Improperly cited sources

code | scenario | smart strategies | consequences

Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters

1. It shall be an offence for a student knowingly:

(d) to represent as one’s own an idea or expression of an idea or work of another in any academic examination or term test or in connection with any other form of academic work, i.e. to commit plagiarism;

Wherever in the Code an offence is described as depending on “knowing”, the offence shall likewise be deemed to have been committed if the person ought reasonably to have known.

Scenario – Improperly cited sources

You are a second-year PhD student writing your departmental comprehensive exam. You have been working for months with your reading list, taking notes from articles and also copying and pasting passages directly into your working drafts. After receiving the exam questions, you begin to feel pressured for time as you have only a few days to complete your answers. As you panic to finish your exam answers, you begin to lose track of which sentences are your own in your working draft, and which sentences are taken directly from sources. You are unable to trace back all the passages from your working drafts, and submit your exam without being certain you have properly cited all instances of direct quotes in your answers. While you are unsure of your work, you feel that you can clarify any inconsistencies in person at your oral exam. Of note, you had been sanctioned earlier in your program for plagiarising on a course assignment worth 15% of the final grade. You received a zero on the assignment and a transcript notation indicating academic misconduct that remained for a one-year.

The Issue

You have knowingly not included the proper citations for the passages you have included in your written exam, thus you have committed plagiarism. While you hope to explain and account for any of these instances at your oral exam, this does not excuse the submission of your work with unattributed quotations. The note-taking method that you have used, taking passages from articles and dropping them into your working documents without accompanying source information, is very problematic and can easily lead to the issue that you experience. This is also a second offence.

Smart Strategies

  • Internet sources; Taking notes; Writing essays; Citations, quoting and paraphrasing; Information literacy and academic integrity
  • When taking direct quotes from sources and place them into notes and working documents, it is critical to always insert the correct reference with these quote and passages.
  • Students should not rely on being able to work back from their notes to the sources, as over time they can forget which source should be referenced, and they may run out of time to do a thorough check.
  • Instead of taking direct quotes from sources, students should consider paraphrasing the material they read and putting these paraphrased sections into their notes, with accompanying references as appropriate.
  • In final documents, proper referencing methods must always be used, and students should not expect to be given the chance to explain their referencing errors.
  • Using a wider variety of sources also may avoid relying too much on a limited number reference sources which increases the chances of copying.
  • Students must utilize appropriate time management, especially when preparing to submit a substantial document within a limited time frame. When dates and deadlines are known well ahead of time, preparing and reading in advance is important, but it is also important to implement schedules for completing required work on time with adequate time to confirm references and sources are complete.
  • Consult the helpful document ‘How not to Plagiarize’ for more detail on avoiding plagiarism.

Range of Consequences

For a discussion of consequences see Key Consequences.