The practice typically called self-plagiarism — the act of turning in work you have done for one class as a separate assignment for a different class — isn’t really plagiarism at all, according to the Honor Code. At least, until a student government resolution to change that is adopted.
“Per the Instrument (of Student Judicial Governance), plagiarism refers to the deliberate or reckless representation of another’s words, thoughts or ideas as one’s own without attribution,” said Undergraduate Student Attorney General Anna Sturkey..
“Because this definition of plagiarism is specifically referring to the use of another’s work, self-plagiarism isn’t possible.”
But the Committee on Student Conduct, which oversees the implementation of the Honor Code, has recently passed a resolution drafted by Sturkey to revise the Instrument and clarify that resubmitting work which one has already turned in for another class is an act of academic dishonesty.
“When a professor asks students to submit an original research paper, the expectation is that the paper is original to that class,” she said. “Thus, submitting a paper that is not original to that class could qualify as a violation of procedures.”
Sociology professor Andrew Perrin , who worked with the committee, said this would not be a major change to the honor system.
“It emerged out of a set of concerns voiced before the Honor Court,” he said.
Perrin said the legislation, which will face a Student Congress vote, must also be reviewed by the Faculty Executive Committeebefore being sent to the Faculty Council and Chancellor Carol Folt. If adopted, the changes will take effect Aug. 1.
Sturkey said because many professors feel that submitting work that has been submitted previously is academic dishonesty, the resolution was drafted to make it clear that such action is an Honor Code violation.
“We wanted to ensure the Instrument puts students on sufficient notice,” she said.
Sturkey said the resolution does include language to acknowledge that some resubmissions of previously submitted work are acceptable when approved by a professor.
Sophomore Diana Dayal said calling the resubmission of your own work self-plagiarism is dependent on how one defines plagiarism, because you aren’t stealing someone else’s work.
“But I do see how it could be an Honor Code violation, because you’re disrespecting your professor or adviser or mentor that you’ve worked with by not giving them the same amount of time and effort that they asked of you,” she said.
Junior Catherina Leipold said students should talk to their professors before reusing prior work.
“I don’t think it is an Honor Code violation because you’re using your own work, and I don’t think there are that many you could turn in twice,” she said. “But at the same time, I see their reasoning behind (the changes).”
Kimberly Abels, director of the UNC Writing Center, said in an email that questions of inappropriate resubmission of assignments are not frequent.
“Should students ask us, we’d recommend that they consult their professors and/or teaching assistants before incorporating past work into current assignments,” Abels said.
“We encourage students to see each writing assignment as a new learning opportunity.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.