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Faculty Viewpoint: Professor Jami Carlacio

Professor Jami Carlacio

Jami Carlacio is a Managing Editor at the Industrial and Labor Relations Review and has been a lecturer in the Cornell University English Department. She also serves on the Academic Integrity Hearing Board at Cornell.

Don’t Buy It!

Jami Carlacio has encountered a number of plagiarism cases at Cornell, both in her role as a writing instructor and as a member of the Academic Integrity Hearing Board. In one instance, a student in her freshman writing seminar submitted a paper that appeared to have been authored by someone else. The “voice” of the paper was much different from the student’s own voice, and the writing was more sophisticated than what she normally found in a typical first-year student’s paper. In addition, the paper cited a source that was unlikely to be one the student would know about.

After a little bit of research, Professor Carlacio found that the paper was almost identical to a paper available for purchase on the Internet. It appeared this was a case of plagiarism. When confronted about the issue, the student admitted she was guilty. As a result, she failed the class.

Just Cite It

In another case, a student ran into problems when he did not follow proper citation practices in his revision of a problematic paper. The paper in question should have relied exclusively on primary sources, but the first draft of the paper included citations for various secondary sources. When the paper was reviewed in the writing workshop for the course, Professor Carlacio explained to the student that basing the paper on secondary sources wasn’t consistent with the assignment and she instructed the student to revise the paper. The student responded by removing all quotation marks and all reference documentation from the paper—eliminating every superficial trace that he had consulted secondary sources. The revised paper, because it presented the work of others as the author’s own, violated standards of academic integrity. It was plagiarism.

In this instance, Professor Carlacio advised the student about the importance of acknowledging the work of others. In his final course reflection, this student wrote that he had not consciously taken part in plagiarism, but instead had forgotten how to think for himself.

As these cases demonstrate, it is not acceptable to take material from others and incorporate it into your work as though it were your own. However, it is acceptable, where the terms of the assignment permit it, to draw from the work of others, so long as you identify their ideas as theirs. No matter what kind of assignment you respond to, it’s usually a good idea to see what others have said about a topic before you begin to write about it yourself. But if you are in any doubt about how or when to include references to the work of others in your own, remember to ask your professor for guidance.