Plagiarism: Why it Matters

Professors assign papers to provide opportunities to deepen and enrich your learning in a course. When you write a paper, you go beyond what has been said in the textbook or in the classroom, and make the learning your own. When a student plagiarizes a paper, the student misses the chance to learn.

Plagiarism destroys the relationship of trust between faculty and students.

Students need to be able to trust their professors. They need confidence that professors are up-to-date in the information they present, accurate in their portrayal of texts and theories, reliably fair in their evaluations of students' work.

Likewise, professors need to trust their students. They have to have confidence in the truthfulness of students' statements in class, the honesty of their efforts to learn, and their trustworthiness in the papers and projects they submit for grading.

Academic work at the college and university level depends on the give and take of ideas in the classroom, on the discussion and debates we carry on with one another, and on the honest presentation of ideas in written papers, articles, and books. In order for us to do our daily work in college, we need to have confidence in the truthfulness of our colleagues in this work-both professors and students.

Plagiarism destroys this confidence and seriously damages the atmosphere in which genuine learning takes place.

Plagiarism subverts the values central to a Hope College education.

Hope's official statements about itself emphasize the moral and ethical dimensions of our community. Our Catalogue includes these descriptions:

  • "liberal education within the context of the historic Christian faith"
  • "an atmosphere of search and confrontation that will liberate the minds, enhance the discernment, enlarge the sympathies, and encourage the commitments of all students"
  • Hope "seeks to develop the growth of each student. . . not only for his or her self-gratification, but also for what can be given to others in service to God and humanity."
  • "Hope is interested in students who sincerely seek to enlarge their minds, to deepen their commitments, and to develop their capacities for service."

These and many other descriptions of the Hope community make clear that the fair, just, honest relationships among students and between students and professors is essential for our work together.

Ethical uses of information and honesty in writing matter throughout one's lifetime.

The fair use of information and the honest presentation of one's self are important responsibilities for career and citizenship. The habits students develop in college as they write papers prepare them for the kinds of writing and speaking they will do throughout a lifetime. Honesty and fairness cannot be compartmentalized as character traits to be practiced later, "when it really matters." If a writer plagiarizes in college, is it realistic to expect that he or she won't do so later?

Plagiarism is unfair to classmates.

A paper assignment requires all the members of a class to do a significant amount of work. When one person plagiarizes, classmates who do honest work are likely to feel betrayed and angry.

Plagiarism destroys independent creative and critical thinking.

A primary purpose of higher education is to guide students in becoming independent, original thinkers. Creative and critical thought are subverted when a student plagiarizes, and a basic reason for being in college is undermined.

Plagiarism carries serious consequences.

Plagiarism carries severe disciplinary and financial consequences. When a student is proven to have plagiarized a paper, he or she faces serious penalties, ranging from failure on the assignment to failure in the course. These penalties will be reported to the Provost of the college, who will enter the offense in the student's record. Repeated acts of plagiarism will lead to dismissal from the college.

Plagiarism in the professional world can also lead to serious consequences, including professional disgrace, loss of position, and lawsuits.