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Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

What is Plagiarism?


Self-plagiarism is possible and it's just as serious.

According to the Cummings course catalog, "self-plagiarism is the act of presenting one's previously used work as an original work in subsequent assignments and is inconsistent with honesty and truthfulness in scholarship.  Submitting the same coursework to multiple courses also violates academic integrity unless the resubmitted work is substantially changed and cited as previous work " (p. 44).

Self-plagiarism is fraud and goes against the core principles of ethical writing. Papers are assigned for students to demonstrate evidence of learning.  If a paper is reused from a previous class, the student is not demonstrating new learning. 

Examples of self-plagiarism:

  • Turning in a paper for a current class that you already submitted as an assignment for a previous class,
  • Using a substantial amount of a paper written for another course as content for a new assignment,
  • Treating anything you've previously written as if it were new material.

There is a difference between self-plagiarism and reusing work to transform the ideas into something new, although the line between the two is a fine one.  Known as recycling, the student typically acknowledges the previous work's methodology and theory, using it as background.  The sixth edition of the APA manual provides the following guidance: “The general view is that the core of the new document must constitute an original contribution of knowledge, and only the amount of previously published material necessary to understand that contribution should be included, primarily in the discussion of theory and methodology.  When feasible, all of the author's own words that are cited should be located in a single paragraph or a few paragraphs, with a citation at the end of each" (p. 16).

For more information on recycling previous work, please see the box to the right entitled "Other Academic Integrity Situations."

Source:  Butler University (2015).  Academic Integrity @ Butler.  Retrieved from

Academic Integrity at Cummings

As a candidate for the Doctorate in Behavioral Health, students take their own work very seriously and should feel much pride in their accomplishments, since they represent years of study, research, and achievement at the greatest levels.  It would be most distressing to learn that someone else had represented this hard work as his own.  Thus, as students at the highest levels of learning, it is imperative that we hold ourselves to the highest standards and follow the Golden Rule of Research ourselves:  cite others as you would have them cite back to you.

Cummings Graduate Institute does not distinguish between purposeful and unintentional plagiarism when it comes to academic integrity.  Both are considered violations of the Academic Integrity policy.  However, to ensure everyone understands each type of plagiarism, we shall define them here:

INTENTIONAL PLAGIARISM occurs when a person appropriates the words or ideas of someone else and passes them off as his or her own.  This may include, but is not limited to, the following items:

  • Copying entire documents and presenting them as the student's own work.  This includes purchasing pre-written documents online from a paper mill.
  • Cutting-and-pasting the work of others without properly citing the source.
  • Stringing together quotes and/or ideas from others without establishing proper connection to the student's own original work
  • Asserting ideas without acknowledging their sources, or reproducing verbatim work written by others without properly citing the source.

UNINTENTIONAL  PLAGIARISM is the accidental appropriation of the work of others due to a lack of understanding of documentation conventions.  In layman's terms, it might be said that "you didn't know."  Regretfully, that is not a defense that excuses the conduct.  As a doctoral candidate, it is the student's responsibility to ensure she or he is familiar with the accepted practices for citing another's work, understands his responsibilities, holds himself to the highest academic standards, and asks for help if she or he does not understand. 

Proper citation of sources and avoidance of plagiarism is expected in all of a student's work, which encompasses but is not limited to the following:

  • discussion postings
  • exams
  • signature assignments
  • course papers
  • comprehensive exams
  • written assignments using outside information
  • group projects
  • dissertation documents (concept papers, proposals and final reports)

Please do not hesitate to ask questions of your instructors or the CORE Librarian -- we are here to help.. 

Reuse, Recycling, and Other Situations

The concept of academic honesty is not limited to copying another's work or failing to cite it properly.  Other behaviors may also be considered plagiarism:

  • Picking out key words and phrases in a text to replace, but keeping the essential ideas of the source
  • Mashing together words from multiple sources, making it look like one single piece of text
  • Creating false, nonexistent, or deliberately inaccurate citations

Two areas bear specific discussion:

1.  Outside Assistance:  Education is, by nature, collaborative and our learning is enhanced when we seek the help of others.  However, it is important to understand the boundaries of acceptable outside assistance so academic integrity is not violated.

       Group work and/or collaboration on assignments must be authorized by a professor.  If a professor does not say whether group work is allowed, you should assume it is not.  If group work is permitted, the professor will establish the parameters of that group work, which will spell out both individual and group contributions.  If the professor does not, it is the student's responsibility to ask.  No assumptions should be made.  The risks are too great and the stakes are too high.

       Review and feedback on work:  Every English teacher you've ever had has surely emphasized the need to have someone look over your work prior to submission and grading.  Until Cummings has a Writing Center, your peers, professors, and outside associates will serve this purpose.  It is acceptable to receive help with proofreading and sentence structure, and to take suggestions on revising for clarity and organization.  However, there is a fine line when it comes to reworking content.  Outside assistance should not change the substance of the work so greatly that it becomes more the reviewer's work than the original author's. The safest practice here is to ask for suggestions but to not allow the reviewer to actually rewrite the text.  The moment a reviewer crosses more than a few items out and rewrites them in his own words is when alarm bells should go off in one's head.

2.  Recycling of previously submitted work.  Learning is not meant to be fragmented and one of the most important purposes you have in this program is to build upon your previous knowledge.  There's a right way to do that and there's the way that can be considered plagiarism.

First, let's be clear on our terminology:

At Cummings, your culminating project often builds upon the work of previous courses.   Please be aware of the following:

  • Recycling of work starts with a conversation with the instructor, well in advance of the assigned due date.
  • Recycling is decided on a case-by-case basis.  There is no standard policy for recycling of materials.
  • The student should expect to submit a copy of the work she or he wishes to recycle, with a specific plan  explained to the instructor. 
  • Because recycling involves reusing previously submitted work, its use will be evaluated under the "fair use" doctrine.  Use should be limited to only what is necessary to establish background. The new use should be considered transformative, which means it must contain substantive changes from the original and it breaks new ground on the ideas of the original work.
  • The instructor may limit the student to a percentage of the original work or may delineate specific sections that can be expanded upon in the new writing.
  • Approval is at the instructor's discretion, and is subject to any and all restrictions the instructor puts in place.
  • If approval is received, it is for a single incident of use and should not be considered a precedent.  All subsequent recycling must go through the same approval process.
  • The student must cite his original work properly to avoid the charge of self-plagiarism.  Please see the Academic Integrity policy for more information.

BOTTOM LINE:  Students should adhere to the spirit of ethical writing.  Although there are situations where recycling of one's own text is acceptable, it is a practice that in general should be avoided -- unless it is done in a manner consistent with scholarly conventions (quoting, paraphrasing, and citing of the source.)

Source:  iThenticate. (2011).  The ethics of self-plagiarism  [PDF document].   Retrieved from