Taught by A. Potasznik


Here is the UMB policy regarding Academic Dishonesty.

Please note that this particular class goes slightly further in defining plagiarism with the additional point: “copying your own work (whole or in part) to a new submission will receive a grade of 0 for the assignment and potentially the entire course.”

As a general rule, any sentence that includes quotations, dates, statistics, or other specific references or ideas must be followed by an in-line citation. That citation should be included in a reference page at the end of the document. 

As of November 21, 2019, APA will be the only acceptable citation format for this class.

If you are not familiar with APA citations, or are confused about citations in general, carefully read through this page and click the resources provided.

Here is a short powerpoint to clarify some common plagiarism mistakes:

Potasznik Plagiarism recap: What it is, how to avoid it

UMB resources for students on avoiding plagiarism

As always: Plagiarized assignments get a 0 and cannot be made up. There are no second chances or “redo” opportunities for students who plagiarize in the ethics course. Late submissions for homework and write-ups are accepted within 1 week of the due date with a sliding deduction scale. Please see the syllabus (section 6) for additional documentation.

So you got caught cheating. In the Ethics class. Now what?

Here is a document that outlines the punishment process for students in my classes who have made this unwise mistake.

Note that while correct citations protect you from plagiarism issues, your paper must feature your own analysis for the majority of its contents. Papers that are comprised mostly of citations, accurately attributed as they may be, will not earn credit, since this assignment requires your own synthesis and analysis.

As of December 2018, submissions containing text that has been altered from its original version with your own synonyms AND/OR paraphrasing software/sites (spinbot, paraphrasing-tool, articlerewritertool, quillbot, rephraser, etc.), or translator service abuse, will be considered “egregious, unmitigated plagiarism.” That means that instead of being given a second chance, you will fail the course upon the first detection of such cheating. The incident will also be noted in your academic file.

Plagiarism (resulting in failed assignment)

Egregious, unmitigated plagiarism (resulting in failure of class on first incident)

Using a sentence from your old write-ups or from other course assignments in new assignments (term definitions excluded). Copying homework, write-up passages, project passages, final paper passages, or midterm answers from another student, HomeworkDen, Bartleby, CourseHero, Chegg, or a similar site; copying chunks of writing from your old assignments into new ones.
Writing your assignment in your native language, then translating it using software (assuming you still understand the final product). Using translators to the extent that you cannot explain the words and ideas in your own paper.

Masking copying from another author: Paraphrasing without attribution, using synonyms for plagiarized words, changing word order, using translators to change words/order, using any other method that results in thwarting or hindering plagiarism detection, anti-plagiarism software, or the grader.

Not attributing statistics, specific information, definitions, or quotes to their original source (one sentence maximum). Copying work from another source and submitting it as your own; extensively using statistics or information from a source or sources without proper attribution.

Instances of plagiarism after the professor has already spoken with the student about a previous incident.

Using AI text generators.

The identification and severity categorization of plagiarism cases is at the discretion of the professor. Students who immediately admit their mistakes and do not engage in dishonest behavior (covering up, claiming ignorance, denying) after plagiarism is proven will usually, but not always, have a less severe sanction.

You should always be able to tell me what you mean by the words in your paper. If you can’t, that is a plagiarism red flag. See the explanation under “My English isn’t great…” under “Excuses” below.

AI text generation may not be used for any graded assignments in the course. While AI text generators are a great topic for discussion, putting your name on a passage that AI generated is egregious plagiarism. It’s also an eloquent demonstration of how easy it may be to replace your work with AI outside of an academic setting.


The plagiarism policy in this class IS NOT AFFECTED by your personal life. Trying to emotionally manipulate the professor into excusing your cheating is both illogical (appeal to emotion) and unethical. Please refrain from making the following excuses when you are reprimanded for plagiarism:

“I didn’t have time to do it myself.”

aka “I am taking 5 classes this semester and also working full time,” “I had an emergency at home,” and “I was working on a big project for my other class.”

Part of college is working on decision-making and time management skills. If signing up for multiple classes and working extensively during the week requires you to copy others’ work, put your name on it, and turn it in, you should never have signed up for that many classes in the first place. If the perfect storm of events outside of your control converges on a week that you have an assignment due in my course, you can email me with documentation and ask for an extension on the assignment BEFORE the day of the due date (see syllabus).

“I didn’t understand it.”

College is a great time to learn if you were never told this in K-12 school: If you don’t understand something, re-read the instructions, ask for clarification, look at provided examples. Don’t default to cheating.

“I didn’t know that was plagiarism.”

You completed the plagiarism workshop at the beginning of the semester. You also signed the plagiarism comprehension statement. I explained this concept in person during our first lecture as well. If that much instruction still results in confusion to the point that you copy others’ work and submit it as your own, please reflect on/reconsider your academic plans.

“I’m really anxious and stressed out.”

Yes, most people on the university campus at a given time are dealing with anxiety and stress. You can alleviate these symptoms by managing your time in a way that gives you ample space for reading directions and completing assignments. Mental health issues never justify cheating on your schoolwork. The sanctions for such behavior will make your anxiety and stress much, much worse.

“My English isn’t great; I just wanted to make my assignment sound better.”

Replacing your words with those of other authors or synonym websites might make your paper sound good, but it is plagiarism. The choice between a paper that doesn’t sound perfect and a zero for the entire course is hopefully an easy one to make.

“I made a mistake, but I am [an honors student/international student/graduating this year/really sorry], can’t I have another chance? Why does my punishment have to be so harsh?”

Because you cheated. In an ethics class. Luckily the sanction is explained and agreed to by all students, so we never have to make judgment calls on your reasoning or the punishment. If you cheat, you get this sanction. If you don’t want the sanction, do not cheat.

“But the plagiarism checker said it was ok”

Added December 2021:

I have a disturbing number of students who are denying plagiarism because a third party “plagiarism detection” website has given them a report saying that there is no plagiarism in their paper. Please note that this argument is extremely misguided at best, and duplicitous at worst. In case you truly don’t know why it is an illogical claim, I will explain:

It should be clear that when you are checking to make sure no software catches your copied phrases, you are already in very dubious territory regarding academic integrity. When you include information from another source, cite it. Even if you’ve moved the words around so that a checker doesn’t recognize that your version matches the original idea, you still took and used the idea. Plagiarism happens when you copy ideas or text without attribution, even when you successfully scramble it and get the all clear from a service that makes money off of “detection.”

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