Plajiarism and Academic Dishonesty

Definitions and Violations

Academic integrity is a fundamental aspect of a person’s spiritual character and intellectual development. Any violation of academic integrity through plagiarism or any other form of academic dishonesty will be dealt with as an affront to the holiness of God, as a threat to the purity of the Church, and as an act which calls into question the guilty party’s suitability for Christian ministry.

Plagiarism is the representation of the words or ideas of someone else as one’s own. Plagiarism occurs even when an idea is not quoted directly; even paraphrases or summaries of another person’s ideas constitute plagiarism if proper credit is not given in the form of a source reference (i.e., footnote or endnote, see the EGST ‘Style and Form Guide for Written Assignments’). To avoid plagiarism of words, it is necessary both to place quotation marks around the quoted material and to give a source reference for the quotation. To avoid plagiarism of ideas, it is necessary to give a source reference for the idea. Simply to list sources of which direct use has been made in a bibliography at the end of a paper is not enough; you much give credit for each use of another author’s ideas at the point at which those ideas were used. Plagiarism is a form of theft and, as such, is a punishable offence.

It should be noted that use of knowledge that is part of the public domain, e.g., knowledge of historical facts, is not plagiarism. So, for example, if you were to learn from a book that Mengistu Haile-Mariam was an Oromo, it would not be necessary to cite the book from which you learned this historical fact because it is widely known and a matter of public record. However, if you refer to that knowledge using the words of the author from whom you learned that knowledge, failure to give credit for the use of that author’s words would be plagiarism. It should be emphasized that even many matters of fact require proper source referencing. If, for example, I read that there are 55,000 street children in Addis, I will need to give the source of this knowledge because that knowledge has been privately produced by the research of an individual or group, i.e., it is not merely a fact of which people in Ethiopia are generally aware. It should also be noted that simply because information is found on the internet or taken from some other electronic source does not necessarily mean that it is public or common knowledge. Such sources must also be referenced. In matters of uncertainty always err on the side of caution.

It is acknowledged that in rare instances plagiarism may take place accidentally. Accidental plagiarism is the use of someone else’s words without quotation marks, even when a source has been provided, or the use of someone else’s ideas when credit in the form of a source reference is inadvertently omitted. However, inasmuch as instances of accidental plagiarism arise from carelessness or neglect, they too merit penalty. Moreover, it is very difficult to prove that plagiarism occurred accidentally; since plagiarism is an act of dishonesty, the claim that it occurred accidentally may simply perpetuate the original act of dishonesty. In general, unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, it will be assumed that all plagiarism is deliberate.

It is also acknowledged that there are cultural factors that may heighten the temptation to plagiarize. These include 1) the fact that most students are not writing in their mother tongue and so may easily rationalize that established scholars writing in English as their first language express their ideas better; 2) in their previous educational experience many students have neither had to do many written assignments nor have they been held accountable for giving credit when using materials from other sources. While the EGST faculty and administration recognise these and similar factors, they do not regard them as legitimate excuses nor do they exempt students who commit plagiarism from punishment.

Other forms of academic dishonesty, i.e. cheating, include:

  • Use of unauthorised material – Use of unauthorised material to prepare for an exam or other academic requirement (e.g., quizzes or tests from previous years) is also cheating. Receiving or giving information during a quiz or exam is also cheating, unless specifically authorised by the instructor.
  • Unauthorised reuse of work – Use of a written assignment that is the same or essentially the same for credit in more than one course (whether the first submission was at EGST or another institution) is dishonest. N.B. it is usually permissible for MTh students to use a paper from a course as a starting point for their theses, but they should make their supervisors aware that they desire to do so. Any repetition of previous work will not count towards the award of the degree.
  • Falsification of Records – Falsifying records whether on application materials, transcripts, or other materials is an act of academic dishonesty.

Penalties and Process

At this level of study, using sources properly is very important. Your work must be your own and it is not normally considered appropriate to have more than 10% of an essay as quoted material. Overuse of properly attributed quotes will automatically be reflected in your mark. However, if more than 20% of your work is quoted material you will be asked to re-write your essay using your own words. In this case there will be no limitation on the final grade that is given. Obviously, unattributed quotes will be treated as plagiarism.

When instructors discover evidence of plagiarism, they will follow the undernoted procedure: The instructor will refer the case to the Dean of Studies. The Dean of Studies will present the case to the plagiarism panel, which consists of the Dean of Studies, Dean of Students, Instructor, President of the Student Council or authorised representative, and at the discretion of the Director, one further faculty member may be appointed. The panel will consider the case and interview the student and then decide which of the following penalties applies.

Students in their first year of study at EGST:

  • First offence

o In a minor case the student will be put on Academic Probation and require to resubmit the essay (the highest mark that the instructor may give for the rewritten assignment is B-).

o In a major case the student will be expelled.

  • Second offence

o In a minor case the student will fail the course (in this instance the whole course will need to be repeated or, if an elective course, to be replaced by another course).

o In a major case the student will be expelled.

  • Third offence

o In all cases the student will be expelled.

Students in their second or subsequent year of study at EGST:

  • In a minor case the student will be suspended for a semester.
  • In a major case the student will be expelled.

In all cases, the panel’s correspondence with the student will be placed in the student’s file. If a file contains only one such letter at the completion of the programme, that letter will be removed from the file at that point. Where there are two or more letters, they will remain in the file and could be referred to in any reference written for that student.

Plagiarism detected in a MTh thesis is treated with even greater concern since the MTh is a research degree wherein students are expected to understand and follow accepted academic standards. An examiner detecting plagiarism in an MTh thesis will inform the Dean of Studies, who will convene a meeting with the student, the internal examiner and the MTh Coordinator to discuss the issue and consider any explanations the student offers in his/her defence. This group will determine the appropriate penalty to be imposed. Depending on the severity of the plagiarism, penalties include rejection of the thesis, return for revision with delayed graduation, or others determined by the group. The Dean of Studies will inform the student of this penalty in writing, with a copy placed in the student’s file.