Kennesaw State Univeristy ®
click for Brown's home page

Standards of Academic Conduct

Bob Brown and Bob Harbort
College of Computing and Software Engineering
Kennesaw State University
Copyright © 2000

"If I have seen farther than other men, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."  This quotation, attributed variously to Sir Isaac Newton and Betrand of Chartres, exemplifies two principles of scientific progress—first, it is appropriate to build upon the work of others, and second, you must give appropriate credit when you do so.

Understanding the Rules of Academic Conduct

It is important that each of you understand the rules of academic conduct because universities, including this one, take the subject very seriously. The December 17, 1999, issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the head of Boston University's Department of Mass Communication resigned after mistakenly failing to give credit for a quotation used in a speech. It was clear from the circumstances that this was an accident. The department head was rushed to finish the speech and failed to provide a citation for his quotation. However, the rules of academic conduct don't say anything about accidents, and this accident cost a department head his job.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that such things only happen far away. Here at KSU a couple of years ago, a student only a few days from graduating turned in a plagiarized term paper. Instead of receiving a master's degree with his classmates, he was dismissed from school. This student will never receive a master's degree from a reputable institution, never hold a security clearance, never be elected to high office. His life has been changed, permanently and for the worse. You want to avoid that!

Offenses Against Academic Honesty

There are several areas where you could go wrong. Let's talk about each one of them:

Some of you are wondering why we take our standards of academic conduct so seriously here at Kennesaw State. A few of you may even be rationalizing that no one is hurt by dishonesty. Nothing could be further from the truth. When you cheat, you cheat yourself of a part of your education, and of some of the money you or others are paying for that education. You cheat your colleagues of a fair comparison with their peers. You set a bad example for your peers and the students who follow you. You diminish your own reputation in the eyes of your colleagues. Finally, and most important, you damage the reputation of the university, and so diminish the value of your diploma. No one wants a degree from an institution that has the reputation of tolerating cheating, and no one wants to hire a person with such a degree. Dishonesty while you are in school will hurt you for the rest of your life.

The Road to Academic Success

Here are four rules for avoiding academic misconduct and following the road to academic success:

Let's look at some specific things you can do to avoid the danger spots of academic dishonesty:

Avoid plagiarism by being careful to use quotation marks every time you quote the words of another. Cite every reference to other work, whether quoted or paraphrased.

The same standards apply to lab work, programming assignments, and other technical assignments. Everything you turn in must be your own work, or you must cite the source of material that you included but did not develop yourself. In some classes, including the work of others may not be allowed at all, even with citation. Be sure you understand the policies of the class.

You cannot use the same paper for two or more classes. Did you know that? It's called self-plagiarism, and is prohibited by the KSU code of conduct. This is an example of the need to understand the rules. You are expected to do original work for each of your KSU classes. What you can do is refer to work you did for another class. If you refer to your own work in an earlier paper, quote and cite just as you would the work of another author.

When you do research, you must describe it. You can't just say, "43% of households have computers." If you obtained this number from another source, you would cite the source. If, however, you polled your classmates to find out how many had computers at home, you must describe how you selected your subjects and how you conducted your poll. It would be sufficient to say, "I conducted a poll of 100 randomly-selected KSU students. Of those polled, 43% reported having computers in their households."

With one exception, you do not need to provide citations for well-known facts. Well-known facts are those you can recall without a source and can find in essentially the same form in at least three different sources. This rule applies to facts, not ideas or opinions. If you are giving your own opinion, say so. If you are giving another's, provide a citation.

The exception to the rule above is that you should provide citations for facts from other disciplines even if they are well known within that discipline. The purpose of such a citation is to help the reader, who may be an expert in the primary field of your paper, but may not be familiar with the other discipline. For example, suppose you were writing a paper on computer control of a nuclear reactor. You might write, "... radioactive decay is Poisson distributed but may be approximated with a Gaussian distribution for high decay rates. [JOHN69]" This is a well-known fact to radiation physicists, but it is arcane material for most computer scientists, and so requires a citation. The reference entry would be:

JOHN69: H.E. Johns and J.R. Cunningham, The Physics of Radiology, Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, 1969, page 542.

How Students Get Caught

Some of you may be thinking that you're clever enough to cheat or plagiarize without getting caught. The likelihood that you can get away with academic dishonesty at KSU is smaller than you think. Consider the following things:

Buying or Borrowing Papers

At some point every one of you will have an opportunity to "borrow" a paper from another student or to buy a paper that you then present as your own. There are even Internet sites that specialize in helping students cheat in this way. Consider that the people who do this are themselves liars and cheats. What makes you think they won't cheat you? A few years ago a student here at KSU submitted a paper that turned out to be a verbatim copy of a chapter from his professor's master's thesis. Imagine that student's surprise when he was confronted with the original! He was, by the way, permanently dismissed from school and his appeal to be readmitted was denied.

How the Faculty Feel

By now you may have the idea that the members of the faculty spend their time looking for evidence of dishonesty so that they can "nail" students. Nothing could be further from the truth. First, faculty don't have to look very hard to identify dishonesty. It leaps off the page at us. Second, the general reaction upon uncovering a dishonest act by a student is sadness and disappointment. We members of the faculty want each and every one of you to succeed, and we know that you have the intellectual capacity to succeed. We are disappointed when you try to cut corners. Punishing academic misconduct is one of the most difficult and unpleasant things we do. Yet it is necessary in order to uphold the reputation of the university.

You have the intellectual capacity to succeed here at Kennesaw State University. It is up to you to apply the hard work and discipline to succeed, and we have every confidence that you will do so.

This document is available on the World Wide Web:

This document may be copied, reproduced, redistributed or republished without payment of royalty provided it is copied unchanged, including preserving the authors' names, the copyright notice, and this notice. If you are using Standards of Academic Conduct in a formal program, the authors would appreciate a note. Contact information for Bob Brown is here.

Last updated: 2016-01-13 21:18