks are used to indicate that the passages are word-for-word citations from the original document. The author is listed in the references.

3.) Original Source Material:

Gredler, M. E. (2001). Learning and instruction: Theory into practice (4th ed.). Upper Saddle, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Theories differ from philosophies and models of teaching. A philosophy is a value system, whereas a theory seeks to explain real-world events and can be certified through scientific investigation. Models of teaching are approaches to the management of some aspect of classroom instruction and they may not be independent of subject area, grade level, age of the student, or the setting for learning. A characteristic of learning theories is that they address the underlying psychological dynamics of events. Thus, they provide a mechanism for understanding the implications of events related to learning in both formal and informal settings.

Plagiarized version:
Theories and philosophies are different from each other because theories seek to explain real-world events and can be certified through scientific investigation. Learning theories address the underlying psychological dynamics of events, so they provide a mechanism for understanding the implications of events related to learning in both formal and informal settings.


Correct version:
Theories and philosophies are different from each other because, according to Gredler (2001) theories seek

to explain real-world events and can be certified through scientific investigation... A characteristic of learning theories is that they address the underlying psychological dynamics of events. Thus, they provide a mechanism for understanding the implications of events related to learning in both formal and informal settings. (pp. 12-13)

References: Gredler, M. E. (2001). Learning and instruction: Theory into practice (4th Ed.). Upper Saddle, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

This version is plagiarized. Passages from the original work were used and inserted into original prose, however this is still an example of word-for-word plagiarism. No credit was given to the author in the text, quotation marks were not used, and the work was not listed in the references.
In this version an indented block is used to indicate that this passage is a word-for-word quotation and the pages where it was taken from the original document. The original author of the content is cited at the end of the passage and in the reference section as well.


Paraphrasing Example
.) Original Source Material:

Merriënboer, J. J. van. (1997). Training complex cognitive skills. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

During the last decade, there has been a shift from "instructivist" approaches towards "constructivist" approaches in the field of instructional design. Instructivist approaches reflect the belief that the role of knowledge is basically to represent the real world. Meaning is eventually determined by this real world and [is] thus external to the understander.

Plagiarized version:
Over the last ten years, there has been a marked change from "instructivist" points of view to "constructivist" points of view among instructional designers. Instructivist points of view hold the belief that the role of knowledge is fundamentally to represent the real world. In this view, meaning is determined by the real world and is therefore external to the learner.

References: Merriënboer, J. J. van. (1997). Training complex cognitive skills. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Correct version:
Instructivists hold that the "real world," external to individuals, can be represented as knowledge and determines what will be understood by individuals. This view has been shifting to a constructivist view over the past decade (Merriënboer, 1997).

References: Merriënboer, J. J. van. (1997). Training complex cognitive skills. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.
This example has been plagiarized. The writer has substituted synonyms for many words in the passage, but has not changed the structure of the text and has used another person's ideas without crediting that person.
This example has been paraphrased and the original author has been credited for those ideas. The writer has cited the source of the ideas appropriately, and included the source in the reference list.

Adapted from:
How to recognize plagiarism. (2005.) Retrieved February 29, 2008 from Indiana University, School of Education:


What is Citing

Citing, or "to cite", means identifying and giving credit to the person whose idea you are using. This means providing information so someone else can locate the specific article, book, chapter, web site, law, piece of poetry, art or music - basically anything and everything - that you used in your research.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines citing as quoting a passage, book, or author for the intent of establishing authority.

A citation usually includes:

  • AUTHOR (or creator, artist, musical, etc.)
  • PUBLICATION information (place and name of publishing company)
  • DATE of publication
  • URL (if your source is electronic).

Why do we cite?

Why do we cite? Some history:

William Shakespeare was one of the first people to use the word "cite" in published form in his play The Merchant of Venice (Act I, Scene III) when he wrote "the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose."

Citing is based on the idea of: “he said”, “she said”. We all cite all the time, we just do it verbally and don't really notice.

For example, every time you tell a story, you'll cite someone by saying:

"My professor said this. . . and then a student next to me said he read just the opposite in the newspaper yesterday; but I saw the same thing as my prof on a BLOG."

Or what about trying to recount those infamous family conversations:

"My sister told me she wants to take me out for dinner for my birthday, but she said Jane couldn't come, that's my other sister, and she said, that is, Jane said, that she didn't care if she came or not because Doug (that's her boyfriend) said that Karen (my first sister) is always showing favouritism toward me, and she probably wouldn't enjoy herself anyway. Can you believe that?!"

Even though this passage is complicated, it's possible to follow the story, because the person speaking lets you know who said what.

And that's what your writing should strive to do: communicate to your reader who said what, or who wrote what, or who painted what, or who sang what, or who videoed what, or who created that web site.

Just about all stories, articles or ideas are based on things other people have said, written down or created. Very little is totally original today. Ideas and research are built on knowledge that is shared by research communities. As students you are part of these communities or disciplines (e.g., English, Sociology, Business, etc.) and you are expected to become familiar with the material of your discipline. It is your job to learn about this material and accurately describe where you found it when you use it to complete essays and assignments.

Giving credit to the person who created the material or intellectual content (often called intellectual property) does not diminish your work; instead it demonstrates that you are using sources available in your field, and shows you know how to find this information!

Why are there different citation styles?

Did you know there are more than 100 citation styles?!
If you are taking classes in more than one discipline at the Mount, you have probably noticed that you may be required to present your work, cite your sources and prepare your reference list or bibliography in different ways. While this may seem frustrating, it is because citation styles developed within disciplines by their scholars. A citation style used by a historian will not suit the needs of a chemist or accountant. In addition, writing and citing conventions have been designed to meet the needs of readers, not writers, which is another reason why they can seem like a lot of work when you are learning the rules.

How to cite correctly (and avoid plagiarism)

What needs to be cited? In short, just about everything. Every source you use either in PRINT or in ELECTRONIC format must be cited. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • books (fiction, literature, poetry, etc.)
  • journal or magazine articles
  • encyclopedias, dictionaries
  • a piece of art work (paintings, drawings)
  • pictures, comics, graphics
  • web pages
  • music or song lyrics
  • advertisements
  • speeches, personal communications
  • e-mail messages, blogs, pod casts
  • even anonymous works must be cited

Sometimes people believe that if information is freely available on the Internet or is not protected by copyright, it does not need to be cited. This is simply not true.


Direct quotations

A direct quotation occurs when you are using the spoken or written words of someone else exactly. In these cases you will put quotation marks around the quoted text:

"I must be cruel only to be kind; Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind" (Shakespeare).

Whether you plan to use direct quotations in an assignment or not, try this technique:

  • Whenever you take notes (from a book, article, web site, film, etc.) practice putting quotation marks around any direct quotes immediately.
  • Indicate where the quote came from with AUTHOR, DATE, PAGE.
Not only will this save you a lot of time once you actually start writing your paper and preparing the bibliography/reference list, but it will help prevent you from accidentally plagiarizing. If you don't use the quotations marks immediately it is possible you will forget which words are your own, and which belong to another author.

Here's an example of a quote I might write down for future use in an assignment. (This is APA style.)

"There is probably no other time throughout a semester when negative emotions are at their peak in students' minds and bodies as in the first half hour of an exam”(Berk, 2000, p. 151).

With this information I can easily locate the quote again, I won't forget that someone else said it, and I can try to find a good spot for it in my paper.

My reference list would include the full reference as follows:

Berk, R.A. (2000). Does humor in course tests reduce anxiety and improve

performance? College Teaching 48(4),151-159.

Indirect quotations or paraphrasing

  • Re-read the text, making notes of the main points.
  • Cover up the text and your notes and rewrite your notes from memory in your own words.
  • When you begin to write your summary restate the main idea at the beginning and indicate where your information is from.
  • Identify other main themes or points that the original author discussed. (But don't feel you have to include everything an author said - only use the parts that strengthen your paper.)
  • Change the order of the points if necessary to make the organization of your paper more logical.
  • Re-read your work and the original work to ensure that you have included all the important information and also to ensure you have not paraphrased too closely to the original wording.
  • Paraphrasing Example:

    Original passage:

    "But life is never all hardship for a growing boy. The surrounding country was wild enough for any imaginative youngster to find adventure in” (Bryce, 1997, p. 25).

    Unacceptable paraphrase:

    For a growing boy, life is never all hardship. For anyone with imagination, the countryside was wild enough for adventures.
    • wording is too close to original
    • no citation provided

    Acceptable paraphrase:

    According to Robert Bryce (1997), in a countryside like the one Cook grew up in, an adventurous boy could compensate for life's hardships.
    • wording incorporates other ideas
    • idea attributed to original author

    This example is modified from:

    When not to cite

    There are many times when you will not have to cite.

    You do not have to cite when you are writing up your own original observations, thoughts, or opinions. For example, if you are writing a book review you may include a direct quotation from the book itself, a paraphrase based on another author's opinion of the book's theme, but the rest of the writing will be your own analysis and critical opinion of the book.

    You do not have to cite items of common knowledge such as the year of Canadian confederation (1867) or the fact that Margaret Atwood is a Canadian author. Common knowledge is subjective and will vary by discipline. Certain ideas and theories will be common knowledge to a particular class and should be discussed with your professors.

    TIP If you are in doubt - cite it!


    The most recent versions of the APA, MLA, and the Chicago citation guides are available on the Mount Library's Citation Guide 

    Which styles for which department?

    At MSVU a few key citations styles are used. It is possible your professor will require a different style, but the table below indicates the style usually preferred by each department. If your department is not listed, please check with your professor.

    Some key styles:

    • APA (American Psychological Association)
    • MLA (Modern Languages Association)
    • Chicago (from the University of Chicago; sometimes called Turabian after Kate Turabian)
    • ASA (American Sociological Association)
    Department Style or styles preferred

    Applied Human Nutrition

    Confirm with your professor.

    Styles used include: APA, Vancouver, AMA, Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals (used by the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research.) 


    Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 7th Ed (used by NRC Journal of Zoology.) CSE examples, or speak to your professor.

    Business Administration


    Chemistry & Physics

    Confirm style with your professor.

    Child & Youth




    Cultural Studies

    Chicago preferred; MLA with permission.


    Chicago Manual of Style Author-Date system for all common publication types. For less common sources, use examples from American Economic Review.





    Family Studies & Gerontology




    Information Technology


    Mathematics & Computer Science

    Confirm style with your professor.

    Modern Languages (French)


    Peace & Conflict Studies

    Confirm style with your professor.

    Philosophy/Religious Studies

    Chicago, MLA, APA. Choose a style and be consistent.

    Political & Canadian Studies

    Chicago, MLA, APA. Choose a style and be consistent.



    Public Policy

    Chicago, MLA, APA. Choose a style and be consistent.

    Public Relations


    Sociology & Anthropology

    For Anthropology confirm style with your professor.

    Women's Studies

    APA or MLA. Confirm style with your professor.


    Academic Offences

    The next three pages deal with:

    • when and why a professor may suspect plagiarism;
    • the actions a professor may take if they suspect plagiarism; and
    • what happens to a student charged with plagiarism.

    When do professors suspect plagiarism?

    Professors are very familiar with their subject areas and what has been published in relevant journals, books and on web sites. In addition they are also aware of what has been written by other students in their classes over time. With this experience the following situations may lead a professor to suspect plagiarism:

    • A particular sentence or paragraph may prompt a closer review of the whole assignment. If a section of an assignment or essay looks “out of place” (that is, the vocabulary, punctuation, structure or style differs from the rest of the submitted work) a professor may suspect plagiarism.
    • An assignment or part of an assignment may remind a professor of something he or she read in the past, either in a journal, newspaper or book, or in a library database, blog or general web site.
    • Professors are aware of web sites that offer papers for sale. Most professors have investigated these sites to determine if their course assignment matches any of the papers available for sale.
    • As students progress through a course professors will note how their writing is changing and improving. Each person has a unique writing style (almost like a fingerprint). A professor will notice if there is an abrupt or unexpected change in writing style.
    • Some professors may use similar assignments from year to year. They will usually quickly recognize an assignment that they have read before.
    • If a submitted work doesn’t quite match what was required of an assignment a professor may suspect that a student did this work for another class and is trying to hand it in twice.
    • Some kinds of information are so specialized that a professor will wonder how you knew such a fact, and assume that you must have read it somewhere. If you are using such information, even if you put it in your own words, you must provide a reference to the source you used. Uncited passages may lead to your assignment being scrutinized.

    What do professors do if they suspect plagiarism?

    If a professor suspects plagiarism he or she may take one, or more, of the following courses of action:

    • Check sections of the assignment against the results of a Google, or other search engine, search.
    • Check sections of the assignment against the results of a Library database (Ebsco, Proquest, etc.) search.
    • Check sections of the assignment against published material or other past assignments handed in by other students.
    • Seek assistance from the Library.
    • Ask the student questions about their paper. If the person handing in the paper actually wrote it they should be able to explain all the important concepts verbally.
    • Ask the student to submit copies of all the resources they used for comparison.
    • Ask the student if they may have unintentionally plagiarized.
    • Ask the student if they intentionally plagiarized.

    What happens to a student charged with plagiarism?

    The following information is an abbreviated version of Procedures for Dealing with Plagiarism, Cheating and Other Academic Offences, taken from the MSVU Academic Calendar.

    Preliminary investigation:
    Before a student is formally charged with plagiarism the professor must make every effort to meet with the student or students. A professor may asks another professor to be present during the meeting; if this occurs the student may ask another student to attend the meeting. When it is not possible for a student to come to campus (i.e., distance students) the conversation may take place by telephone or by e-mail.

    During the meeting the professor will outline why they think plagiarism has occurred and the student will have the opportunity to offer an explanation.

    If the student does not respond to the professor's request to meet, does not attend a pre-arranged meeting, or fails to offer a satisfactory explanation, the professor can proceed with a formal charge of plagiarism.

    Formal procedures:

    1. The professor must send a written report of the offence (including documentation and recommended penalty) to the Dean copied to the Registrar and Department Chair within five working days following the meeting with the student. Penalties may range from a grade of zero in the assignment to expulsion from the University. A full list of penalties is listed on the Penalties for Academic Offences page.
    2. The Dean reviews the recommended penalty to ensure that it is consistent with penalties for similar offences. The Registrar’s Office will review the file of the student charged to determine whether the student has been guilty of previous offence(s) and provide relevant information to the Dean. Should previous offences be on file, the Dean may revise the recommended penalty. The final decision as to the penalty to be assessed rests with the Dean.
    3. The Registrar’s Office will notify the student of the penalty assessed. This notification will include a summary report of the charge presented, and will be sent by registered mail within ten working days of them receiving the Dean’s report.
    4. If the recommended penalty is expulsion, the Dean will make a written recommendation to the President. The President will then confirm or revise the penalty. The University President will send the notification to the student.
    5. The student has the right to respond in writing to this notification within 15 working days of its having been sent to her/him (them). The response will be placed on file with copies to the professor, Chair of the Department and the Dean (and President, in the case of expulsion). The student will have the right to appeal the decision and/or the related penalty to the Academic Appeals Committee as per the Academic Offence Appeals Procedures.
    6. Unless successfully appealed, all documents related to the charge will be a permanent record in the student’s file. This information will be available to the Dean and those involved in any appeal process regarding subsequent charges of academic offences.
    7. Two years following an assessment of a penalty, if there is only a single grade of F with a notation on the student’s transcript, the student may appeal to have the notation removed from the transcript. This appeal must be made within ten years from the time the offence was noted on the transcript. The Appeals Committee will consider the student’s entire file in assessing the appeal to remove the notation.


    If you have questions about academic integrity or plagiarism there are places to get help!

    Talk to your professors.
    They are in the very best position to explain to you their research and writing expectations. Bring your work with you and write down a few of your questions so you will be prepared. Don't wait until the last minute.

    Learning Strategist Services
    Whether it is managing time, getting organized or preparing in advance to do well on an exam, students may contact the learning strategist to explore specific strategies and skills they may need to meet their academic goals.

    The Writing Centre.
    They are located on the same floor as the Library, and offer several services for MSVU students free of charge, such as individual appointments with staff who can help with any writing concerns at any stage of the process. They also hold workshops throughout the academic year.

    The Library
    The Library has many resources to help you with your research and writing. Librarians are not able to provide editing services, but they can help you interpret the writing and citation guides.

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