September 29th, 2010

Are You Committing Plagiarism? Top Five Overlooked Citations to Add to Your Course Materials

By:

Although we strive to uphold academic integrity, we may unknowingly be committing plagiarism. As we know (and tell our students) plagiarism is copying from a source verbatim, but it is even more than that. According to Reference.com, “plagiarism is the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.”

When we hear of faculty plagiarism, it mostly involves a publication. However, do you create PowerPoint® presentations from text content? Do you use ideas or handouts from colleagues? Do you copy a chapter from a book as supplemental reading without providing the source information? Do you use pictures or trademarks from the Internet? If so, you may be guilty of plagiarism. As faculty we should be aware of content that we distribute and whether we need to provide proper citations.

While searching Google with the keywords, faculty plagiarism, there were over 7,000,000 results. While narrowing the search using the keywords “faculty committing plagiarism,” the sites that I viewed have: 1. information about student plagiarism or 2. information about a professor who has committed plagiarism. Information to remind faculty how they may be committing unintentional plagiarism is needed.

Students are now using the same tool that faculty often use to identify faculty plagiarism—the Internet. By typing in a line or two from an assignment or other teaching materials, students are able to find online sources and possibly expose faculty plagiarism.

Here are some considerations for faculty when creating course materials:

  1. Place a citation at the bottom of your PowerPoint slides (or better yet, on the master slide) to reference your textbook. If you use a direct quote/definition from the text, include the page number afterward.
  2. Provide credit where credit is due when using ideas, organization of content, or quotes from colleagues.
  3. Provide references on any copied materials that you use as supplements and consider the Fair Use Law.
  4. Write or type Web links or references on any articles that you send to students or upload on a course content site such as Blackboard. After recording the citation on the article, it can be copied as a pdf. Merely citing these on Blackboard may not be enough.
  5. Do those pictures from the Internet that you wish to use have a copyright sign or is the website copyrighted? If so, request permission before you copy. There are plenty of open source pictures and graphics on the web that are for anyone’s use. However, trademarked images should not be used without permission.

Academic integrity is a vital component of our professional responsibility. We set an example for students and, make no mistake, they are watching!

Dr. Miki Crawford is the faculty coordinator and an associate professor in communication at Ohio University Southern Campus.


  • Lynda

    This is very helpful information as I often worry about is this 'plagerism'. There really are few new ideas under the sun and one can be guilty of re-inventing the wheel but I try to ensure all materials are credited. My next big issue is copyright infringement-when does copying material for a class infringe on the authors rights? I know you cannot copy to replace the students buying a book but what if the students are not expected to buy books only to listen i.e. in presentations? Help?

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