Course information and assignments for Ms. Preble's West Hills English classes

What is Academic Dishonesty?


In recent years, things in classrooms have changed. The Internet makes research and information-seeking so much easier and efficient, and communications are available at the touch of a button. Because of these great advances, though, some students find the lines between their own work and plagiarism a bit blurry. In many cases, students are unaware that some ways of working are actually cheating, so I wanted to clarify for you what is considered academic dishonesty so you don’t unintentionally fall into that trap.

1. Internet research is great, but you MUST credit all sources. If, for example, you do a research paper on the dust bowl and you find a great site on the internet, the procedure is that you take notes, read the material, digest it in your mind, and then write your paper in your own words. If something on the site is phrased just perfectly, you may use it, just be sure to give credit to your source! According to Dr. John Smith, an expert quoted on the Great History website (, “the Dust Bowl swept through the Midwest like a plague of locusts, wiping out everything in its path.” Smith estimates that over 1 million families were displaced and forced to move or starve to death.

Using this information without giving credit to your source is like saying you’re the expert on the Dust Bowl. That’s probably not true.

Also, when writing essays, the commentary must be your own. You cannot quote other sources for commentary, even if what they say is great.

2. Working together on solitary assignments is something some students do frequently, and it can get you into trouble. Unless a project or report is a group project or report, do it yourself. Changing a few words here and there does not substantially change a paper if you and your friend have done it together.

3. Book talks in which you have “skimmed” the book or “read it last summer” won’t get credit unless you can remember the characters, plot, theme and substance of the piece. In a test for any other subject, if you can’t remember the main points and answer the questions, you don’t pass the test even if you studied for weeks on end. It’s the same with outside reading; simply reading the book will not get your credit unless you can answer the questions at the book conference.

4. Getting help on assignments from older brothers, sisters, or parents can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you do it. Asking someone to read your essay and give feedback is one thing, but asking them to rewrite the commentary, find good quotes for you, or juice up the vocabulary with words you don’t know is not what feedback is all about. The essay is a reflection of what YOU know, not what your parents or siblings or best friends know.

5. Copying the work someone else has done is also academic dishonesty, even if you don’t think it’s a big deal.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion about academic dishonesty. If you have further questions, or are unclear on what constitutes academic dishonesty, please ask!

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