Archive for May, 2010

May 21, 2010

To the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences
San Francisco State University

I am writing you this letter concerning academic integrity.  The policy regarding plagiarism from the Geography 658 syllabus states:

The university has established codes concerning proper academic conduct and the consequences resulting from improper behavior.  Please be aware of these codes.  Students are responsible for knowing the SFSU regulations concerning cheating and plagiarism that are in the University bulletin. Misconduct includes, but is not limited to, cheating on exams, fabrication of reports, assignments sources, interfering with another students work or helping another student cheat.  Plagiarism is defined as copying another person’s works without appropriate acknowledgement.  This includes 1) quoting another persons’ actual
words. 2) Paraphrasing another person’s words; 3) use of another persons’ ideas, opinion or theory; or 4) borrowing of facts, statistics, or other illustrative material, unless information is common knowledge. Additionally, do not cut and paste large quotes or other people’s writing into your short writing assignments.

It is easy to affirm policy and notify students of the penalties of plagiarism and cheating in an upper division course.  Like almost every course in Geography the Department, the policy is indicated in the course syllabi.  Fortunately, the department requires all students in the major to take Geography 103 Geographic Techniques.  The course provides an overview of geographic research methods and techniques covering: library research, data acquisition, statistical analysis, and introductions into using digital tools and maps for spatial analysis.  However, introductory courses in research are not offered in other departments in the School of BSS such as International Relations, Political Science, and History.  These departments require their students to perform rigorous research and writing to complete class requirements, and each department has their desired approaches students are expected to follow. These departments will provide a similar statement for housekeeping so that students conduct proper research and avoid the pitfalls of plagiarism.  However, for many students, there has never been instruction given on how to properly abide by these rules when it comes to academic writing and research.
Plagiarism is a violation of the San Francisco State University Code of Academic Conduct which may result in a student’s suspension or dismissal from school.
Plagiarism is dishonest.  It is the theft of another person’s work misrepresented as the words and ideas of one’s own. If a student commits plagiarism, then they are cheating themselves from academic achievement by not developing or writing their own thoughts.  It is wrong to steal another’s property; an author’s original words and ideas are their property for which they are entitled to receive credit when they are used by another.  The reputation of the institution is at stake.  If SFSU is known as a school where students plagiarize, the reputation can undermine or destroy the value of a diploma.
It is in the School of Behavioral Social Science to provide introductory courses to new students in their discipline.  A course dedicated to research methods and academic writing will give students a guideline on how to progress their analytical skills and writing above the standards expected of them.  It is important for departments to prepare their students in the discipline for the sake of maintaining academic conversations and expanding the reputation of the School. It is also important for departments to guide students to have conversations with a peer or a professor to establish ideas on given texts, that students cite at the appropriate point in their writing.  The idea of citations may raise some alarm among students.  With the help of introductory courses in writing and research, academic standards can be established by departments and proper research conduct can be taught to students.
The point is students should receive preparation to meet the academic standards for their majors. If you plagiarize, then you fail the assignment and the course. If you are guilty, then you risk being placed on academic probation registering for a number of semesters on your transcript. If a student already on probation is caught plagiarizing, then they are usually asked to leave the University.
     I understand that in the intellectual community of San Francisco State University, plagiarism is stealing.  There are only but a few more serious breaches of intellectual community.  Plagiarism is certainly the exception, not the norm in the Geography Department. I simply want to emphasize in this note precisely that plagiarism is a very serious violation of this University.  To avoid penalties of the worst variety, let the School of Behavioral Social Science provide the overview of research and writing that will progress academic conversations and expand the reputation of the School.


Kom Siksamat

San Francisco State University

Department of Geography and Human Environmental Studies