Academic Integrity/Plagiarism

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core value of the academic community, the profession of Psychology, and of our Clinical Program at MSU. In principle, academic integrity simply means that our work and reporting is honest. In practice, it means implementing several careful practices. As researchers and clinicians, it is our duty to ensure that current and appropriate methods are used in research and practice, that data are reported fully and fairly and that these data are interpreted correctly and responsibly. In addition, it is our responsibility to assure that the effort of contributors is accurately reflected (i.e., authorship), and that credit for ideas and materials is appropriately handled. This last issue pertains to plagiarism, a commonly misunderstood topic for some students. A few more details on it are provided here.


Plagiarism is an egregious offense in the academic community because it undermines the basis of trust on which science relies. Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook, Article 2, Rights and Responsibilities of the Graduate Student, 2.3.7 states: "The graduate student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards." 2.3.8 "The graduate student is responsible…for adhering to standards of professional behavior established by the faculty." Utmost care must be taken to understand and avoid such misconduct.

To assist students in understanding and avoiding academic misconduct, the following information is provided:

1. American Psychological Association: Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct for Psychologists:

  • 8.11 Plagiarism. "Psychologists do not present portions of another's work or data as their own, even if the other work or data source is cited occasionally."

2. United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity:

  • According to the ORI, plagiarism constitutes scientific misconduct. Plagiarism includes the unauthorized use of intellectual property and the copying of substantial portions of another's work verbatim or almost verbatim. Typically, identical phrases that are specific to well-established methodologies do not count as plagiarism. ORI Newsletter, Vol 3, No. 1, December 1994

3. Michigan State University, Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies (OVPRGS):

  • Thoughts on Plagiarism and Avoiding Academic Dishonesty from the MSU Community:
    • "Plagiarism must become an explicit topic of discussion in all of our courses as well as in our laboratories and research groups. One of the most effective means of reducing the incidence of plagiarism is to continually remind others that this behavior is not tolerated at Michigan State University." Kim Wilcox, Provost of MSU
    • "Smart ideas are sometimes our own, and are, more often, inspired by others' ideas and/or words. These words deserve due credit and recognition." Karen Klomparens, Dean of the Graduate School
    • "My own feeling is that the single most effective way of preventing it is to have rigorous mentoring. Avoiding plagiarism must be included as part of the mentoring process." Loran Bieber, Interim University Intellectual Officer
    • "Teach students to be honest researchers. What to do, what not to do. Don't assume they know what is right. Teach them." John A. Kinch, Issue Editor

4. Additional MSU Resources on Plagiarism, Research Integrity

Academic Rights, Responsibilities and Obligations: Research Mentoring Task Force Report

Academic Programs Catalog

Spartan Life-Part II

Guidelines for Instructors

  • Include discussion of plagiarism in syllabi and written instructions for writing assignments.
  • "Asking students to turn in photocopies of sources is a powerful reminder to students that they will be held accountable for using source material carefully, and also lets instructors deliver more precise feedback." David M. Sheridan, Associate Director, MSU Writing Center
  • State explicitly in writing what constitutes plagiarism.
  • Spell out consequences- short and long term (though prevention is best!)
  • Provide examples


EXAMPLE 1. Original source: "Prenatal problems are among theorized etiologies for child disruptive behavior problems" (Nigg & Breslau, 2007). 

  • Plagiarism: One of the theorized etiologies for child disruptive behavior problems are prenatal problems (Nigg & Breslau, 2007). (slight rewording but still essentially copied) 
  • Correct: The prenatal environment has been implicated in the development of child misbehaviors (Nigg & Breslau, 2007). (paraphrased, cited)

EXAMPLE 2. Original Source: "Thus, we found that 60% of children with ADHD had deficits in executive function" (Smith, 2008). 

  • Plagiarism: 60% of children with ADHD have deficits in executive function (no quotes and no citation).
  • Plagiarism: 60% of children with ADHD have deficits in executive function (Smith, 2008) (No quotes yet is copied word for word, so citing is not enough)
  • Correct: Executive function problems are common in children with ADHD (Smith, 2008) (paraphrased).
  • Correct: Smith (2008) found "60% of …ADHD had deficits in executive function". (quoted accurately)