Sir Isaac Newton was right, not only about apples but also about attribution. “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants,” he wrote. Newton was not the first or the last to recognize the cumulative nature of knowledge and the importance of acknowledging the work of others. Yet it can be harder for those doing research online today to know on whose shoulders they’re standing. But that doesn’t mean academic honesty is a thing of the past. If anything, it’s become more important to cite sources when so many are available. For several reasons, academic honesty remains the rule of all scholarship. It’s only fair: taking anything without permission is theft. Its absence diminishes the whole concept of intellectual life, which is to create a chain of learning in a setting of integrity. Giving credit to others also strengthens an argument by adding voices of authority.
Most college students know that plagiarism—deliberately submitting something you did not write—is a violation of academic honesty with serious consequences. Not all realize, however, that other forms of academic dishonesty are also unacceptable. These include:
- double-submitting, or using the same work to meet assignments in two or more courses;
- insufficient paraphrasing, or representing someone else’s language too closely as your own;
- pirating ideas, or using the thoughts, concepts, and analysis of someone else—even those of a friend or roommate in casual conversation—as your own;
- incomplete citation, or failing to include all necessary elements of documentation in your citations (for example, omitting either in-text citations or a Works Cited pages when both are required);
- under-documentation, or combining several sources into a single one.
If you have any doubts about whether you are engaging in academic dishonesty, the best approach is to show a draft to your professor and discuss how you are documenting your sources. Do not simply take the word of a fellow student, who may unintentionally be giving you bad advice. Another good source for guidance on how to practice academic honesty is the Farnham Writers’ Center, which can provide complete and accurate information.
For a complete statement of the policy on academic dishonesty, please see the Colby Student Handbook at:
For more information on avoiding plagiarism, see the Colby Libraries’ libguide at: