What Is Academic Integrity?
Queen’s University values and promotes an ethos of academic integrity, based on the values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage. Departures from these values compromise the integrity of the scholarly community that the University strives to foster. Such departures are accordingly regarded with great seriousness, and are subject to a range of sanctions.
The following are examples of departures from academic integrity:
- plagiarism, such as the unacknowledged use of sources;
- using unauthorized materials during a test;
- facilitation, such as the buying or selling of term papers;
- the forging of documents; and
- falsification, such as impersonating someone in an examination.
These values and departures from them are more fully defined and explained in Queen’s Arts and Science Regulation 1, “Academic Integrity”.
Students should familiarize themselves with this Regulation, which provides the framework within which the Department treats all departures from academic integrity.
The boundary between what may be regarded as appropriate borrowing on the one hand, and plagiarism or improper borrowing on the other, may vary from one discipline to another. Students taking courses in the Department need to understand what constitutes plagiarism in the discipline of English, why it is so regarded, and how to avoid inadvertently crossing the boundary between the acceptable and the unacceptable use of sources.
To ensure that all students understand these issues, the Department requires that this document be appended to every course syllabus. The purpose of this document is thus to inform. It does not imply a presumption of anyone’s intent to plagiarize. Many instructors also devote class time to the subject, and provide opportunity for discussing it. In any case, students who are unsure about what constitutes plagiarism should seek clarification from their instructor.
Citation of Sources: Purposes and Methods
Since plagiarism results from inadequate citation of the sources of one’s ideas or expressions, it is important to begin by understanding the purposes for citation. Citing sources properly is not just a matter of avoiding plagiarism; it has rhetorical purposes within an essay and constructive purposes within the discipline. A literary essay is not a simple monologue, in which everything originates with the essayist; it is more like a conversation involving the essayist, the subject matter, the reader, and (in many cases) other critics who have commented on the subject before.
Citation is a way of making the conversation and the essayist’s part in it clear by attributing all parts to their proper sources. If exact citation makes clear what the essayist’s debts are, it also helps to highlight the essayist’s own contributions. Proper citation has several other positive functions:
- enhancing essayists’ authority by showing that they have informed themselves on the subject,
- sharing information (e.g., by identifying sources the reader may not have known), and
- ensuring accuracy by making representations of others’ ideas and statements subject to checking.
Methods or formats of citation vary somewhat from one discipline to the next: for instance, while social scientists commonly use the American Psychological Association (or APA) style of citation, the Modern Language Association (or MLA) style is widely accepted in the discipline of literary studies and is considered standard within the Department.
Plagiarism: Definitions and Guidelines
Just as different disciplines use different styles of citation, what counts as permissible borrowing and what counts as plagiarism may also differ between disciplines. A borrowing without citation that may be acceptable in one discipline because it is considered a statement of fact or of common knowledge may be unacceptable in a literary research paper because it is considered somebody’s representation or interpretation. In general, the discipline of literary studies is more sensitive than others to the integrity of particular interpretations, representations, and phrasings, and more likely to view the representation of these elements as requiring citation.
Arts and Science Regulation 1, which is binding for all Departments, defines plagiarism as “presenting another’s ideas or phrasings as one’s own without proper acknowledgement.” The Regulation provides the following examples of prohibited acts:
- copying and pasting from the Internet, a printed source, or other resource without proper acknowledgement;
- copying from another student;
- using direct quotations or large sections of paraphrased material in an assignment without appropriate acknowledgement;
- submitting the same piece of work in more than one course without the permission of the instructors.
Facilitation of a departure from academic integrity, such as “knowingly allowing one’s essay or assignment to be copied by someone else” or “the buying or selling of term papers or assignments and submitting them as one’s own for the purpose of plagiarism,” is also prohibited. In the words of Regulation 1, this listing “defines the domain of relevant acts without providing an exhaustive list.”
The Department also offers the following guidelines on how to avoid plagiarism in undergraduate English essays:
- Electronic sources (e.g., Web sites, online databases) have the same status as printed sources (e.g., books, journal articles). Borrowings from either type of source must be fully and specifically acknowledged.
- Listing a source on a page of Works Cited is not in itself adequate acknowledgement. All specific borrowings from the source (whether of ideas or of language) must also be acknowledged locally with internal citations and, where appropriate, with quotation marks.
- An internal citation is not adequate if it is not clear how much information has been taken from the cited source. For example, a citation at the end of a paragraph is not adequate if it remains unclear whether the borrowing extends to one sentence or to more, or whether it extends to ideas only or also to the language used to express those ideas. In some cases, a borrowing with inadequate citation can constitute plagiarism.
- Do not attribute greater claims to a source than the source actually makes or alter a quotation without indicating how it has been altered.
- Collaboration in the writing of an essay is permitted only if specified in the assignment, and then the assignment should be co-signed; presenting collaborative work without acknowledgement may fall under the definition of plagiarism. If in doubt, students should ask their instructor whether or to what extent collaboration is permitted.
- Unforeseen difficulties (e.g., illness or family emergency) are not an excuse for plagiarism, for they can be dealt with in other ways. In such cases, students should ask their instructor for accommodation.
- Plagiarism can occur with or without intent; the definitions used by Arts and Science Regulation 1 and by the Department do not presume a deliberate attempt to deceive. Unintentional plagiarism may result if the essayist copies sources carelessly, forgets what originates with the sources, and then represents ideas or language taken from those sources as original work. It is therefore important to keep track of exactly what comes from where during the research process. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that there can be no misunderstanding about what information should be credited to the student and what derives from another source.
- It is also the student’s responsibility to ensure that the version of work submitted for academic credit is the final version; a claim that a wrong draft was submitted by accident will not be accepted as an excuse for plagiarism.
Students who are uncertain about how to document a specific source, or about what constitutes plagiarism in the fulfilment of a specific assignment, should seek clarification from the instructor. Seeking such clarification is their responsibility.
How Possible Departures from Academic Integrity are Treated
Arts and Science Regulation 1 prescribes a procedure for dealing with cases where a possible departure from academic integrity is suspected. This procedure is here summarized.
For more detail, students should consult the Regulation itself, as well as the Academic Integrity section of the Faculty of Arts and Science Web site:
An instructor who has concerns relating to a possible departure from academic integrity will send to the student a “Notice of Investigation,” outlining the basis for concern. Students must respond to this notice within ten days, either by contacting the instructor to arrange a meeting or by notifying their intention to submit a written response. Either option gives students an opportunity to respond to the instructor’s concerns; students who opt for a meeting are entitled to bring a friend or advisor.
After the meeting, or after receiving a written response, the instructor will determine whether the evidence warrants a finding of a departure from academic integrity. An instructor who determines that there are no grounds for such a finding will inform the student, and all documents in the case will be destroyed. An instructor who determines that the evidence does warrant a finding of such a departure will then decide, taking into account the seriousness of the finding and all relevant circumstances, whether the finding is Level 1 or Level 2, and what sanction to impose.
The distinction between a Level 1 and a Level 2 finding is described in Arts and Science Regulation 1. Briefly, a Level 1 finding is less serious, the sanction is imposed within the Department, and the record is kept in a separate file in the Faculty Office, but not in the student’s main file, and is only consulted in the case of a subsequent finding. In the Department, the sanction for a Level 1 finding is often a mark of zero for the particular assignment.
More serious cases, those categorized as Level 2, typically include some aggravating circumstance, such as the existence of a previous finding, and the sanction may involve a student failing the entire course. Level 2 findings are kept in a student’s main file in the Faculty Office.
In all cases, the instructor will send the student a formal notice of a “Finding of a Departure from Academic Integrity.” The student has a right to appeal this finding or to appeal the sanction, and the procedure for doing so is described on the form. In some instances, and always when the student has previously been the subject of a finding of a departure from academic integrity, the instructor will refer the finding to the Associate Dean (Studies), who may apply a more serious sanction, possibly including a recommendation to Senate that the student be required to withdraw from the University.
It is the responsibility of all students to read both Faculty and Department policies on this matter. For the Faculty policy, see Arts and Science Regulation 1.
Essential Further Reading
The Department endorses the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), which contains a wealth of information for English students:
Students are encouraged to access the resources listed under the heading “Avoiding Plagiarism” for comprehensive information about avoiding plagiarism (“Using Research”) and using MLA style correctly (“MLA Style”).
If you have any questions about Academic Integrity or Plagiarism, please speak to your instructor or contact the Undergraduate Chair via email: