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Academic Integrity

The University of Calgary believes that all students, faculty have a responsibility to carry out their studies and research with integrity and honesty. During your studies you will build upon and critically evaluate the knowledge and ideas generated by others but you must be sure to appropriately recognize and acknowledge the contributions of others.

Academic misconduct includes cheating and plagiarism as well as other types of misconduct. The Department of Biological Sciences takes issues of academic misconduct very seriously and includes statements regarding academic misconduct in every laboratory manual and course outline. It is your responsibility to ensure that you clearly understand the rules and regulations of the university.

The penalties for misconduct can be quite severe including expulsion from the faculty and/or dismissal from the university. It is your responsibility to read and understand the information presented here and the university's policy on academic misconduct in the university calendar.

You can test your “honesty quotient” by visiting the university’s honesty in academics web page.

Cheating includes any attempt on the part of a student to obtain information illegally during an examination or quiz (including the use of electronic devices or notes). It also includes any attempt to falsify or tamper with answers on a graded assignment, quiz or examination with the intent of obtaining a higher grade.

You are expected to write original papers for all courses at the University of Calgary; all writing that you do must be yours and yours alone. This does not mean that your writing cannot include the ideas of others, but it must be made clear which ideas are yours and which belong to others. Plagiarism is essentially theft and ranges from obvious examples such as purchasing a paper and submitting it as your own work to paraphrasing portions of a text, journal article or information published on the world-wide web without indicating the source of the ideas. Plagiarism also includes copying all or part of another student's assignment and submitting it as if it were your own work.

There are many different ways that information can be plagiarized and all are considered to be serious offences. Plagiarism includes the following:

  • Copying material word-for-word from a source. This is considered plagiarism even if you cite the source unless the information is in quotation marks. However, be aware that quotations are rarely used in scientific writing.
  • Paraphrasing material without citing the source.
  • Paraphrasing large portions of a paper or text without explaining the information in your own words even if you include a citation.
  • Using the ideas of someone else without giving them credit.

Except when quotations are used, it is not permissible to cut and paste text. Quotations are rarely used in scientific papers. Many disciplines use quotations as a way to most clearly represent an author's ideas. In science, quotations are rarely, if ever, used, because there are few instances where paraphrasing would significantly change the meaning of an idea. Quotations can be used if you are quoting a statement that a famous scientist has said. Changing the words would substantially change the meaning and eloquence of the statements. In all other cases, you should be putting the ideas or facts in your own words first, and then cite their source. When used, quotations must be clearly marked as such and the specific source, including page number, must be cited.

Remember, papers and reports, or parts thereof, that were prepared for one class can not be submitted as part of the requirements for another. The general rules regarding written assignments are:

  • All written work must be in your own words. Even if you work together with another student on an assignment, the final work you submit must be your own. The submission of work that has been copied in whole or in part from another student is considered plagiarism.
  • Make sure you reference all sources of information. Use the format requested by the instructors in your courses. Be aware that different instructors prefer different methods of citation, just as different journal prefer different methods of citation. Failure to cite a reference could be considered as plagiarism.
  • All work submitted for credit must be original work. It cannot be taken from a previous assignment, even if it was your own.

Along with plagiarism, one can easily violate copyright laws. The authors of much of the material on the web hold copyright. Cutting and pasting figures and tables from the web will usually violate copyright even if you reference the source. If material is copyrighted, you must obtain permission from the copyright holder before you use the material, and then it must be referenced appropriately as well. Whenever you include figures in a paper, you should either design them yourself or you should discuss with your instructor how they should be correctly used. Tables should not be imported wholesale into your papers. Rather, specific data that directly pertains to your paper must be set in a table that has a structure that fits the nature of your paper. For both figures and tables you must cite the source of your information.

Students may be unaware that the work they have submitted may be considered as plagiarism simply because they are unaware of what constitutes inappropriate use of textual materials. Nonetheless, this is still considered plagiarism, and it is your responsibility to know the rules. There are a few things that you can do to not only avoid plagiarism but also improve the quality of your writing.

Keep track of your references

Each time you read an article, write out all of the bibliographic information you need to create a complete citation. If you don't keep track of where you find information, you will not be able to properly reference it when you start writing.

Use several references

Don't just find a single paper on your topic and use it exclusively to write your paper. You will find it more difficult to generate your own ideas and you will be more likely to paraphrase large sections of the text. The University of Calgary subject librarians are a tremendous resource if you are having difficulty finding articles on your topic. You can email, phone or even stop by the reference desk on the second floor of the library block. Many of the librarians even hold office hours in the science complex.

Take notes

The biggest mistake that you can make when preparing to write is not taking notes. If you just read the reference information and then start writing, referring back to the papers frequently, you will be more likely to simply copy and paste sentences from your references and less likely to critically evaluate the information and generate your own ideas. Instead, once you have compiled all of the bibliographic information you need, take notes on the major points and ideas presented in the text or paper. The most effective way to do this is to develop a system that you use for every reference. When creating your system keep in mind the following:

  • Keep track of which are your ideas and what are the author's ideas (perhaps use a different colour pen or underline your ideas).
  • Never copy any portion of the article word for word (unless you intend to use it as a quotation and then be sure to put it in quotation marks).
  • Do not paraphrase large sections of a paper. If you are paraphrasing information from another source, do not just copy the information word for word, or simply substitute synonyms for key terms —both of these approaches constitute plagiarism. Instead, identify the main ideas in the original work that are relevant to your paper, and re-state these ideas in your own words. This approach will take some work, but it is a skill that is important for success not only in university but also in whatever career you pursue. For help with this and other writing skills, contact the Student Success Centre.
  • Whether you are using cue cards, a word processor or a spreadsheet, taking good notes is crucial to writing a successful paper!

Create an outline

There are very few writers who just sit down and write a paper from beginning to end without a plan in place. Spend some time to figure out how you want your ideas to flow throughout the paper. It isn't necessary to point out every fact that you want to address, but without a general idea where your paper is going, you will have a difficult time when you start writing.

Put your references in your paper as you go

Don't wait until the end to put in your references—you will never remember who said what and which ideas are yours!

Read, re-read and then ask a friend to read it

Don't think that your first draft is your last! Take the time to critically evaluate what you have written and don't be afraid to cut, add and revise. Reading your paper out loud will help you find awkward sections or leaps in logic. Ask a friend to read your paper—and ask them to give honest, critical and professional suggestions for improving it.

Make an appointment with a tutor at the Student Success Centre

Undergraduate students wanting to improve their writing can book up to two, 30-minute tutorial sessions per week. This isn't a proofreading service but the tutors can help you develop strategies for writing more effectively as well as working on overall essay structure and grammatical problems.

Your goal in paraphrasing, or summarizing information from a source is to give as accurate a picture as possible of the original work, but in your own words. The process of summarizing helps you understand the original source; your work should demonstrate to the reader that you understand the material.

  1. To start, find the main idea in the reading (it should be in the first paragraph). Next, read through the material looking for the secondary points that contribute to the main idea. Then, read the conclusion. You should now have a general sense of the key points of the paper.
  2. Now go back and read the entire text carefully, highlighting important points. Write down the central idea and the author's reasons (purpose and intent) for holding this viewpoint. Note the supporting elements the author uses to explain or back up their main information or claim.
  3. At this point, you should be able to write a one or two sentence summary that captures the central idea of the original work. As you revise and edit your summary, compare it to the original and ask yourself: Have I rephrased the author's words without changing their meaning? Have I restated the main idea and the supporting points accurately and in my own words? Does what I have written demonstrate that I understand the content of the original work?
  4. For many assignments (lab reports and term papers), you will need to integrate information from a range of sources, which involves using only those sections of each original source that are relevant to your topic. For such assignments, you will need to be able to paraphrase the key ideas from each source in one or a few sentences in your own words. What if you need to paraphrase a substantial amount of information from one source? In this case, you can follow the same steps described above but you will need to write a longer summary. After writing a one or two sentence summary, make an outline that includes the main idea and the supporting details. Arrange your information in a logical order (from most to least important points). Your order does not have to be the same as that in the original. It should reflect your thinking rather than the original author's and be relevant to your topic but keep related supporting points together. The way you organize the outline will help you organize your summary.  In writing your summary, present the main idea, followed by the supporting points. The remainder of your summary should focus on how the author supports, defines, and/or illustrates that main idea.
  5. It is permissible to mix your ideas and interpretations in with those of the author, as long as you make it clear which ideas are yours, and which are the author's. In doing so, it is particularly important to faithfully and accurately present the author's ideas. Be careful not to suggest that the author said something that they did not.


Behrens, L., L.J. Rosen and B. Beedles. 2005. A sequence for academic writing. 2nd ed. Pearson Longman, New York.

Pechenik, J. 2007. A short guide to writing about biology. 6th ed. Pearson Longman, New York.

The following quiz tests your understanding of what is and what is not considered to be plagiarism.  Click here to access the quiz

View the university's academic code of conduct