The College of New Jersey

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The College of New Jersey is, above all, a community of scholars. It is a community where students and teachers come together to acquire, advance, and share knowledge. The resources of our campus, from libraries and laboratories to dining halls and playing fields, exist to support and facilitate learning. As a community, we depend on trust in each other’s integrity. Students must be able to trust that their ideas, data, and submitted work will be taken seriously and fairly evaluated by teachers who care about academic integrity. Teachers, advisors, and classmates must be able to trust that the ideas students express, the data they present, and the work they submit are their own. Misrepresenting another’s work as one’s own prevents an opportunity to learn and violates this trust. The right of ownership to academic work is as important as the right of ownership over personal possessions.

There has never been a better time to belong to a community of scholars. Technological advances have made it easier today than at any time in human history to acquire, advance, and share knowledge. Students at TCNJ have at their fingertips access to more texts, data, and opinions than could have been dreamt of fifty years ago. All of this is available for students to use, provided only that they give credit to their sources.

Over the course of a student’s education at TCNJ, his/her ideas will be shaped by the work of others. Scholars, scientists, and artists from across the years and around the globe, as well as their teachers and classmates, will influence how students see the world. The challenge is to go beyond what one learns from others by comparing, critiquing, rethinking, and synthesizing their work and by adding original elements. There is nothing more satisfying in academic life than producing something original. To frame an insightful argument that has not been framed before; to design a new experiment that yields significant data; to create a work of art with a fresh sensibility: these are among the most rewarding accomplishments that a student is likely to have in the course of their TCNJ education. But recognition and reward for accomplishments of this kind require clarity on what is original. Students are expected to make it as clear and easy as possible to distinguish what is original in their work from what is not.

Receiving credit for what is original in one’s work is a compelling reason for acknowledging sources, but it is not the only one. It is also important to receive credit for background research and to establish the credibility of the cited sources. Acknowledging one’s sources demonstrates the depth and breadth of one’s reading— in effect, documenting the hard work that was put into an assignment. Furthermore, proper citation helps to place original ideas in the context of larger intellectual conversations and to facilitate the re-examination of sources. Finally, acknowledging one’s sources, like the other practices that make up academic integrity, is a non-negotiable condition for being a member of our community of learners. It is part of the ethic that defines our reason for being at The College of New Jersey.

TCNJ’s Academic Integrity Policy emphasizes the positive reasons for academic honesty rather than negative consequences of academic dishonesty. Students need to know, however, that those consequences are severe. All TCNJ students must be familiar with the distinctions, procedures, and penalties contained in the Policy. Although a student may have a good grasp of the fundamental differences between academic honesty and dishonesty, there are details in the Policy that must be known before the submission of one’s first assignment. Neither ignorance of regulations nor pressures of time and circumstance is an acceptable reason for violations of academic integrity.

Requirements for citing sources vary among departments and faculty members, but certain principles are common to all. Students are responsible for adhering to these principles. The first principle is prudence. If unsure whether to cite a source or how much information to provide, students should always err on the side of caution. Cite the source and provide complete information even if that source is a set of notes borrowed from another student. Any quotation or paraphrase, however small, should be fully cited. Students are responsible for indicating the extent of their indebtedness to a source. Rules for citation may vary, but the common purpose of every citation is to make it easy for a reader to find the exact source(s) of the item cited.

Some ideas, facts, and formulae, like E = mc2, are deemed common knowledge and need not be cited, but criteria differ among disciplines. If a student is not sure, he/she should cite or check with their professor. The same principles of source citation apply to electronic sources. Students should be sure to acknowledge any information, text or image acquired from the Internet by noting the name and author of the site (if available), the Internet address, and the date you accessed the site. If a student is not sure how to acknowledge an electronic source, he/she should ask a professor.

In cases where individual reports are submitted based on work involving authorized collaboration, proper acknowledgment of the extent of the collaboration must appear in the report. Students should make sure that they understand the rules of collaboration in any course by asking their professor.

* This statement is indebted to the spirit and letter of Princeton University’s booklet “Academic Integrity at Princeton,” published by the Office of the Dean of the College; © the Trustees of Princeton University, 2011.