Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity is central to any academic program.  The SHC Theology faculty takes seriously any form of plagiarism.  On a major paper the student is given an “F” for the course and is dismissed from the Graduate Theology program.  For a minor paper the student will be given an “F” for the paper and, depending on the course requirements, could be able to pass the course.  Please be certain that you understand what is involved in correctly quoting and citing in a paper so as to avoid plagiarism.  Also, be certain you understand all other instances of “academic dishonesty.”  (See the Bulletin of Information)

How to Avoid Plagiarism

There are two very important aspects of careful research writing that when not understood properly can lead to plagiarism:

1.  Quotations:  Whenever you use words of another person (digital, printed, verbal, visual source) you must put quotation marks around these words.  Of course, when you summarize or paraphrase the ideas of someone you will use some of the same words they use.  That is understood.  So the rule of thumb is that you may not use more than four words in a row from a source without putting the material in quotation marks.  However, changing every fifth word, or rearranging words is not paraphrasing; it shows your inability to process, understand, and express someone else’s ideas, and is considered plagiarism (at least in spirit).  It is certainly poor scholarship.  So the first rule is that you must use quotation marks whenever you are using the words of a source.

1a. Related but not an issue of plagiarism:  be sure when you quote to quote the material exactly.  It is a serious writing mistake to quote an author and not write out the quote correctly.  Double check your quotations.

1b. Related to the issues of quoting and plagiarism is the skill required to process information from sources and then express that information/idea in your own words.  If your paper is simply a collection of quotes from sources, it is not plagiarism, but it is poor scholarship.  Good masters level research and writing requires you to use quoted materials sparingly and accurately, and to paraphrase and summarize the information from your sources correctly.

2.  Citations: Whether you are directly quoting a source or summarizing the ideas of a source in your own words, you must place a citation at the end of the sentence indicating where the information/ideas come from.  Information and ideas (when not quoted) that are common knowledge do not need a citation.  Deciding what is “common knowledge” is a judgment call on the part of the student.   If every source you read, and especially every survey of the material, states this fact or information, it can safely be considered common knowledge.  All other ideas, information, data, summaries, and paraphrases must include a citation of the source.  Not citing a unique idea or position of an author is just as much plagiarism as using their exact words without quotes and citation.

Here are several online academic sites that give helpful definitions and examples of plagiarism and teach the skill of paraphrasing and summarizing research information.

Western Carolina University has a very good mini-course on how to avoid plagiarism:

Also a very helpful site that defines and explains all kinds of plagiarism with helpful advice on how to avoid it:

Purdue University has a great Writing Lab and a whole section for the general public.  On this page you will see under process a section on quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing, and a section on avoiding plagiarism.