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Please understand that this isn't a question like "Help me lie about my GPA." The only reason I am coming on here is because I have legitimately been falsely accused and want to know if anyone else has ever had to deal with this and how they successfully proved their innocence.

I have a class this semester that's largely discussion based. Each week we turn in a short response paper to some prompt in the syllabus. A couple weeks ago I turned in a prompt that drew heavily on a short piece published online. I explicitly cited the web source in the footer. Author name, website, and publishing date.

Received an email from the professor asking me to come in and meet with the Dean regarding a violation of the student code. From the language of the email (that included their entire exchange discussing strategy) it looks as if they've already set their mind. What do you advise?

Comments (40)

  • CallThatBond's picture

    You're in deep shit. You have to cite it every time you draw from it, not just once. I hope they go easy on you, but it looks like your prof has already involved your school's administration...

    EDIT: To be helpful, claim that there was no intent. It's typically not an accepted excuse, but you can point to the fact that you did cite the source in your response paper. You can argue that the way you cited it suggests that you were going to continue to draw from it throughout your paper.

    Sorry I can't be any more helpful. By the book, this is a blatant honor code violation, even though you probably didn't mean to do anything wrong.

  • In reply to CallThatBond
    Some Unknown's picture

    CallThatBond wrote:
    You're in deep shit. You have to cite it every time you draw from it, not just once. I hope they go easy on you, but it looks like your prof has already involved your school's administration...
    This seems absurd to me. There were literally no guidelines given for these papers, it's one of those entrepreneurship sort of classes taught by a guy who isn't a career academic so the syllabus is very fluid and focused on experiential learning. Never specifies a citation style or requirements, just an intentionally broad and ambiguous question and a desired length.

    It never required in-text or parenthetical citations, so I made very clear reference to the sources but did not embed them in the paper. I feel like there's a very clear explanation here but I don't want to get railroaded.

  • CallThatBond's picture

    If your school is like mine, you signed an "Honor Code Agreement" -- or something along those lines -- when you matriculated. That agreement walks through the rules for citing sources, and what you've done is almost always explicitly banned.

    However, take a look at what I wrote above:

    "EDIT: To be helpful, claim that there was no intent. It's typically not an accepted excuse, but you can point to the fact that you did cite the source in your response paper. You can argue that the way you cited it suggests that you were going to continue to draw from it throughout your paper."

    The one way out of these hairy situations is that you cited the source in such a way that it is clear that you intended to draw upon it multiple times. You can use the ambiguity of the syllabus and whatnot to reinforce this argument by claiming that you did not want to disrupt the flow of the paper with numerous redundant in-text citations. Instead, you opted to include the source in a footnote, and you thought it was clear that you were referring back to that source.

    If you go with this story, you're going to need a damn good reason for why you didn't put a superscript next to every sentence taken from the source.

    I hate to see honor code violations go down like this, but this shit happens. Typically profs are lenient when the cheating was intentional, but it looks like you got a hardliner who is going to insist on nailing you.

    Don't know what else to say other than sorry.

  • Some Unknown's picture

    It's clear that I didn't cheat, however. I put the citation in!

    I'm going to have to walk them through this and pray it works out for the best. I have a job on the line here and this is not going to cut it.

  • CallThatBond's picture

    Read through your school's honor code. There should be an online copy on your Registrar's website (or even on your student portal).

    I don't think this is sinking in: Whether or not you intended to cheat is irrelevant. (Therefore, "I put the citation in!" doesn't matter. It only matters if you cited the source correctly and as many times as you should have.) 99% of honor codes explicitly state that ignorance is not an acceptable excuse. It may make your prof pity you, but it will not excuse your misstep.

    You need to parse through every damn sentence of your school's honor code to figure out how to get out of this situation. This is the ONLY way I have ever seen people get out of plagiarism accusations. If you go into your meeting with what you're telling me, you are going to come out of it very, very unhappy. I have been witness to far too many hearings like this, and it hurts every time that I have to raise my hand to vote "guilty."

    Here's what you can do:

    The syllabus was unclear. You didn't know how you were supposed to cite the source, so you put it in a footnote.

    Based on what you've given me, I don't see another strategy. Here are the questions I would ask you:

    1) Why didn't you superscript every sentence drawn from the source?
    2) If you weren't sure how to cite the source, why didn't you ask your prof for clarification? 99% of honor codes say that you should ask your prof if you're ever unsure.
    3) Exactly how similar is your paper to the source? Even if you cite it, you can't copy it.

    Good luck.

  • 808's picture

    I was on my university's ethics/academic integrity board as a student member. What you don't realize is that not citing something after every single sentence that you paraphrase (i.e. "draw on heavily" in your words) is technically plagiarism. Citing it in the footer is not enough.

    There are all kinds of things that people don't think of as cheating that are actually plagiarism violations. Using text from a different paper you wrote last semester without quoting yourself, for example, is also plagiarism. Unless you follow the rules exactly, they can nail you if they want. I honestly never saw a single violation like yours come up, because typically professors aren't jerks about it. Everybody makes exactly the same mistake you did. So, I think a great defense is to find one or two other posts on the message board that make the same mistake, and ask why everyone else isn't being charged with the same violation.

    You are not being falsely accused. You are guilty as charged, by the letter of the law. Just plead ignorance. You didn't know that was the rule, so admit it, apologize, and move on. I would be very surprised if they still held it against you. If they do, I would escalate it to the provost or whoever else is above the dean. No reasonable person would insist on putting this on your record. However, keep in mind that your professor probably has a working relationship with the dean, so the dean will believe the professor's perspective - you will have to fight for yourself.

  • In reply to 808
    TheEconomiist's picture

    808 wrote:
    I was on my university's ethics/academic integrity board as a student member. What you don't realize is that not citing something after every single sentence that you paraphrase (i.e. "draw on heavily" in your words) is technically plagiarism. Citing it in the footer is not enough.

    There are all kinds of things that people don't think of as cheating that are actually plagiarism violations. Using text from a different paper you wrote last semester without quoting yourself, for example, is also plagiarism. Unless you follow the rules exactly, they can nail you if they want. I honestly never saw a single violation like yours come up, because typically professors aren't jerks about it. Everybody makes exactly the same mistake you did. So, I think a great defense is to find one or two other posts on the message board that make the same mistake, and ask why everyone else isn't being charged with the same violation.

    You are not being falsely accused. You are guilty as charged, by the letter of the law. Just plead ignorance. You didn't know that was the rule, so admit it, apologize, and move on. I would be very surprised if they still held it against you. If they do, I would escalate it to the provost or whoever else is above the dean. No reasonable person would insist on putting this on your record. However, keep in mind that your professor probably has a working relationship with the dean, so the dean will believe the professor's perspective - you will have to fight for yourself.

    This.

    And, I am no expert, but perhaps MLA/APA/other formats require different rules. Heck, when it comes down to it, they are all pretty arbitrary, and unless your syllabus mandates that you use a certain form, I don't see how they can hold it against you.

  • TheEconomiist's picture

    Also, try crying. It might work.

  • Cries's picture

    I agree with futuredoc. Lawyer up prior to the meeting if you truly value your job.

  • BTbanker's picture

    MLA/Chicago/APA all require you use parenthetical citation after you take information from a source. This is middle school stuff.

    Just curious what type of school you're at. Private, state school, Ivy?

  • philosophizingphilosoraptor's picture

    If you are a chick, offer a BJ. With a happy ending.
    If you are a dude, offer buttsex. Hope they are gay.

    On a more serious note, by the letter of the law, you plagiarized. Now, this is not as bad as not citing anything at all, but plagiarism does not come in degrees - you either plagiarized, or you did not. By citing the source only once, you implied that the un-cited portion of your paper was yours, and not by your source. Painstainkingly read through your honor code, plead ignorance and good intentions, and hope the best comes out of it.

    To the starving man, beans are caviar

  • G.M.Trevelyan's picture

    You're a fucking idiot -- lazy and incompetent even at cheating. Admit and try to let him forgive you, and tell him and the Dean what you've learned. Expect suspension.

  • In reply to TheEconomiist
    uglykidjoe's picture

    TheEconomiist wrote:
    Also, try crying. It might work.

    A friend of mine had a similar problem except he had to deal only with the professor. He had a long talk with the professor and resolved the problem. I'm not sure but i think he cried too. But with the dean involved it seems serious.

  • In reply to 808
    blastoise's picture

    808 wrote:
    I was on my university's ethics/academic integrity board as a student member. What you don't realize is that not citing something after every single sentence that you paraphrase (i.e. "draw on heavily" in your words) is technically plagiarism. Citing it in the footer is not enough.

    There are all kinds of things that people don't think of as cheating that are actually plagiarism violations. Using text from a different paper you wrote last semester without quoting yourself, for example, is also plagiarism. Unless you follow the rules exactly, they can nail you if they want. I honestly never saw a single violation like yours come up, because typically professors aren't jerks about it. Everybody makes exactly the same mistake you did. So, I think a great defense is to find one or two other posts on the message board that make the same mistake, and ask why everyone else isn't being charged with the same violation.

    You are not being falsely accused. You are guilty as charged, by the letter of the law. Just plead ignorance. You didn't know that was the rule, so admit it, apologize, and move on. I would be very surprised if they still held it against you. If they do, I would escalate it to the provost or whoever else is above the dean. No reasonable person would insist on putting this on your record. However, keep in mind that your professor probably has a working relationship with the dean, so the dean will believe the professor's perspective - you will have to fight for yourself.

    What are plagiarism laws? And where exactly do these laws say you must cite X using Y format. Also, is there a giant database that contains every literature example(including ones I wrote,you wrote, your teacher wrote, some random in China wrote that are not published(lol, wtf?)), if not how are you to prove no one wrote your exact line of text.

    Plagiarism is so horribly defined it is used as a defense by garbage authors to defend there shit ideas 99.999% of the population does not care about and will most likely laugh at if you are to be taken seriously.

    my 2c

  • State of Trance's picture

    If you did not intend to cheat but u did not cite your source you might get zero on your essay. I do not think the professor should give you a more stringent punishment as it is purely unintentional.

  • moneymogul's picture

    808 wrote:
    I was on my university's ethics/academic integrity board as a student member.

    I hate you.

    “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected.” - Jobs

  • mikesswimn's picture

    What format were you supposed to be using? APA/MLA/Chicago? Was it specified? I know Chicago utilizes the footnote more often than APA or MLA, so I'm assuming you were supposed to be citing with Chicago format?

    "My caddie's chauffeur informs me that a bank is a place where people put money that isn't properly invested."

  • Cruncharoo's picture

    Your university should have some sort of student law services available to you for free. Go to them and talk through your situation and see what they have to say. I'm sure they have dealt with this before and at the very least can give you an idea of what to expect going in there and how to best handle it.

    This to all my hatin' folks seeing me getting guac right now..

  • ivoteforthatguy's picture

    post your paper in full, and post the online paper. we will then determine whether you are guilty.

  • elephantastic's picture

    Whoah, I think a lot of people here are blowing this out of proportion.

    You may not have followed a precisely dictated citation format, but you clearly cited a source nonetheless. In addition, the assignment was informal in nature. You will be fine. Don't be scared. Just speak the truth. Bring in the assignment, bring in a printout of the source, and if possible bring in previous assignments that you submitted with a similar citation style.

    The administrator will probably just give you a slap on the wrist because he has to in front of the professor, but nothing actually bad will happen to you. Just stay the hell away from that professor. My guess is he had a problem with you beforehand. Otherwise, he wouldn't have pulled this.

  • In reply to elephantastic
    State of Trance's picture

    jd-to-ib wrote:
    Whoah, I think a lot of people here are blowing this out of proportion.

    You may not have followed a precisely dictated citation format, but you clearly cited a source nonetheless. In addition, the assignment was informal in nature. You will be fine. Don't be scared. Just speak the truth. Bring in the assignment, bring in a printout of the source, and if possible bring in previous assignments that you submitted with a similar citation style.

    The administrator will probably just give you a slap on the wrist because he has to in front of the professor, but nothing actually bad will happen to you. Just stay the hell away from that professor. My guess is he had a problem with you beforehand. Otherwise, he wouldn't have pulled this.

    I would have given you a SB for this. Gr8 post. I totally agree with what you said at the bottom of the post.

  • In reply to elephantastic
    Some Unknown's picture

    mikesswimn wrote:
    What format were you supposed to be using? APA/MLA/Chicago? Was it specified? I know Chicago utilizes the footnote more often than APA or MLA, so I'm assuming you were supposed to be citing with Chicago format?
    None was specified. The syllabus completely omits any reference to requirements for these regular prompts, does not include the standard departmental boilerplate that every professor includes as a minimum, and instead has about three pages of purely biographical info.

    I don't know to what extent the Dean is involved, from the email I received (which showed their exchange) it looks like the professor reached out to the administration for next steps (perhaps because he wasn't sure what to do).

    Cruncharoo wrote:
    Your university should have some sort of student law services available to you for free. Go to them and talk through your situation and see what they have to say. I'm sure they have dealt with this before and at the very least can give you an idea of what to expect going in there and how to best handle it.
    That's a good thought, thank you.

    jd-to-ib wrote:
    Whoah, I think a lot of people here are blowing this out of proportion.

    You may not have followed a precisely dictated citation format, but you clearly cited a source nonetheless. In addition, the assignment was informal in nature. You will be fine. Don't be scared. Just speak the truth. Bring in the assignment, bring in a printout of the source, and if possible bring in previous assignments that you submitted with a similar citation style.

    The administrator will probably just give you a slap on the wrist because he has to in front of the professor, but nothing actually bad will happen to you. Just stay the hell away from that professor. My guess is he had a problem with you beforehand. Otherwise, he wouldn't have pulled this.

    Thank you, very helpful. I can appreciate your analytical nature (and hopefully legal knowledge, given your username).

  • State of Trance's picture

    OP if you have had no intention of cheating then you should not worry about it. There are so many CEOs I know of who have cheated at way more important things in life and never got caught.

  • In reply to G.M.Trevelyan
    AndyLouis's picture

    G.M.Trevelyan wrote:
    You're a fucking idiot -- lazy and incompetent even at cheating. Admit and try to let him forgive you, and tell him and the Dean what you've learned. Expect suspension.

    ouch, tough critic

  • In reply to State of Trance
    Febreeze's picture

    State of Trance wrote:
    OP if you have had no intention of cheating then you should not worry about it. There are so many CEOs I know of who have cheated at way more important things in life and never got caught.

    don't leave us hanging, please.

  • CaR's picture

    OP, I recently endured a similar situation. Maybe I can help.

    My junior year I plagiarized an Ann Coulter piece online in hopes of proving that since Obama was elected in '08--the same year the "Dark Knight" came out and again re-elected in '12 when "The Dark Knight Rises" came out--our country was indubitably a socialist country, and by extension, my public university socialist, and by extension, my professor was an instrument of a pinko commie regime and I was thus exempt from turning in assignments for the rest of the semester since it didn't benefit the common good. It's the transitive property, or something. I also included a quote from Mein Kampf in the beginning to accentuate my point that Obama is the dark knight, and that Christian Bale would beat Daniel Craig in a fistfight 8 times out of 10 provided he was in his prime (didnt cite that either--see: common knowledge).

    My dean called me in, and laid out the Coulter piece directly adjacent to mine on the table. They were perfectly identical, both even including a small picture of Coulter at the bottom. As one might imagine, I was utterly shocked. I slammed my fist on the table and screamed "this is an outrage!!! I can not believe this trifling, petulant woman has plagiarized my material!!!" The dean and my professor were understandably confused. "What are you talking about? You literally copy and pasted miss Coulter's material onto your assignment. You even included a picture of her face at the bottom."

    "No...you don't understand. This is my material. I put her face at the bottom to juxtapose aggression as a basic Nazi idea to the manufactured, neo-conservative notion that---nevermind, that's not important. Just look at this."
    I pointed to the date of my piece, indicating it was written on February 31st, 1983, thus clearing me of all charges since the dastardly Coulter's had been written 25 years later. What an idiot!
    "1983? That's practically seven years before you were even born, let alone before the assignment was even given. Is this some kind of joke?"

    "Exactly," I replied.

    PM me if you want more specifics, hope this helps and good luck with your meeting

  • In reply to CaR
    Cruncharoo's picture

    CaR wrote:
    OP, I recently endured a similar situation. Maybe I can help.

    I can't believe she jacked your ideas like that. Very nice post

    This to all my hatin' folks seeing me getting guac right now..

  • In reply to G.M.Trevelyan
    Some Unknown's picture

    G.M.Trevelyan wrote:
    You're a fucking idiot -- lazy and incompetent even at cheating. Admit and try to let him forgive you, and tell him and the Dean what you've learned. Expect suspension.
    Frankly, your condescension is naive and immature. There was no citation style specified, so excuse me for not having an accurate idea as to how he wanted it cited. I didn't misrepresent someone else's work directly as my own. I obviously drew heavily on the piece, but I did reference it in the sources and leading into each quotation, e.g. "As Prestigious Pete says, "I am the perfect example of a gold-plated excellence."

    I will not admit a thing. I did not intentionally commit a single wrong, so acknowledging cheating would not only be certain death in that it gives them leeway to exact any punishment, but it would simply be a lie.

  • In reply to CaR
    Mr.Saxman's picture

    CaR wrote:
    OP, I recently endured a similar situation. Maybe I can help.

    My junior year I plagiarized an Ann Coulter piece online in hopes of proving that since Obama was elected in '08--the same year the "Dark Knight" came out and again re-elected in '12 when "The Dark Knight Rises" came out--our country was indubitably a socialist country, and by extension, my public university socialist, and by extension, my professor was an instrument of a pinko commie regime and I was thus exempt from turning in assignments for the rest of the semester since it didn't benefit the common good. It's the transitive property, or something. I also included a quote from Mein Kampf in the beginning to accentuate my point that Obama is the dark knight, and that Christian Bale would beat Daniel Craig in a fistfight 8 times out of 10 provided he was in his prime (didnt cite that either--see: common knowledge).

    My dean called me in, and laid out the Coulter piece directly adjacent to mine on the table. They were perfectly identical, both even including a small picture of Coulter at the bottom. As one might imagine, I was utterly shocked. I slammed my fist on the table and screamed "this is an outrage!!! I can not believe this trifling, petulant woman has plagiarized my material!!!" The dean and my professor were understandably confused. "What are you talking about? You literally copy and pasted miss Coulter's material onto your assignment. You even included a picture of her face at the bottom."

    "No...you don't understand. This is my material. I put her face at the bottom to juxtapose aggression as a basic Nazi idea to the manufactured, neo-conservative notion that---nevermind, that's not important. Just look at this."
    I pointed to the date of my piece, indicating it was written on February 31st, 1983, thus clearing me of all charges since the dastardly Coulter's had been written 25 years later. What an idiot!
    "1983? That's practically seven years before you were even born, let alone before the assignment was even given. Is this some kind of joke?"

    "Exactly," I replied.

    PM me if you want more specifics, hope this helps and good luck with your meeting

    Nothing to see here, just trolls at their best

  • 1337's picture

    Citing the source doesn't make it okay to paraphrase an entire article, does it? You did not give many details in your OP, but it seems to me that you paraphrased an online article and simply cited the source and submitted that as your assignment. That is implying that some of the ideas were your own when they were not. If you had just put the entire article in quotes and cited it, you would have received a zero on your assignment because you did not do any work, just copy and pasted. The only difference between doing the copy and pasting and what you did was that you did not use the quotes and are implying that you came to the paper's conclusions on your own, which should be worse than getting a zero since you are now misrepresenting your work!

    Point is, arguing that you were not cheating is the wrong move. Having dealt with these committees before, I can suggest to you that the best way to approach the situation is to say that you did not know you were doing something wrong AT THE TIME, but now you can see how it could be construed as cheating. Then apologize, say that this is something you had overlooked in the past and that you are a good, hard-working student and do not want this mistake to follow you around. Tell them about your job and that you have worked hard to get to where you are today. Tell them you learned a lesson and to please understand that this will never happen again. Do not argue. Do not try to tell them you were not cheating.. you know, do the opposite of everything you have done so far on every post above.

    Edit: looks like you gave some more info on how you cited. First you said you just footnoted the article now you say that you cited every time that you drew on the work. If you cited every time you drew on the work, tell them to show you the infractions in your paper! If there are multiple places you did not cite, then my post above stands. However, I will say that if they have made up their mind on the manner, my aforementioned approach may serve you better than arguing.

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  • StrongMan's picture

    It is not about the title that you have, it is about how much money that you have.