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Introduction to Literary Studies (Li1V18001/TL2V18001): Integrity

Academic integrity

Academic integrity and honesty is an important demand that the academic community imposes on its members. Integrity is crucial in several scientific activities and on different moments:

In research:

  • Be open about your research objectives and share these with the human test subjects, interviewees and survey respondents
  • Protect personal/patients data extremely well
  • Obtain data in a legitimate way (so no fake data)

In research and publishing:

  • Mention external financiers or organisations that commissioned the research to third parties if they are asked for their cooperation: these external interests must also be mentioned in the publication.

In publishing:

  • Include references to the origin of your data. Acknowledge the creators if you use external data.
  • Include references to do justice to the work of others. All insights which are based directly on the work of others must be referred to in a publication, regardless of the form such as direct inspiration, paraphrases or verbatim citations
  • Only refer to sources which you have really read or seen. If a source is referred to the author must always have read or seen the original source. You cannot cite an original source on the basis of merely bibliographical data or mention in another source. At the most you can use indirect references like this "......, cited in....." but you weaken your case if you do this too often.
  • Only cite with respect to content, not because you want to help yourself or others, a journal or an organisation, to citations

In education:

  • Do justice to different scientific perspectives. A lecturer should not consciously withhold scientific viewpoints to students because he does not agree with them, or because they harm his personal or professional interests

Scientists feel an increasing pressure from society to stick to these rules. Being fully independent or at least the indicating clearly any competing interest and  interests of third parties is crucial to the credibility and use of scientific findings. These rules of conduct apply to all members of the scientific community, including students.

There are also various codes of conduct to which researchers and students must abide. You can find these at:

  • The Utrecht University list of codes (with among others the The Netherlands Code of Conduct for Academic Practice and the Code of Conduct for Scrupulous Academic Practice and Integrity)
  • Information on Fraud and Plagiarism at the UU student website
  • COPE: Code of conduct with rules for journal editors and publishers; these describe how editors should judge manuscripts. Many publishers have incorporated COPE into their practices.


Plagiarism is reusing material without giving the source

Within the law and according to citation rights you are allowed to cite texts without it being seen as plagiarism. However, if you do so without stating the source, you breach the codes of conduct in the academic community.

Why is plagiarism so harmful? There are several reasons:

  1.  You take advantage of somebody else's work (which makes your own status untruthful)
  2.  You deny others the advantages resulting from their own work being used (credits, citation scores)
  3. Obstructing the efficient progress of scholarship by
    • denying the readers information which allows them to evaluate what they have read (the earlier publication may have al low or high status)
    •  making it more difficult for the readers to perform replication research (especially in the case of data plagiarism)
    •  denying readers references to related literature, making it more difficult for them to see the work in its context
    •  wasting the time of readers (if they come across already known material or have to look for the original text)
  4. You deceive the buyers of the publication who think they are buying something they did not have before (especially when extensive plagiarism is involved)

There are many aspects to plagiarism:

  1.  Who is the author of the texts from which fragments are borrowed: others/you yourself/ you yourself + others
  2. What is the nature of the information included: text / data / gained insights
  3. From which part of the original publication is the information borrowed: from results/discussion/conclusion (more serious offence) / from other parts
  4. What is the scale of the information taken over (in terms of text); part of the sentence/entire sentence/ more than one sentence
  5. In what shape has the information been included: paraphrase/literally/literally between inverted commas/summary
  6.  What is the place or role of the included sections in the new publication: in results/discussion/conclusion (more serious offence) /  in another part

Combinations of all of these aspect result in hundreds of ways to commit plagiarism. Some rarely occur, others frequently. Some are more serious than others.

Some forms have a name of their own, such as self plagiarism for sections taken over without stating the source of which you yourself are (co)-author of the original text. If you are the only author of the original, reasons 1 & 2 mentioned above are not important, but reasons 3 & 4 still make it into a serious offence. If you are co-author, all four reasons turn it into culpable behaviour.

Some forms are still objectionable, even if references are included, for instance if you include or paraphrase large sections or if these take up a large part of the new publication (in terms of size or importance).

There are also offences which are not related to plagiarism, but are serious nevertheless, such as excessive self-citation, not for reasons of improving the text but only because you want to raise your citation scores.