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WORKING WITH INTEGRITY AS A COPENHAGEN BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENT: Plagiarism

Plagiarism

Plagiarism at CBS is defined as “[taking] credit for work (texts, ideas or products) which is not [your] own or [using] other people’s work without a clear source reference and quotation marks or quotation formatting.(CBS Study Administrative Rules)

Intentional plagiarism is hard, if not impossible, to combat. Sloppiness too. Inadequate knowledge is not, which is of course the entire point of this guide.

Plagiarism and its consequences

Plagiarism is essentially stealing and is probably the most common violation of best practice not only in academia but also in other creative and intellectual industries, including music, design, and literature. In these cases, however, plagiarism is often tied up with issues of legal ownership or copyright that are settled in courts and are frequently penalized with a ban and financial compensation. In academia, the question is more a moral one, although codified and actionable, and may lead to loss of professional reputation, retraction of published contents, and, in very grave instances, dismissal.  

Plagiarism in academia

Plagiarism in academia occurs if you fail to adhere to one of the fundamental and most visible practices of research communities; that of giving credit where credit is due, or referencing, which will be discussed in a a separate section of this guide. If, in a paper, you draw on somebody else´s words, ideas, and thoughts, either word-for-word or as a distillation in your own words, a so-called paraphrase, you always need to acknowledge this through a citation. In fact, citations are the hard currency of academia.

For the person cited it is an unmistakable indication that their work has achieved a meaningful post-publication afterlife in that their peers have found it significant enough to use in subsequent works. If highly cited, a publication may even aspire to become part of the very backbone of the research field as such.

For the person citing, a carefully curated and correctly applied citation may lend credibility as well as authority to an argument raised, and by masterfully invoking ghosts from the past, so to speak, the author may demonstrate enough insight and operational skillfulness to compete for a place at the top of the field.

The practice of referencing, although very specific to academia, is not just an intellectual folly of no real-life value, it is essentially a vehicle of trust, without which research becomes a mere exchange of opinions. It is a way to corroborate, balance, and challenge ideas in close collaboration with other knowledgeable people and in this way reassure your readers that what you are arguing is not pulled out of thin air but is founded in evidence, historical as well as current.

Expectations

Your job as a CBS student is to sharpen your mind and cultivate your analytical skills in order to meet the intellectual and operational challenges of an increasingly complex labor market, and world, head-on. An important aspect of your preparations for future work is to be able to navigate, select, and apply in a relevant and meaningful way, existing knowledge within your field. This requires a mastery of the principles of referencing. In fact, maneuvering with confidence the shared pool of knowledge that is academia far outweighs any expectations of groundbreaking originality on your part.

In other words, to be successful at CBS you do not need to re-invent the wheel but you will need to be able to recognize a wheel when you see it and to know where and how to use it, and not least, you need to acknowledge openly and transparently that the invention is not yours to begin with.

A misunderstanding

This brings us to a common misunderstanding, one that is not only unhelpful but may also lead to plagiarism if not corrected.

To incorporate other people´s works in your own paper, and even to do so a lot, is no shame in academia, in fact, it may be desirable as new insights rarely, if ever, develop in a vacuum but stand on the shoulders of the people who came before. This is a true balancing act, bacause in the process you obviously also need to make sure not to drown out your own voice entirely. If the misconception that extensive use of external sources somehow takes something away from you as an author is allowed to fester and hold sway, it may prompt a person to try to obscure or even hide all or some of the loans that are bound to find their way into the paper anyway and instead treat them as their own. Purposefully withholding a citation is the most common recipe for plagiarism.

The simple remedy is to embrace academia and all of its idiosyncrasies, above all the highly regulated system of credits, or citations.     

Roads to plagiarism

Other frequent roads to plagiarism are inattention to detail and outright carelessness. When asked to write up a paper, most people would probably consider getting the topic right and crafting the prose in a way that will help deliver the message their main job, and regard everything else as secondary or extra.

However, one more element needs to be in place in order to consider it a job well executed, a referencing regime. Treating this element halfheartedly, with negligence or as inferior work may have serious repercussions. An author may not have planned or wanted to downplay or even skip the referencing part, perhaps they simply ran out of time and had to think fast, or maybe they did not know how to do it in the first place. This, however, is immaterial. If you fail to provide a citation, for whatever reason, this would merit a sanction, which is why treating referencing as an equal to content and composition is essential.   

Finally , a potential, and often overlooked, cause of plagiarism is student collaborative work. Study groups are great for exam preparations, but you need to stay on your feet, especially if note-taking is part of your collaboration. In such cases you need to make sure that you render the contents of the notes in your own words in the exam situation. An exam submission has to be the product of your own individual intellectual process and not a copy of a shared set of notes. If you fail to make this distinction between own and shared, you open yourself up to accusations of either plagiarism or unwarranted collaboration as under the CBS code of conduct, copying verbatim from shared notes for an exam is an academic integrity violation.

Section Author

Joshua Kragh Bruhn - jkb.lib@cbs.dk