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College of Arts & Sciences
First-Year English

Academic Responsibility


The Academic Responsibility Code in Carolina Community: USC Columbia Student Handbook and Policy Guide, prohibits you from unauthorized use of another person’s work without proper acknowledgement of the source. Unauthorized use that involves passing off someone else’s written work as your own is called plagiarism. Plagiarism can entail several kinds of misrepresentation. For example, you commit plagiarism if you:

  • Take, buy, or accept a paper written by someone else and present any of it as your own work. This includes papers from the Web.
  • Include passages taken word-for-word from someone else’s text in your own paper without placing that material in quotation marks and citing the source.
  • Fail to acknowledge the source of any information in your paper that is not either common knowledge or personal knowledge. Common knowledge includes facts, dates, events, information, and concepts that most of the general public knows. Even if you used an encyclopedia to look up the dates of the Civil War, for instance, you wouldn't need to cite that source in your bibliography because those dates fall into the range of common knowledge. If you want to discuss events at a particular Civil War military prison, though, you would need to cite your source, since few people are familiar with that information.
  • Borrow ideas, examples, or the structure of another text without acknowledging it even if some or all of the language in the paper is your own. For example, if you make an argument about the death penalty using the exact same points in the same order as an editorial in last week’s newspaper, without citing that editorial as the source of your arguments, you are guilty of plagiarism.

Avoiding Plagiarism

All college students should know better than to buy an essay, download papers off the Web, or copy someone else's work verbatim. But if you haven't done a lot of college writing assignments, you may not understand the more subtle forms of plagiarism discussed above. Part of the reason you’re taking English 101 and 102 is to learn how to find and use source materials appropriately in your writing. You'll find plenty of resources to help you, if you seek them out:

  • Your instructor will be able to advise you on the best way to acknowledge source materials or collaborative help you've received on a particular assignment. When you have questions about how to honestly and accurately present material in a paper, go to your instructor before the assignment is due.
  • One of the textbooks you'll use in First-Year English will be a writer's handbook, such as The Scott Foresman Handbook for Writers, that contains comprehensive information about using, quoting, citing, and documenting sources in academic papers. You should consult this book when you have questions about particular conventions, rules, and strategies.
  • The university libraries can provide you with handbooks, worksheets, and access to online information about systems of documentation used in academic writing (you'll be using the MLA system in English 101 and 102).
  • The consultants at the Writing Center can also offer advice and materials on using source materials appropriately.


The Academic Responsibility Code in the Student Handbook  prohibits “[g]iving or receiving unauthorized assistance, or attempting to give or receive such assistance, in connection with the performance of any academic work.” If someone writes (or dictates) all or part of an assignment for you, or if you give or accept inappropriate help on a writing assignment, you are guilty of collusion. Like plagiarism, collusion is a serious academic offense that violates university and First-Year English policies.

Are you committing collusion if a tutor or classmate helps you with a paper? It depends. It's always appropriate to approach a classmate, friends, or a tutor when you want general feedback about a piece that you're writing. Your English 101 class will probably even ask you to participate in peer revision workshops so that you can get classmates' advice on your work in progress. But help that goes beyond giving constructive advice to doing the writing, revising, editing, or proofreading for you is collusion-- it's passing off work that's partly someone else's as your own. When you get help with your writing, it's your responsibility to set appropriate limits. If you need extra help on an assignment, we suggest that you visit the Writing Center, where tutors are highly qualified and have received special training in providing writers with appropriate kinds of help. If you decide to seek tutoring from another source, review the following guidelines with your tutor and go to your instructor immediately if you have questions.

A tutor (or other helper) may legitimately do the following:

  • Discuss your topic, audience, purpose, evidence, and other broad rhetorical concerns about a paper.
  • Point out patterns of error in a draft.
  • Suggest general approaches for solving rhetorical, stylistic, or mechanical problems.
  • Review specific grammatical or mechanical conventions (but not fix particular errors in your draft).

A tutor (or other helper) may not:

  • Write or dictate a draft or a section of a draft (even a sentence or two) for you.
  • Edit or proofread a paper and then correct the errors for you.
  • Do research for you or procure other substantive material for a paper.

Recycling Papers

During the busiest times of the semester, it’s tempting to look for shortcuts. When you have two midterm exams and an English paper due during the same week, you might wonder, “Would it really be so bad to turn in that research paper I wrote in high school in English 101?” Don't do it.

Recycling old work violates First-Year English Program policy. It is academically dishonest because it misleads your instructor into treating work completed in another setting as a fresh response to an English 101 or 102 assignment. Besides being dishonest, turning in an old paper can actually hurt your performance in class. When you don't do an assignment, you lose a valuable chance to practice and improve your writing skills. And experienced instructors say that papers written for other classes rarely match the specific requirements of an English 101 or 102 assignment, so such papers are unlikely to receive good grades.

Occasionally, an instructor may allow you to write a new paper using research youve done for another course or to substantially revise a paper that’s already written. If you're interested in doing this, be sure to approach your instructor before the assignment is due and be prepared to show him or her a copy of the original paper.


USC and the First-Year English Program take academic dishonesty seriously.   If your instructor suspects or determines that you have plagiarized a paper or engaged in any of the other kinds of academic dishonesty discussed in this section, the university requires that he or she file an incident report with the Office of Academic Integrity, who will determine whether the university will enforce a disciplinary penalty, which can include a letter of warning, required attendance at an academic honesty workshop, or suspension or expulsion from the university. In addition, your instructor will impose a grade penalty on a plagiarized assignment, which typically ranges from an F on the assignment in question to an F in the course.

For detailed information about USC’s regulations and procedures for dealing with academic dishonesty, see the section on Academic Responsibility in the Student Handbook.  Just as importantly, remember to contact your instructor before an assignment is due if you have questions about how to appropriately acknowledge source materials.