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Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a crime. There is no way around this fact. The Skidmore College Academic Information Guide defines plagiarism as follows:

  • "Presenting as one's own, the work of another person (for example, the words, ideas, information, data, evidence, organizing principles, or style of presentation of someone else.
  • "Plagiarism includes paraphrasing or summarizing without acknowledgement, submission of another student's work as one's own, the purchase of prepared research or completed papers or projects, and the unacknowledged use of research resources gathered by someone else.
  • "Failure to indicate accurately the extent and precise nature of one's reliance on other sources is also a form of plagiarism." (AIG, p. 67)

For a full discussion of issues related to plagiarism and the ethics of scholarship, go to the Academic Integrity webpages maintained by Scribner Library.

The crime of the plagiarist is committed against the author of the original work, against the students who have done their own research legitimately, against the instructor who assigned the paper, against the principles of the institution (i.e. Skidmore), and against scholarship at large.

Whenever you utilize the evidence presented by others in your own research you must give them their due. That is, they must receive credit for their original ideas and use of the language. When they do not, and when you subsequently use and pass off as yours their ideas or words, you have committed an act of plagiarism, even if that was not your intent.

For example, if your paper examines the relationship between Athenian democracy and dramatic works such as tragedy, you might want to draw upon the following comments from pp. 104-105 of M.I. Finley's The Ancient Greeks:

"Evidently fifth-century Athens somehow provided the atmosphere in which this art [of tragedy] could flourish. It would be foolhardy to make the further suggestion that the link between tragedy and democracy was a simple, direct one. Political allusions are not infrequent in the plays, and a few, like Aeschylus' Persians, written less than ten years after the battle of Salamis, abandoned the realm of myth for a contemporary setting."

How does a writer represent the ideas and the language of another and give proper credit without simply quoting at length large excerpts from the works of others? The next paragraph represents the difference between the writer's ideas and language, and that of Finley, and then assigns credit appropriately.

Finley has argued that the relationship between the tragedies of fifth-century Athens and the democracy fostered by the Athenian polis was sophisticated and complex. There were few plays like Aeschylus' Persians, that "abandoned the realm of myth for a contemporary setting" and instead, "political allusions [were] not infrequent in the plays" of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. (Finley 1971, 9-11). 

In this passage, the writer avoided Finley's language altogether until he or she chose to quote Finley directly. At the end of the sentence containing the quotation, the writer would employ a footnote and cite the critical bibliographic information.

The next passage plagiarizes the work of Finley because it paraphrases Finley's work and does not give appropriate credit:

"It seems that, in fifth-century Athens, there was an atmosphere conducive to the production of tragedy. But because political allusions occur in the plays of this period and only a few, such as the Persians by Aeschylus, actually focused on a contemporary setting and abandoned the realm of myth, it would be foolhardy to suggest that there was a simple, direct link between tragedy and democracy."

As you can see in this example, the writer has conveyed precisely the same ideas as Finley and has even stolen Finley's language at times. Both are serious offenses, and even placing a footnote at the end of this paragraph would not be sufficient, for although credit would be given for the ideas, the language has been stolen out of context and rearranged.

Skidmore College is committed to upholding academic intregrity, and brings strict sanctions against those who commit plagiarisim. (See AIG pp. 66-71 for more information.)