Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

Basic Concepts

We assume that all students are already familiar with the basic concepts of academic integrity, and understand the definition of plagiarism. As you begin to conduct research, and to write about your research, it is especially important to be conscious of the need to provide proper attribution and credit for the work of others, including for previous results, interpretations, and data.

Figuring out how to provide proper attribution, and hence avoid plagiarism, requires considering how the reader will perceive what you have written. What will the reader understand you to have done? What will she or he perceive someone else to have done, written, or said?

There are several ways in which we, as writers, can indicate that we are relying on the work or words of others. These include providing citation information in the text when we rely on information or interpretations provided by others, and which we paraphrase (in some contexts, but not in the senior thesis, citations are provided in footnotes); and enclosing text written or spoken by others in quotation marks or block quotes, together with the appropriate citation. Some conventions vary from field to field, but the underlying principle is always that the reader must be able to identify the source of the work presented, and of the words used.


We encourage you to work through the (short) online course on plagiarism provided by Indiana University. It provides a number of very instructive and useful examples, including source text and acceptable and unacceptable uses of that source text. That is, it provides examples of writing about others' work that would consitute plagiarism, and examples that would not. This course is required for graduate students at Columbia.

We also expect you to read through the information provided by Columbia about academic integrity. You should read all of the bullets in the menu bar. Although this may sound like an unpleasant chore, the information is useful, and it includes some very sound practical advice about when and how to cite sources.

For those who are interested, you may wish to read the perspective on plagiarism linked below, written by attorney Dr. Ronald B. Standler (who also holds a Ph.D. in physics). He also provides a very real-world perspective on the importance of acknowledging the work of others in the 'terms of service' posted on his web page.

Plagiarism checker

Honor Code

Finally, we remind you of the honor codes of Barnard College and Columbia College:

Honor Code:
We, the students of Barnard College, resolve to uphold the honor of the College by refraining from every form of dishonesty in our academic life. We consider it dishonest to ask for, give, or receive help in examinations or quizzes, to use any papers or books not authorized by the instructor in examinations, or to present oral work or written work which is not entirely our own, unless otherwise approved by the instructor. We consider it dishonest to remove without authorization, alter, or deface library and other academic materials. We pledge to do all that is in our power to create a spirit of honesty and honor for its own sake.

We, the undergraduate students of Columbia University, hereby pledge to value the integrity of our ideas and the ideas of others by honestly presenting our work, respecting authorship, and striving not simply for answers but for understanding in the pursuit of our common scholastic goals. In this way, we seek to build an academic community governed by our collective efforts, diligence, and Code of Honor.
Honor Code:
I affirm that I will not plagiarize, use unauthorized materials, or give or receive illegitimate help on assignments, papers, or examinations. I will also uphold equity and honesty in the evaluation of my work and the work of others. I do so to sustain a community built around this Code of Honor.