Department of Rhetoric & Writing
Department of Rhetoric & Writing

Plagiarism & Collusion

Statement on Scholastic Responsibility

The writing you do in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing (DRW) courses must be your own. Passing off the work of others as your own can be either plagiarism or collusion. Both are scholastic offenses that the Department of Rhetoric and Writing will not tolerate. Be certain you understand what these terms mean.

This statement describes the acceptable and unacceptable forms of quoting and paraphrasing information in your written work and defines specific types of academic violations. You will sign and turn in to your instructor an agreement confirming that you have read and understood this policy, including the penalties for committing plagiarism or collusion. The DRW will keep your signed form on file.

Please read this statement carefully. Its detailed information can help you understand the need for documentation whenever you incorporate research into your papers. If parts of the statement are unclear, ask your instructor to explain them.

Plagiarism. The General Information Catalog of the University of Texas at Austin defines plagiarism as follows: "the appropriation, buying, receiving as a gift, or obtaining by any means another's work and the submission of it as one's own academic work offered for credit."

  • You commit plagiarism if you fail to acknowledge the sources of any information in your paper that is not either common knowledge or personal knowledge. Common knowledge includes facts, dates, events, information, and concepts that belong generally to the educated public. Even if you used a reference book to discover the dates of George Washington's presidency, for example, you would not have to acknowledge the source because those dates fall into the range of historical common knowledge. If you borrowed material that interpreted or commented on Washington's presidency, however, you would be expected to cite your source. You can acknowledge a source through in-text citations, attribution lines (for example, "George Will observes in Men at Work . . ."), footnotes, or other forms of documentation approved by your instructor.
  • You commit plagiarism if you fail to acknowledge direct quotation either by using quotation marks when quoting short passages or indention when quoting longer passages. Without the quotation marks or indention, a passage copied directly from a source might be considered plagiarized even if it were followed by an in-text citation or a footnote: the citation or footnote acknowledges that you have a source but it does not indicate that you have borrowed someone else's exact words. If you use the language of a source, word-for-word, you must use quotation marks or block indention.
  • You commit plagiarism if you too closely paraphrase the original words of your source. Some students think that they can avoid a charge of plagiarism by changing a few words in each sentence they copy, or by rearranging the shape of phrases or the order of sentences in a paragraph. This is not true. When you take notes, you must be careful to put ideas in your own words, or to use direct quotation when you are relying on phrases borrowed directly from a source.
  • You commit plagiarism if you borrow the ideas, examples, or structure of your source without acknowledging it. You can be guilty of plagiarism if you systematically borrow the ideas and organization of a source—even if the language of your piece is substantially original. A student who, for example, reports on a major news event by using exactly the same ideas in the same order as they appear in an article in Time or Newsweek might be accused of plagiarism.
  • You commit plagiarism if you take, buy, or receive a paper written by someone else and present it as your own.
  • You commit plagiarism if you use one paper for two different courses, or re-use a paper previously submitted for credit, without the prior approval of both instructors.

If you want to use words, ideas, or the structure of a selection such as the passage below from Harper's, you may do so correctly in two ways.

Medical costs will bankrupt this country if they continue on their current trajectory. And there are no data to demonstrate that improved management techniques will solve the problem. "Managed care" and "managed competition" might save money in the short run (though the examples of some other managed industries-such as the utilities and airlines do not inspire confidence). But the bulk of the savings achieved by Health Maintenance Organizations has been achieved by cutting back on expensive, unprofitable facilities such as burn centers, neonatal-intensive-care units, emergency rooms, and the like. In other words, HMOs conduct what amounts to a hidden form of health-care rationing-confident that municipal and university hospitals are still around to pick up the slack. (Gaylin 62)

From: Gaylin, Willard M.D. "Faulty Diagnosis: Why Clinton's Health-Care Plan Won't Cure What Ails Us." Harper's (Oct. 1993): 57-64.

You may quote from the passage directly, using appropriate citations and quotation marks, or (when the quotation is lengthy) indention. For example:

Willard Gaylin, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia Medical School, maintains that "medical costs will bankrupt this country if they continue on their current trajectory. And there are no data to demonstrate that improved management techniques will solve the problem" (62).

You may report the information in your own words, acknowledging Gaylin as your source and using an in-text citation to indicate the location of the passage:

Doctor Gaylin, for instance, does not believe that the improved management techniques proposed by the Clinton administration will solve the problem of rising medical costs, because the cost-cutting measures followed by HMOs under the current system will not be feasible when all Americans belong to such health collectives (62).

You may not simply change a few words or phrases and call the material your own, even if you acknowledge a source. The following passage based on Gaylin's original would be considered plagiarism, with or without an in-text citation or footnote:

Medical expenses will ruin America if we stay on our current path. There is no evidence that better management techniques will fix the trouble. "Managed care" may save some money today, but the way things are we will still pay for expensive, unprofitable care tomorrow.

You may not call the work your own if you change the language in the original passage but closely follow its organization, ideas, and examples. Most instructors would consider the following passage too much like Gaylin's original to be considered acceptable as a student's work:

Our country will go broke if it follows on its current path. And there is no information that says we can get out of this mess through better management. HMOs are successful today because they leave the county and teaching hospitals to fund costly, unprofitable specialized care (Gaylin 62).

Collusion. The current General Information Catalog of the University of Texas at Austin defines collusion as follows: "the unauthorized collaboration with another person in preparing academic assignments offered for credit or collaboration with another person to commit a violation of any section of the rules on scholastic dishonesty."

  • You commit collusion if you allow someone else to write your papers.
  • You also commit collusion if you allow someone else to edit your papers. It is scholastically dishonest for students to employ tutors to correct, edit, or modify essays in any substantive way. The same reservations and restrictions apply, within reason, to any outside assistance you may receive from a parent, friend, roommate, or academic tutor. Any changes, deletions, rearrangements, additions, or corrections made in your essays should represent your own work. If you want assistance in a course beyond that which your instructor can offer in class or in office hours, you may use the DRW's Undergraduate Writing Center (UWC) in the FAC or remote locations or the Learning Skills Center (LSC) in Jester A332. Tutors at these facilities are trained to comment on essays and to offer advice without editing or rewriting papers.

PENALTIES. If you have any questions or doubts about the way you are employing sources or getting assistance in writing a given paper, consult your instructor before handing it in. The penalties for plagiarism or collusion can be severe. In all demonstrable cases of either offense, the DRW recommends that its instructors fail the student for the entire course, not just for the paper. However, the penalty in a given case is at the discretion of the individual instructor.

Your instructor must discuss any charge of scholastic dishonesty directly with you and may also refer you to the Chair or Associate Chair of the Department of Rhetoric and Writing. In most instances, a plagiarism or collusion case is resolved either in the meeting between student and instructor, or between instructor, student, and Chair or Associate Chair. If it is not, a student has a right to a hearing before a designated University official and a right to make an appeal to the Office of the Dean of Students.