Last Updated: Jan 23rd, 2011 - 06:37:27
| Plagiarism: Helping Psychology Students With Referencing
By Sarah D. MacAulay
Apr 6, 2006, 12:31 PST
Plagiarism and “Academic Dishonesty”:
Considerations for Psychology Students
Students are usually familiar with the term “plagiarism,” but the rules for referencing others’ work are often unclear. It is especially important for students beginning university to learn about plagiarism. For example, students in english courses may find that a bibliography and MLA referencing is sufficient, while students in psychology courses are usually only allowed to use APA formatting. Nonetheless, all students are held responsible for following the rules. Professors and instructors alike prefer to teach students these definitions and rules so that students do not suffer the severe penalties for acts of plagiarism and other academic offences. The penalties can be very severe in universities, resulting in notations made on students’ files and transcripts, suspension, and even expulsion. Students can consult university calendars for definitions of plagiarism and academic offences. One example is shown below, from the University of New Brunswick Undergraduate Calendar 2004-2005, which clearly states the university’s official definition, cited from Section IX: Academic Offences, subsection A:
- quoting verbatim or almost verbatim from a source [emphasis added] (such as copyrighted material, notes, letters, business entries, computer materials, etc.) without acknowledgment;
- adopting someone else's line of thought [emphasis added], argument, arrangement, or supporting evidence (such as, for example, statistics, bibliographies, etc.) without indicating such dependence;
- submitting someone else's work [emphasis added], in whatever form (film, workbook, artwork, computer materials, etc.) without acknowledgment;
- knowingly representing as one's own work any idea of another [emphasis added].
Other academic offences also exist, including this example (which some call “self-plagiarism,” noted by The University of New Brunswick in Section IX: Academic Offences, Subsection B: Other Academic Offences:
- Submitting identical or substantially similar work for one course [emphasis added] or program of study, which has been or is being submitted for another course or program of study, without the prior express knowledge and approval of the instructors.
Special Considerations for Students of Psychology
Unlike other departments, the psychology departments most often require that students reference all material used in every piece of written work. Referencing is not equivalent to providing a bibliography-style list at the end of a paper. Students of psychology must use “APA Formatting,” as found in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Some useful tips to consider:
- Referencing Within A Paper
References must be cited for each and every piece of information that is not “common knowledge.” In other words, every fact, piece of information, idea or theory, that did not originate in your own head, must be referenced by using the standard APA format of: (author’s last name, year), as in Example 1. This format may change somewhat with the style of sentence (Example 2). This referencing is the first step towards academic honesty.
Example 1: As one psychologist says, “…most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action” (Bandura, 1977, p. 22).
According to the social learning theory of Bandura (1977), students may not learn well about academic honesty if they are simply punished for their mistakes; rather, “most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action” (p.22).
- How To Write Up Information Taken From Your References
Some students may understand the basics of referencing from their sources, but do not know how to use that information. At the university level, students should aim to be “synthesizing” the information they gather from their sources. In other words, students create their own, original thesis or idea (e.g., “Students will learn best about plagiarism by observing how to properly reference”), and use reference material only to provide support for their arguments. Reference material should rarely be used as the thesis/idea, or as the bulk of the content. Obviously, if you are providing a biography of someone, you will need to reference quite a lot. However, let us consider different ways of writing up information taken from your references: A) Quoting Verbatim (word for word, a phrase or even a whole paper is identical to something written by someone else); B) Quoting Nearly Verbatim (almost every word is the same, perhaps with every fourth word changed a bit, etc); C) Paraphrasing (Putting the ideas into your own words, but not creating any new arguments); and D) Synthesizing (Creating your own argument and supporting it with your reference material). All of these methods require referencing within the body of your paper.
A) Quoting Verbatim
Students may choose to quote a source when that source has said something particularly well. Quotations may also lend credibility to your research. Any time something is quoted verbatim, it must be referenced with the author’s name, year of publication, and a page number or perhaps the number of the paragraph if there are no pages identified. A student must never “write” a paper that is mainly or even “heavily” quoted verbatim if they want to get a passing grade: papers are meant to be “written” by the student, not by her or his references. When students quote a source verbatim, without using quotation marks and proper referencing, they are plagiarizing.
As one psychologist says,
Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely
on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is
learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new
behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for
action (Bandura, 1977, p. 22).*
*(note how the APA formatting changes when a quotation is more than 3 lines long)
B) Quoting Nearly Verbatim
Students sometimes “try” to paraphrase or do not understand that quoting “nearly” verbatim is very risky. If they decide to put this “nearly” verbatim quotation in quotation marks, they are misquoting their source. If they do not decide to put this “nearly” verbatim quotation in quotation marks, they are plagiarizing. Students are well-advised to never quote “nearly” verbatim.
Learning would be very hard, and dangerous, if people had to depend on the effects of their own behaviours to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned by observing what people model: by observing others one learns how new behaviors are performed, and later this coded information is a guide for action (Bandura, 1977).
Some students may paraphrase the ideas of others, so long as they very carefully reference the material. A student may choose to paraphrase so that she or he may share a lot of information that is not easily synthesized, or would no longer be as useful in synthesized form (e.g., when you want to describe, in great detail, something taken from a source). Page numbers are not required for paraphrased information: only for quotations.
As Bandura (1977) explains in his social learning theory, most people learn best by observing someone else performing a behaviour, rather than my being punished when they make a mistake.
Students should aim to synthesize the material they use in their research. This means that they create a thesis/idea/position, and they use their references (sources) only to support their argument. The ideas are the students’, and sources “add” to the argument.
In this hand-out, we are using the assumption about “learning through observation,” taken from Bandura’s social learning theory (1977), to teach students about plagiarism and academic dishonesty. In other words, this hand-out teaches about referencing by sharing examples of proper and improper referencing.
According to Bandura’s social learning theory (1977), students will likely find that they can learn about plagiarism and academic dishonesty most easily by seeing how proper referencing is done, rather than by being punished for their mistakes.
(Note that these examples use the referenced material about learning, and then apply it to students and their learning about plagiarism; thus, the “synthesis” synthesizes the learning theory information and how it applies to students)
- Frequency of Referencing or What Should I Reference?
Students of psychology will sometimes wonder, “when is enough, enough?” Any piece of information that is not originally the student’s own idea, or not common knowledge (e.g., the sky is blue). Must be referenced from the source from which it was taken. In other words, if students are writing the biography of someone, they will likely have a reference or more for every single sentence. One reference placed at the end of a paragraph is inadequate. There are two exceptions to this rule. First, if a certain piece of information was found in more than one source, the student may reference only the most relevant source. Second, if an entire section is going to be based on, or use information taken from one source, the student may very carefully acknowledge this at the beginning of that section.
Bandura’s social learning theory (1977) presents several assumptions about learning, which will be explored briefly. First, Bandura suggests that punishment is not likely to provide the best or most enjoyable learning. Second, individuals may learn best by observing what others “model.” Therefore, students who need to learn about plagiarism and academic dishonesty may find that they learn most easily (and enjoyably) by observing how referencing is properly done.
Golden Rule For Referencing: If In Doubt, Reference.
Sarah MacAulay, University of New Brunswick, 2004.
American Psychological Association (2001). Publication Manual of the American Psychological
Association (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological
Review, 84, 191-215.
University of New Brunswick (2004). University of New Brunswick undergraduate calendar 2004-2005
[Electronic version]. Retrieved January 6, 2005, from http://www.unb.ca/calendar/undergraduate
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