When students matriculate at Tufts University, they join a community of learners, artists, researchers, and scholars dedicated to the discovery of knowledge and the creation of artistic expression. Just as membership in Tufts' academic community confers great privileges, so too does it demand serious responsibilities. The responsibility for full and proper citation and attribution underscores that current intellectual and artistic endeavors rely on the work of a far broader community comprised of intellectual and artistic predecessors in other nations, cultures, and time periods. In addition, members of the university community should pursue the attainment and advancement of knowledge with integrity and use transparent, principled, and ethical practices.

Academic integrity is the joint responsibility of faculty, students, and staff. Each member of the community is responsible for integrity in their own behavior and for contributing to an over all environment of integrity at the university.

Faculty Responsibilities

Faculty members and other instructors are responsible for creating an atmosphere of integrity and honesty in their courses, in their research, and in their other academic interactions. This is accomplished by:

  • Clearly defining expectations in course syllabi;
  • Communicating any course- or discipline-specific scholarly procedures to students;
  • Engaging students in robust ways; and
  • Reporting concerns about academic misconduct each time such concerns are known.

Student Responsibilities

Students are responsible for creating an atmosphere of integrity and honesty in all assignments, class discussions, research conducted, and other academic work.  This is accomplished by:

  • Learning and using proper scholarly procedures;
  • Scrupulously following directions and asking for clarification when needed; and
  • Engaging with course material fully and meeting the spirit of the assignment.

Academic misconduct is inimical to academic integrity and violates a core value of Tufts University.  Accordingly, faculty and students are prohibited from engaging in academic misconduct.  Academic misconduct includes cheating, plagiarism, inappropriate collaboration, academic dishonesty, research misconduct, and facilitating the academic misconduct of another.  Academic misconduct can occur with the intent to deceive or by disregarding proper scholarly procedures.

Please review the Academic Misconduct policy in the Code of Conduct. We also encourage you to review the information below about the parameters of scholarly work to consider how to best meet University expectations.


Academic Integrity is:

  1. Relying on your own intelligence and abilities to complete coursework and exams. Do NOT solicit or enlist another to take an exam for you, write your papers, do your homework, complete your lab reports, or complete other academic work for you; do NOT copy exam answers from anyone else; do NOT copy the homework answers from others; do NOT submit as your own work a paper mostly, wholly, or partially written by someone else. To do any of these things or similar acts is to violate academic integrity.
  2. Maintaining the originality and integrity of your own academic work. Do NOT misrepresent the originality and integrity of your academic work by submitting the same paper or assignment to two or more different courses without prior permission from both professors. Do NOT falsify or fabricate data or information on a lab report or research project based upon the assumption that the student’s research represents the truth or reality. To do any of these things or similar acts is to violate academic integrity.
  3. Being honest and truthful about your academic record. Do NOT tamper with or alter your own academic records or those of another; do NOT lie about your grade point average or other academic accomplishments on a job application or other application; Do NOT alter your answers on a graded exam or homework assignment then submit it for re-grading. To do any of these things or similar acts is to violate academic integrity.
  4. Ensuring and maintaining fairness for all students engaged in academic work and learning. Do NOT cheat or behave in such a way that you or a group of students has an unfair advantage over another student or group of students taking the exam or performing the academic activity. Do NOT sabotage the work of others, destroy or make library materials inaccessible, or act maliciously to give yourself an unfair advantage over others. To do any of these things or similar acts is to violate academic integrity.
  5. Maintaining the integrity of exams by insuring that all students taking the exam have equal access to authorized materials and that no one has access to unauthorized materials. Do NOT cheat on an exam or help others cheat. Do NOT access unauthorized materials, information, or equipment during an exam. “Unauthorized materials” may include crib notes, cheat sheets, textbooks, lecture notes, and other texts that may contain information relevant to the exam and that have not been explicitly authorized by the instructor or exam proctor. “Unauthorized information” includes information that may be communicated by other test-takers or other individuals while an exam is in progress. “Unauthorized equipment” includes cell phones, calculators (including specific models of programmable calculators), laptop computers, iPads, iPods, tape recorders, cameras, and other devices capable of displaying, recording, storing, retrieving, or transmitting information or images to others inside or outside of the exam room. Other banned materials may also include periodic tables and other graphics and texts that have not been specifically authorized for use during the exam by the instructor or exam proctor. Do NOT help others cheat by providing others with exam answers. Do NOT engage in behavior that gives the appearance of cheating, such as sending or receiving a text message during an exam, passing a note to a friend, whispering to another student while the exam is in progress, or handling your cell phone, even to turn it off if it rings or vibrates in the middle of the exam; if you do any of these things while you are taking an exam, the proctor or instructor assumes that you are cheating. DO turn off your cell phone and put it out of reach, out of sight, or as instructed before the exam begins.
  6. Writing papers in your words, creating your own forms of expression, and giving others credit for their ideas, words, and unique forms of expression. Using appropriate methods of paraphrasing, quotation, citation, and documentation when writing from research or integrating the words and thoughts of others into your paper, project, or lab report in order to clearly represent which words belong to you and which belong to others. Do NOT plagiarize any amount of text. Even accidental, unintentional, and careless copying without attribution is considered plagiarism. DO ask for clarification from the instructor is you are unsure whether a passage needs to be cited. DO seek assistance from writing tutors if you are unsure about your skills in paraphrasing, summarizing, citing, and documenting the thoughts and words of others.

Part One: A Primer on Ethical Academic Work

I. Academic Integrity: The Basics

The standards and expectations about what constitutes legitimate academic work have become much more complicated in recent years. Nothing has had more impact in clouding the boundaries than the wealth of information now available on the internet. Even though it is often difficult or impossible to identify the author of information that you obtain electronically, an appropriate attribution must be made for all work that you submit that includes any element that is not your original creation. Simply paraphrasing from another work is not sufficient to make your submission your own in the estimation of your professor. The ever expanding global network of resources available at your fingertips can help you create more impressive and in-depth work than that submitted by years of students who preceded you at Tufts. On the other hand, the possibility of losing track of where you found some of that information you downloaded in your preliminary work or research and the ability to use word processing programs to cut and paste features can get you into a great deal of trouble.

A.  Papers and Projects

In general, professors, instructors, and TAs expect that all papers, projects, exams (whether take-home or in-class), lab reports, and homework that you submit will be exclusively your own work. They also expect that any material included in your assignment that is not yours (whether wording or ideas) will be cited appropriately.

Academic integrity requires that you:

  1. NEVER buy papers. Term-paper companies advertise on the Internet and in publications. Submitting all or part of a paper you have purchased is a major violation of academic integrity.
  2. NEVER borrow papers. The amateur standing of the author does not make it permissible to use someone else’s paper. Whatever stereotypes you may believe about absent-minded professors, faculty members have long and accurate memories for papers they have graded, even in previous semesters.
  3. NEVER lend papers. You may think it is not so bad to help a friend, particularly if you have already done the work. Wrong. You are as guilty as the person to whom you lend the paper. Few friendships survive the strain of a wrangle over who got whom into this mess.
  4. NEVER collaborate on a paper or project without permission. If the collaboration is not authorized, charges of an academic integrity violation may result. Students are often told to work together on a class research project. This occurs frequently in computer science courses and in courses with laboratories. However, the faculty member often expects that students will work independently when writing up the project or laboratory report. Faculty members almost always detect similarities among papers that are the product of collaboration. It is critical that you know what your instructor expects—ask, if you are not sure.
  5. NEVER use the same paper twice. It may seem like a legitimate time-saver, but unless you’ve received permission from both instructors to use a single paper in two courses, either may charge you with an academic integrity violation. You may be guilty of this offense even if you make additions or changes in the paper for one of the courses.
  6. NEVER plagiarize. You may put some of your own work in a paper and still be in trouble if you misuse other people’s material. You may not use others’ words or ideas without giving them credit. 

B. Exams

Your understanding of the material is being evaluated. Clearly, this goal is thwarted if what you write is not your own. The following policies apply to in-class quizzes and exams, exams given outside the scheduled exam time, and often to take-home exams.

Academic integrity requires that you:

  1. NEVER refer to notes or books unless it is an open-book exam. Even then, make appropriate attributions for material that is not your own. As a general rule, you should not bring notes, books, etc. to the exam room unless it is an open-book exam. If you have these materials and they are open, you will be considered in violation whether or not you are referring to them.
  2. NEVER copy from someone else.
  3. NEVER allow your work to be copied. You will be just as responsible as the copier. Incidentally, professors can sometimes recognize the way individual students express themselves, and stolen words and thoughts can look out of place—and suspicious.
  4. NEVER change answers after the exam is graded. Most instructors have ways of determining whether an answer has been added to or altered after the exam is graded. Many instructors or graders routinely make a photocopy of all exams prior to returning them. Microscopic examination has sometimes been used when it is suspected that an exam submitted for re-grading has been modified.
  5. NEVER arrange for someone else to take the exam for you. Yes, this has happened at Tufts. Whether you pay someone to take an exam in your place, have a friend do it for free, or are the impostor who does it, know that this is a serious academic integrity violation.
  6. Do NOT bring your cell phone or any other unauthorized equipment into an exam room. “Unauthorized equipment” includes cell phones, calculators (including specific models of programmable calculators), laptop computers, iPads, iPods, tape recorders, cameras, and other devices capable of displaying, recording, storing, retrieving, or transmitting information or images to others inside or outside of the exam room. Please note that if any unauthorized equipment or any other type of unauthorized material (lecture notes, study notes) is visible while an exam is taking place, its visibility constitutes a violation of Tufts University’s Code of Conduct and will result in disciplinary action.  Once an exam has begun, all visible unauthorized materials are considered to constitute an academic integrity violation. The visibility of unauthorized materials will result in follow up through the Student Conduct Resolution Procedure. If it is demonstrable that the unauthorized materials have been used during the exam, a student will be found responsible for a violation, and sanctions may include Probation, Suspension, or Expulsion. There may also be a Grading Consequence for the work in question, for the course grade, or for both. Do NOT bring these devices into an exam room – even if you do not intend to use them – without the express permission of the instructor or exam proctor. If you have inadvertently brought an unauthorized electronic device or any other kind of unauthorized material to the exam room, either give them to your professor or proctor before the exam begins or make sure that these materials are completely put away (out of sight) and not touched at any point during the exam. When such devices are visible during an exam – even if they are turned off, even if you are only silencing a cell phone that is ringing or vibrating – the exam proctor is required to report you for having unauthorized materials. 

C. Take-Home Exams

A take-home exam is a paper written under the expectations of an exam, so the rules governing both papers and exams apply to take-home exams. In general, when your professor assigns a take-home exam, the expectation is that you will do your own work on the exam without assistance from classmates, peers, friends, tutors, or other consultants, unless explicitly and specifically permitted by the professor. Read the exam instructions carefully!

Academic integrity requires that you:

  1. NEVER collaborate on a take-home exam unless explicitly permitted by the professor. Your exam is for your eyes only, so do not show it to classmates, ask a classmate for assistance with the exam, or ask a classmate to proofread it for you. Do not look at a classmate’s take-home exam or provide the classmate with assistance in answering the questions or phrasing the answers. In some cases, the professor may allow discussion of the exam among classmates, but will forbid collaboration on the writing of the exam. If this is the case, be careful not to spend so much time discussing the exam that the discussion turns into collaboration in answering the exam questions. Follow your professor’s instructions closely and ask the professor for clarification if you are confused about which forms of collaboration are acceptable and unacceptable for a particular take-home exam.
  2. NEVER plagiarize when writing a take-home exam. Use the same good writing techniques you would use when writing a regular paper: cite and document sources thoroughly, paraphrase correctly, and use direct quotations when appropriate.
  3. NEVER access unauthorized materials when writing a take-home exam. In some cases, the professor will allow you (or encourage you) to consult the textbook or other resources when writing a take-home exam, but only consult those resources that the professor has explicitly permitted. For example, you may be allowed to consult your assigned textbook, library books, online journals and websites, but not a student who took the course last year. In some cases, the take-home exam will forbid any outside resources, including websites. If you are not sure which resources you may consult for a take-home exam, ask your professor first.

D. Appropriate and Inappropriate Collaboration

Collaborative learning is central to a Tufts education, and many instructors will require you to complete group projects and lab reports. Collaboration is appropriate when it is authorized by the professor teaching the class and when each student in the group contributes his or her thoughts to the team but remains responsible for his or her own learning and for completing graded assignments on his or her own. Likewise, seeking help from peer tutors is appropriate because tutors have been trained to help students think through an intellectual or analytical process without doing the work for them. Collaboration is inappropriate, and in violation of academic integrity, when it is forbidden by the professor or when a student relies on someone else’s homework, problem set, computer project, or lab report or asks another student to “correct” one’s paper. The following examples clarify the line between appropriate and inappropriate collaboration.

In many cases, the line between appropriate and inappropriate collaboration depends on the professor’s expectations for the assignment. If you are not sure about the role of collaboration on an assignment, ask your professor before you collaborate. In general, seeing a tutor when you need help on a problem set, paper, project, or lab report is acceptable. However, it is not acceptable to see a tutor to help you complete a take-home exam. Receiving tutoring help on a take-home exam without the professor’s permission is cheating.

Appropriate CollaborationInappropriate Collaboration
Seeing a French tutor to help you improve your grammar skills.Giving your French paper to a friend to correct all the grammar errors for you.
Participating in a study group for organic chemistry each week, you complete your own problem set before the group meets so you can contribute your problem-solving skills to the group and receive feedback on the steps you could not figure out. After the group study, you finish the problem set on your own.Copying your friend’s organic chemistry problem-set answers. Sitting in on a study group each week so you can copy the answers from a smarter group of people.
Helping a classmate understand why his computer science project is not working. Giving peer feedback on the source of the problem and suggesting general solutions that were posed by the textbook or professor.Doing a computer science project for someone else by allowing him or her to copy code that you have written.    
Conducting a biology lab collaboratively. The team conducts the experiment together and discusses the results. Each member of the team then writes his or her own report.Relying on others to do a biology lab for you. The team conducts the experiment together, and then relies on one person to write the results and another person to draw the diagram. Everyone on the team then submits the identical lab report to the professor. (Note: If the professor requires that each team submit one co-written lab report, this is acceptable. Be sure to clarify the professor’s instructions before you begin the lab.)
Helping a classmate or friend write a paper by discussing ideas and ways to approach the assignment. Giving feedback and advice to a friend who has asked you to look over his or her draft of a paper.Giving a classmate or friend a paper you wrote so that he or she may copy your ideas or words. Writing a paper for a friend, or allowing a friend to submit your work as his or her own.

II. Violations: Consequences and Effects

The short-term effects of an academic integrity violation involve the embarrassment of being confronted, the anguish of going through adjudication, and the consequences of disciplinary action, including dismissal, lowered grades and/or a failure in the course. The long-term effects may include the need to repeat necessary courses, lower cumulative grade-point averages, and a blemished record that may, in serious cases, affect your ability to gain employment or admission to graduate school.

A. Resolving Cases of Suspected Academic Integrity Violations

  1. Faculty members are required to report suspicion of academic integrity violations to the Dean of Students Office. Staff members in the Dean of Students Office will then work with the faculty to investigate the situation and, if appropriate, will confront the student(s) involved. Please read Anti-Plagiarism Program: TurnItIn.Com below, concerning the University’s adoption of the use of anti-plagiarism software.
  2. Academic Integrity violations are resolved via the Student Conduct Resolution Procedure for Arts and Sciences and Engineering.
  3. In some cases, the allegations do not involve academic integrity at all, but are simply a matter of the student not following the professor’s instructions for the assignment. If the student has not violated any aspect of the Academic Integrity Policy, but has failed to fulfill the assignment as given, then there will be no disciplinary action and the professor is free to grade the student’s work according to its fulfillment of the original assignment guidelines.
  4. What is the long-term effect if you are found responsible for an academic integrity violation? Whatever grade is awarded remains on your transcript (including an F). You may take the course again—and, if you do, the new grade will be entered on the transcript as well (but you will get only one course credit). For further information, please contact the Dean of Students Office: 617-627-3158.

B. Know Your Rights

What if you feel you are being mistakenly accused? If you have paid careful attention to this document that should be unlikely. However, if you are being accused, feel you are innocent, and are having difficulty discussing this with your instructor, you may consult the Dean of Students Office: 617-627-3158.

C. Consequences for Academic Integrity Violations

The circumstances and evidence that are the basis for a suspicion of academic dishonesty will be considered within the Student Conduct Resolution Procedure. If a student is found responsible for a violation, consequences may include Probation, Suspension, or Expulsion. There may also be a Grading Consequence  for the work in question, for the course grade, or for both.

III. Protect Yourself

A little common sense should prevent your having to defend yourself against a mistaken allegation of an academic integrity violation.

A. Avoid Suspicion in Exams

  1. Pay close attention to the instructions given by the exam proctor.
  2. If you bring books or notebooks into an exam room, close them and put them out of reach and out of sight (except for open-book exams).
  3. If you have prepared compact study notes, put them out of reach and out of sight with your books before the exam begins.
  4. Avoid looking around the room during the exam.
  5. Avoid writing on anything other than the exam book unless you are instructed to do so.
  6. Do not talk to others during the exam.
  7. Do NOT bring your cell phone or any other unauthorized equipment into an exam room.

B. Keep Records

  1. Keep notes you have used for papers or an early draft. The notes may be useful in the future if you need to demonstrate that the work is your own.
  2. Always keep a copy of the final draft. If your paper gets misplaced, you will have another copy to give to your professor.
  3. Backup your computer files. A professor is under no obligation to extend a deadline because of a computer or printer malfunction.

C. Plan Ahead

Some people are in trouble before the semester begins because they have been unrealistic in their course selection. “I could have gotten the papers written if I hadn’t had all those books to read.” Plan a schedule that includes classes, study, and recreation. The StAAR (Student Accessibility & Academic Resource) Center (617-627-4345) or your adviser will be happy to help you plan an effective schedule.

D. Remember That Drafts and Unfinished Papers Must Not Be Plagiarized

Any unfinished paper or draft submitted to an instructor must be the student’s own original work and not be plagiarized. This is especially important for long papers, such as senior projects, theses, and doctoral dissertations, submitted for review in sections or chapters. If portions of a draft have been written by or copied from someone else without acknowledgement, the student who submitted that draft as his or her own original work-in-progress will be held to the same standards for a “final version” of a paper.

If a tutor or the instructor reviews an unfinished draft of a paper, it is still the student’s responsibility to make sure that the version of his or her paper submitted for a grade is correctly and thoroughly cited and documented, even if the instructor or tutor fails to remark upon inappropriately cited portions of the draft.

Students may consult with writing tutors for feedback on drafts and for assistance in learning how to appropriately quote, paraphrase, cite, and document research papers. Tutors will not penalize or turn in students who seek help in writing and conducting research. However, tutors do not check drafts and papers for authenticity, so a student should not assume that his or her paper is acceptable if a tutor did not notice plagiarism.

E. Use University Resources

  1. There are tutors available for FREE through The StAAR (Accessibility & Academic Resource) Center: 617-627-4345. Visit the StAAR Center if you:
  • are having trouble understanding the material
  • need help in writing your paper
  • do not seem to get much out of studying
  • feel you know more than you show on exams and think you can use some exam-taking skills
  1. See your course instructor or TA if you’re having difficulty in a single course.
  2. See your adviser, advising dean (617-627-5985), or a staff member in the Dean of Students Office (617-627-3158)  if any other issues in your life are not going well or are affecting your performance.

F. Be Smart

  1. Do not take an exam if you are ill. If you are ill, we encourage you to go to the Health Service, at which time you may be examined. If you are too ill to take an exam, you can obtain documentation of your illness, which you may present to your professor. If you are ill and take an exam, the results will count.
  2. Should you drop a course? It is unwise to drop a course in which you’re getting a C or better, but it may be sensible to drop a course that you are barely passing, despite your best efforts, since the work required to keep from failing may be jeopardizing your performance in other courses. Discuss the option with your adviser or advising dean (617-627-5985).
  3. Should you take an “Incomplete”? Incompletes are intended for special circumstances—usually those beyond your control or those that are unforeseeable. If you are dealing with a personal crisis, see a dean and talk to the course instructor. Only the instructor may grant an incomplete “contract,” but the Academic Dean (617-627-5985) will discuss the overall situation with you and can counsel you regarding the decision.

G. Anti-Plagiarism Program: TurnItIn.Com

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Engineering has adopted the elective use of the TurnItIn.com anti-plagiarism program for all courses in the undergraduate curriculum. TurnItIn is being used increasingly by many major universities, partially in response to increasing numbers of suspected academic ethics violations related to student use of Internet and Web-based resources and “sharing” of electronic files. The decision to adopt the TurnItIn program was not made with a goal of “catching” students who cheat, but rather to encourage honest work by making it essential for students to carefully consider the legitimacy and authenticity of the work they submit.

Students in courses in which TurnItIn is used are required to submit their work, including exams, lab reports, quizzes, etc., through the program. The program compares the submitted work to all published works, all Internet and Web-based material, and all other work submitted through the program in any course, at any participating school, in the current and all previous years. It then provides an originality report to the faculty member of the course, citing any duplication in the database. The search engine used by TurnItIn is quite sophisticated and is able to identify duplication even if the word order of the submitted work differs from a source. Duplication will not necessarily constitute proof of an academic integrity violation, but will be considered as evidence in a judicial proceeding.

Faculty members who choose to adopt TurnItIn will inform students of this use on their course syllabus or in other announcements at the beginning of the semester. The TurnItIn program allows students to create their own password for submissions and protects the intellectual property of students. The University has investigated the privacy issues inherent in this application and is satisfied that the use of the program does not compromise students’ rights or privacy. Nevertheless, a student who has concerns that a particular work contains patentable material may request that he or she be allowed to submit that material directly to the faculty member instead of through the program.

Please note that the Dean of Students Office uses TurnItIn as an investigative tool when an accusation or suspicion of an academic integrity violation is reported, regardless of whether the course in which the violation is alleged has adopted the program. This applies to graduate students as well as undergraduate students.

H. Disability and Academic Integrity

Academic accommodations for students with disabilities are made on a case-by-case, individual basis, taking into account the student’s functional limitations as a result of the disability, as documented by a licensed practitioner. These accommodations may not fundamentally alter course requirements, the outcome of a course or of a Tufts degree program. To excuse, ignore, or downplay the seriousness of cheating and other unethical behavior is not a reasonable form of accommodation for a disability because the inherent unfairness of cheating violates the essential function of a Tufts education. For these reasons, Tufts University will not excuse a violation of academic integrity nor reduce the disciplinary consequences of an academic integrity violation for any student based on a disability.

If a student has a documented disability that may impact his or her ability to take an exam or complete other course requirements, that individual may request accommodations through The StAAR Center before attempting to take the course, fulfill its assignments, or take its exams. A student who has not registered through Tufts’ office of StAAR Center and has not been granted (i.e., received permission for) specific academic accommodations may not alter the outcome of exams and course work after they have been completed or graded. It is the student’s responsibility to identify himself or herself as a person with a disability, to register through The StAAR Center in a timely manner, to present current documentation of the disability, and to schedule a meeting with a staff member of The StAAR Center to discuss appropriate academic accommodations before any kind of accommodations can be arranged. The StAAR Center will then decide which accommodations are reasonable and will make arrangements for those accommodations with individual instructors. Students should not expect instructors to make academic accommodations for them without guidance from The StAAR Center.

I. Information specific to online learning

The academic integrity policies as described here for traditional college classroom learning also apply to an online learning environment.  However, some online courses may have additional policies to safe-guard the integrity of online exams and to authenticate the identity of the test-taker.

J. Information Specific to Graduate Students

  1. Building on one’s own work: Because graduate students are expected to build upon their own work and create intellectual property, the rules forbidding students from submitting the same paper twice do not pertain to graduate students in the same way as they do for undergraduates. In general, graduate students are expected to submit their own original, new work for graded course assignments, but may refine their discoveries and ideas from earlier coursework into new papers for later courses or qualifying exams. Further, graduate students are often encouraged to build their thesis or dissertation from their earlier coursework. Your department or graduate program may have rules about re-submitting old work or crediting co-authors, so ask your department’s Director of Graduate Studies, your thesis advisor, or the professor teaching the course before re-using or refining your old work for a course assignment or for your thesis or dissertation.
  2. Publication and co-authoring: Beyond the classroom, graduate students are encouraged to revise their completed coursework and papers for publication and for presentation at conferences. If the graduate student has researched and written the paper entirely on his or her own, no permission is necessary to publish the paper or present it. However, if the graduate student has conducted research with colleagues or under the guidance of a professor or has used lab resources sponsored by a professor’s grant, then the graduate student may need prior permission from the supervising professor, and the paper may need to credit co-authors, including the sponsoring or advising professor and colleagues working in the lab. Follow the appropriate co-authoring etiquette for your academic field, or see Columbia University’s Responsible Conduct of Research portal for detailed information on crediting co-authors.
  3. Falsifying research data or results is a very serious form of academic misconduct. Deliberate falsification of research data or fabrication of research results can result in Suspension or Expulsion.
  4. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Inadvertent or careless copying without proper attribution is still considered  plagiarism. The same rules apply to take-home exams and qualifying exams. Drafts and unfinished papers must not be plagiarized. This is especially important when writing your thesis or dissertation which will be submitted for review in chapters or sections. If portions of the draft have been written by or copied from someone else without acknowledgement, the student who submitted that draft as his or her own original work will be held to the same standards for a “final version” of a paper.
  5. TurnItIn: Professors may require undergraduates enrolled in their courses to submit all papers through TurnItIn, a plagiarism-detection service, but graduate student papers are exempt from this routine screening. However, if a professor suspects plagiarism, fraud, or inadequate citation of sources in a paper, thesis, or dissertation submitted by a graduate student, then the Dean of Students Office will use TurnItIn as an investigative tool.

Research Ethics: Online Resources for Graduate Students

Tufts’ Policies on Misconduct in Research and Scholarship

These policies apply to students and faculty and are of particular interest to graduate students working in labs, on grant-funded projects, or co-authoring articles with faculty members. Graduate students who observe or witness research misconduct or who are the victims of misconduct (e.g., have their work plagiarized by the faculty mentor or another student) should report misconduct to the dean of the school where the research was conducted and/or to the Office of the Vice Provost.

Tufts University’s Institutional Review Board for Social, Behavioral, and Educational Research on the Medford Campus 

All research involving the use of human subjects requires prior approval from the IRB.
Columbia University’s Responsible Conduct of Research portal

This is excellent training in RCR! These online case studies focus on graduate studies in the sciences and social sciences but cover issues of importance to graduate students in the arts and humanities, too. Topics include working with faculty mentors, crediting co-authors, responsible peer review, research misconduct, research conflicts of interest, collaborative science, and data acquisition and management.

The advice columns in The Chronicle of Higher Education are excellent resources for navigating the ethical, political, and social culture of academia. The column “Ms. Mentor” is especially useful for graduate students and junior faculty. Tufts has a subscription to the Chronicle, so students can access all online content while logged into the Tufts network.

IV. The Use and Misuse of Sources: Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of someone else’s work. The word comes from a Latin word for “kidnapping,” and plagiarism is indeed the stealing of something engendered by someone else.

—SYLVAN BARNET AND HUGO BEDAU, Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing: A Brief Guide to Argument, 2ND ED. BOSTON: BEDFORD, 1996.

In order to write informed academic papers, students and scholars frequently rely on the expertise of other thinkers and researchers. As long as the original author is properly acknowledged and the source of the outside material properly documented, there is no problem. However, if a student or scholar fails to acknowledge the words or ideas of someone else, or follows the original structure and phrasing of someone else’s writing too closely, he or she is guilty of plagiarism.

Plagiarism takes a variety of forms. Unacknowledged, word-for-word copying of sections of a book, newspaper article, online document, or another student’s paper is the most extreme form of plagiarism. Even more extreme than plagiarism is outright fraud, which includes submitting as one’s own work a paper purchased from an online term-paper mill or “borrowing” an old paper from a friend. Students who commit fraud can face Suspension, or Expulsion. In its less extreme manifestations, plagiarism involves cutting-and-pasting the words and phrases of someone else into one’s own writing without quotation marks. Students with careless research methods who rely overly on online sources frequently find themselves committing plagiarism when they have copy-and-pasted phrases from a variety of websites into their Word document and cannot remember which words are their own and which belong to someone else.

It is important to note that plagiarism is not always committed intentionally. You may be accused of and punished for plagiarism even if you did not intend to plagiarize or if the plagiarism stems from ignorance of the rules or careless research methods. It is your responsibility to learn the rules of citing and documenting sources and to conduct your research carefully. The United States legal system rigorously defends the copyright and intellectual property of authors, artists, scholars, inventors, and corporations. In the “real world,” plagiarists who steal the ideas and words of someone else can face expensive lawsuits with consequent loss of reputation; some high-profile plagiarists have even lost their jobs. In a University setting, students who plagiarize face disciplinary action, notations on transcripts, and possibly Suspension.

Because the penalties for plagiarism can be so severe, it is very important for you to learn how to conduct research with care and how to cite and document sources correctly. When you rely on outside sources in an academic paper, you must always:

  1. Quote and acknowledge the words written by someone else
  2. Acknowledge original ideas belonging to someone else
  3. When paraphrasing or summarizing, avoid using phrases too close to the original, even if the source is properly acknowledged

Hugo Bedau, Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, at Tufts University, has graciously allowed us to use sections of his essay “The Case Against the Death Penalty” to illustrate the use and misuse of sources in the following examples.

He writes:

It is often argued that death is what murderers deserve, and that those who oppose the death penalty violate the fundamental principle that criminals should be punished according to their deserts—“making the punishment fit the crime.” If this principle is understood to require that punishments are unjust unless they are like the crime itself, then the principle is unacceptable. It would require us to rape rapists, torture torturers, and inflict other horrible and degrading punishments on offenders. It would require us to betray traitors and kill multiple murderers again and again, punishments impossible to inflict. Since we cannot reasonably aim to punish all crimes according to this principle, it is arbitrary to invoke it as a requirement of justice in the punishment of murderers. If, however, the principle of just deserts is understood to require that the severity of punishments must be proportional to the gravity of the crime, and that murder being the gravest crime deserves the severest punishment, then the principle is no doubt sound. But it does not compel support for the death penalty. What it does require is that crimes other than murder be punished with terms of imprisonment or other deprivations less severe than those used in the punishment of murder.

Criminals no doubt deserve to be punished, and punished with severity appropriate to their culpability and the harm they have caused to the innocent. But severity of punishment has its limits—imposed both by justice and our common human dignity.

—From Hugo Bedau, “The Case Against the Death Penalty.” Capital Punishment Project. ACLU. July 1992. Web. 8 July 2010.

A. Word-For-Word Plagiarism

When we research a topic, we sometimes find a source that says what we want to say, frequently in words better than we feel we could write. In these cases, it may be tempting to copy sections of the source, but you would in fact be plagiarizing it piece by piece.

Example-- WRONG:

Proponents of capital punishment often argue that punishment must fit the crime, and therefore, death is the only appropriate punishment for a murderer. If this idea is understood to require that punishments are unjust unless they are like the crime itself, then the principle is unacceptable. It would require us to rape rapists, torture torturers, and inflict other horrible and degrading punishments on offenders. It would require us to betray traitors and kill multiple murderers again and again, punishments impossible to inflict. Since we cannot reasonably aim to punish all crimes according to this principle, it is arbitrary to invoke it as a requirement of justice in the punishment of murderers. If, however, the principle of just deserts is understood to require that the severity of punishments must be proportional to the seriousness of the crime, and that murder being the most extreme crime deserves the severest punishment, then the principle is no doubt sound. But it does not compel us to support capital punishment.

In the example above, the writer copies a large section of Professor Bedau’s essay, rewriting the first sentence, changing “gravity” to “seriousness,” changing “grave” to “extreme,” and slightly rephrasing the last sentence. Even though a few words have been changed from the original, this kind of copying constitutes word-for-word plagiarism. To avoid plagiarism, the writer could have kept the original as it was, acknowledged Hugo Bedau as the source, and put the entire passage in quotation marks. Properly acknowledging the source demonstrates the extent of one’s research and helps one integrate the source into one’s own argument, as this example illustrates:


Hugo Bedau, professor of philosophy at Tufts University and an expert on ethics, illustrates the lack of logic behind the idea that the death penalty is the only fitting punishment for a murderer:

If this principle is understood to require that punishments are unjust unless they are like the crime itself, then the principle is unacceptable. It would require us to rape rapists, torture torturers, and inflict other horrible and degrading punishments on offenders. It would require us to betray traitors and kill multiple murderers again and again, punishments impossible to inflict. Since we cannot reasonably aim to punish all crimes according to this principle, it is arbitrary to invoke it as a requirement of justice in the punishment of murderers (1992).

In correctly acknowledging Professor Bedau, the writer incorporates some background information about Bedau’s credentials as part of an introduction to the quotation and then follows up with a response to Bedau’s words. Because it is a long quotation—over four lines long—the writer has indented it. Note that because Professor Bedau is acknowledged as the author of the quotation, the writer does not have to include his name in the parenthetical citation at the end of the quotation.

B. The Mosaic Pattern of Plagiarism        

Many students erroneously believe they can copy from a source but avoid plagiarism if they “just change the wording around.” Other students commit plagiarism when they carelessly copy-and-paste sections of online documents into their own writing and “forget” to put quotation marks around the original phrasing.

Example-- WRONG:

Opposition to the death penalty does not mean one is soft on crime. Indeed, death penalty opponents believe that criminals deserve to be punished, and punished with severity appropriate to their guilt and the harm they have caused to the innocent. But severity of punishment has its limits—imposed both by justice and our common human dignity. For example, if the logic of those who support capital punishment is followed fully, it would require us to rape rapists, torture torturers, bomb bombers, and inflict other terrible, degrading punishments on offenders. It would require us to betray traitors and kill multiple murderers again and again, punishments impossible to inflict. Obviously, these forms of punishment are ludicrous, but then so is the illogic of capital punishment (Bedau, 1992).

In the example above, the writer has taken two sentences near the end of Professor Bedau’s essay and placed them before two sentences that came earlier in the essay. The writer has also replaced “culpability” with “guilt,” and added the phrase “bomb bombers.” To avoid accusations of plagiarism, the writer has actually cited Bedau at the end of the paragraph—but, because the parenthetical citation is attached to the last sentence, the reader can only assume that Bedau has contributed an idea only to that last sentence. This sample constitutes plagiarism because the writer failed to identify (with quotation marks and a citation in the appropriate place) the words belonging to Professor Bedau. To avoid plagiarism, the writer must place quotation marks around Professor Bedau’s words.


Opposition to the death penalty does not mean one is soft on crime. Indeed, death penalty opponents believe that “criminals deserve to be punished, and punished with severity appropriate to their culpability and the harm they have caused to the innocent. But severity of punishment has its limits—imposed both by justice and our common human dignity” (Bedau, 1992). For example, if the logic of those who support capital punishment is followed fully, “it would require us to rape rapists, torture torturers, and inflict other horrible and degrading punishments on offenders. It would require us to betray traitors and kill multiple murderers again and again, punishments impossible to inflict” (Bedau, 1992). Obviously, these forms of punishment are ludicrous, but then so is the illogic of capital punishment.

Note that in this correct version, the parenthetical citations appear immediately after the sentences borrowed from Bedau, and that everything inside the quotation marks is exactly as Bedau has written it. It is important to remember that everything inside quotation marks must be the same as the original—even spelling errors!

C. Borrowed Language

When writing from sources, one frequently finds clever phrases that seem to encapsulate one’s own thoughts perfectly. However, even a short phrase of one or two words must be cited properly to avoid stealing the unique phrasing of another writer. This is sometimes very difficult if you are writing in a language in which you are not yet fluent.

Example-- WRONG:

Death penalty opponents have crafted many complex arguments to capital punishment. Appealing to their own skewed notions of human dignity, they assert that murderers, terrorists, and other violent criminals should be punished with imprisonment or other deprivations less severe than death. Justice and human dignity, however, demand that the punishment fit the crime—if murderers are to be punished with severity appropriate to their culpability and the harm they have caused to the innocent victims and their families, the only punishment severe enough for the gravity of the crime is that of death.

While the example above is almost entirely in the writer’s own words, some unique phrasing belongs to Professor Bedau’s original essay. The phrases “imprisonment or other deprivations less severe” and “punished with severity appropriate to their culpability and the harm they have caused to the innocent” are exactly the same phrasing used by Professor Bedau and need to be placed in quotation marks and acknowledged as Bedau’s or rewritten in the writer’s own words. To make a stronger argument, the writer should consider debating Professor Bedau’s essay directly and openly using the quotations as parts of the rhetoric of the debate. Note that certain common phrases do not need to be cited. Phrases such as “human dignity,” “the punishment fit the crime,” and “the gravity of the crime” are so frequently used in the public domain and in everyday speech that they do not need to be attributed to anyone.

D. Paraphrasing

The appropriate use of paraphrase and summary is essential to good academic writing. However, many students do not paraphrase correctly and commit plagiarism by accident when they too closely follow the phrasing and sentence structure of the original source.

Inappropriate Paraphrasing (Plagiarism):

Paraphrase (P) Some argue that death is what killers deserve,
Original (O) It is often argued that death is what murderers deserve,
(P) and that those who oppose capital punishment violate the essential principle
(O) and that those who oppose the death penalty violate the fundamental principle
(P) that criminals should be punished according to what they deserve—
(O) that criminals should be punished according to their deserts—
(P) in other words, the punishment must fit the crime.
(O) making the punishment fit the crime.
(P) If we understand this principle to mean that punishments
(O) If this principle is understood to require that punishments
(P) are not just if they are not like the crime itself, then the principle is wrong.
(O) are unjust unless they are like the crime itself, then the principle is unacceptable.
(P) It would require us to rape rapists, torture torturers, bomb bombers,
(O) It would require us to rape rapists, torture torturers,
(P) and inflict other terrible, disgusting punishments on criminals.
(O) and inflict other horrible and degrading punishments on offenders.
(P) It would even require us to kill serial killers again and again—
(O) It would require us to betray traitors and kill multiple murderers again and again,
(P) clearly this is impossible.
(O) punishments impossible to inflict.

As we can see, inappropriate paraphrasing copies the sentence structure and phrasing of the original too closely. This happens when students attempt to “just change the wording around.” To paraphrase correctly, it is important to read the original closely to understand it, turn it over, and attempt to explain it in your own words. Then check your paraphrase against the original to make sure you have conveyed its points and subpoints correctly and have not unintentionally mimicked its phrasing too closely. The paraphrase below was written using this method.

Appropriate Paraphrasing:

In his essay “The Case Against the Death Penalty,” Hugo Bedau reveals the logical flaws in the principle of just deserts, the argument that death is the only way to make the punishment fit the crime in cases of murder. Essentially, Bedau argues that to follow the old injunction of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” in modern social policy is to follow a false analogy. For if killing must be punished by killing, then all crimes must be punished with the equivalent punishment: rapists punished with rape, torturers punished with torture, et cetera, ad nauseum. Bedau points out that what is called for is not equivalent punishment, but proportional punishment.

E. Common Knowledge

The examples above have illustrated what must be quoted and cited to avoid plagiarism. But sometimes students go from one extreme of not citing anything to the absurd extreme of citing everything. You do not have to cite what is called “common knowledge”—information, facts, ideas, popular sayings, and commonsense principles that are well known, widespread, and usually noncontroversial. For example, it is well known that Sigmund Freud was a famous psychoanalyst who advocated what he called the “talking cure.” This is common knowledge. If you look up his date of birth in an encyclopedia, this too is common knowledge because it is noncontroversial and every encyclopedia will contain the same date. If you are familiar with his theories of the id, ego, and superego, you can discuss these without having to cite Freud or a psychology textbook because these are generally well known. However, if you discuss Freud’s case study of the Wolf-Man in a paper, you should cite it. Keep in mind, however, that as you conduct more in-depth research on a topic, you start to become an expert in that area and discover that certain ideas are “common knowledge” within that field but not for a general audience. If citing what is a very basic idea in a specialized field seems tedious, it may not need to be cited because it may be common knowledge. However, if you have any doubt, it is always best to cite.

F. Citing and Documenting Print and Online Sources

All college students and scholars need to know how to cite and document sources correctly. Citation occurs at the level of the sentence or paragraph. This is when you acknowledge your sources within your sentence (“According to Professor Bedau”) and when you include a parenthetical citation or footnote at the end of each sentence that contains words or ideas originating with another writer. Documentation occurs at the end of your paper in the form of a bibliography that allows your reader to check your sources. (Footnotes and endnotes can also be used.) Bibliographies are also called “References,” “Works Cited,” and “Works Consulted,” depending on the documentation style you are using. “Works Cited” and “References” list every source (including books, journals, websites, films, interviews, etc.) that you quoted, paraphrased, summarized, referred to, or discussed in your paper. If you did lots of research and read many sources but only used a few in your paper, you may wish to add a list of “Works Consulted;” this includes everything that formed the background of your research but was not actually cited in the paper itself.

Documentation styles are shorthand codes that scholars use to include as much data about their sources in as little space as possible. The documentation styles are determined by important scholarly organizations and publishers. There are three main styles of documentation used at the college level. MLA style is an author-page number system used extensively within the humanities. APA style is an author-date system used in the social sciences. Most college-level writing handbooks available at Tufts’ bookstore describe how to use the MLA and APA styles in detail because these are the styles professors usually prefer. Chicago style (or footnotes) can be used in any discipline. Turabian style is a simplified version of Chicago-style footnotes often used for high school and college term papers. In addition to MLA, APA, and Chicago/Turabian styles, the fields of chemistry, biology, and math have their own numeric systems of citing sources. If you are confused about which documentation style to use, ask your professor for guidance. If your professor says the style is up to you, choose one style and follow the guidelines in your handbook carefully. Be consistent and do not mix styles.

Conducting research online is extremely convenient and fast, especially in the early stages of researching a topic, but online sources may not always be adequate or appropriate for college-level scholarship. Many websites (including Wikipedia) lack the depth, reliability, and authority of scholarly, peer-reviewed books and journals. While many peer-reviewed journals and books are now available in full-text format online, students must take care when conducting research entirely from a computer terminal because sloppy research methods can result in plagiarism (especially when passages are copy-and-pasted into a Word document). It is your responsibility to use extreme caution when using online or electronic sources in a research paper.

There are some excellent websites and online journals that are in-depth, authoritative, up-to-date, and have been peer-reviewed. These, unfortunately, are rare. Much of the information you find online may be erroneous, unreliable, or pure propaganda. It is your responsibility to make sure the online sources you use are as reliable as the books and journals found in the library—all of which, by the way, have been selected for their thoroughness, prestige, accuracy, and reliability. If you are considering using an online source, you should answer these questions: Who wrote this and what are their credentials? Is the Web site sponsored by or affiliated with a legitimate, recognized organization? Is this information intended as advertisement or propaganda? How up-to-date is this information? The Tisch Library offers in-depth workshops on conducting library research, conducting electronic searches, and evaluating online sources.

Online sources and other electronic media require the same kind of citation and documentation as traditional books and journals. If you are citing a full-text document from an online database, cite the document as you would a regular book or journal article, but add the electronic source information to the bibliographic entry. If you are citing a Web site, you will need much more information than just a URL address. You will need to know the name of the author, if one is listed; if not, use the name of the organization sponsoring the Web site. You will need to know the title of the online document or section of the Web site. The Web site itself should have its own title. You will also need to know the date on which the document was posted or the date of the last update. You should also record the date on which you accessed the Web site. And, of course, you will need a shortened version of the URL address. If you are using parenthetical citations in your paper, do not list the URL in the parentheses! Instead, list the online author and page number or section number (or the online author and date posted).

WRONG way to cite a Web site as a parenthetical citation in your paper

If you are using MLA style, list the author’s last name and paragraph number, if these exist. If not, list the Web site sponsor or title of the online document in the parentheses, and nothing else. If you are using APA style, list the author’s last name (or Web site sponsor or document title) and the year of publication in the parentheses.

CORRECT MLA style in-text parenthetical citation: (Bedau)
CORRECT APA style in-text parenthetical citation: (Bedau 1992)

To document the Web site or electronic source in your bibliography, follow the style guidelines in your writing handbook. Generally, websites and other electronic sources are documented like books and journals:

CORRECT MLA style bibliographic entry:
Bedau, Hugo Adam. “The Case Against the Death Penalty.” Capital Punishment Project: ACLU. July 1992. Web. 8 July 2010
CORRECT APA style bibliographic entry:
Bedau, H. A. (1992, July). The Case Against the Death Penalty. [Online document]. Capital Punishment Project of American Civil Liberties Union. <http://users.rcn.com/mwood/deathpen.html>

G. For More Information

The following websites offer excellent advice on citing sources and avoiding plagiarism:

“Citing Sources” section of the Research Guides @ Tufts Web page (scroll down to find the link for “Citing Sources” in the Tool Box)

Research Paper Navigator is Tufts’ time-management tool and step-by-step guide for writing research-based papers.

Research and Documentation Online is Diana Hacker’s detailed and thorough guide to writing about research in college. Sample papers show how to write for different academic fields using the four major documentation styles (MLA, APA, Chicago, and CSE).

Purdue Online Writing Lab is the best online writing resource for college students. See their excellent tutorials on using APA Style and MLA Style. The Web site also includes a grammar guide for speakers of English as a Second Language.

Part Two: Computer Ethics and the Appropriate Use of Electronic Resources

I. Computer Ethics

Computer access—so common as to seem a right—is, in fact, a privilege and is conditional upon responsible and ethical use. Copyright law, fair-use policies, and emerging laws concerning downloading are complex issues that you need to understand. The second portion of this booklet deals with these issues. You will be asked to acknowledge your agreement to abide by the Tufts Information Stewardship Policy if you want to use Tufts electronic resources. Be sure you understand the requirements. Increasingly, the consequences for violations are drawing the attention of not only the University, but also of the courts. The University cannot protect you if the recording industry pursues you for downloading even a few MP3 files.

A. An Overview of Your Rights and Responsibilities in Cyberspace

The internet is a powerful tool for communication—powerful in its ability to reach a global audience and revolutionary in its accessibility to those who formerly were only at the receiving end of mass communications. With access to the Internet, anyone can now effectively be an international publisher and broadcaster. By posting to Usenet or establishing a Web page, for example, an Internet user can speak to a larger and wider audience than the New York Times, NBC, or National Public Radio. Many Internet users, however, do not realize that that is what they are doing.

It is not surprising, given these facts, that the internet also has a powerful and revolutionary potential for misuse. Such misuse is particularly prevalent on college and University campuses, where free access to computing resources is often mistakenly thought to be the equivalent of free speech, and where free speech rights are in turn often mistakenly thought to include the right to do whatever is technically possible.

The rights of academic freedom and freedom of expression apply to the use of University computing resources. So, too, do the responsibilities and limitations associated with those rights. Thus, legitimate use of University computing resources does not extend to whatever is technically possible. In addition, while some restrictions are built into the University’s computer operating systems and networks, those restrictions are not the only restrictions on what is permissible. Users of University computing resources must abide by all applicable restrictions, whether or not they are built into the operating system or network and whether or not they can be circumvented by technical means. Moreover, it is not the responsibility of the University to prevent computer users from exceeding those restrictions; rather, it is the computer user’s responsibility to know and comply with them.

So just what are the applicable restrictions? The answer is: the same laws and policies that apply in every other context. Cyberspace is not a separate legal jurisdiction, and it is not exempt from the normal requirements of legal and ethical behavior within the University community. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that conduct that would be illegal or a violation of University policy in the offline world will still be illegal or a violation of University policy when it occurs online. Remember, too, that the online world is not limited to Tufts University. Computer users who engage in electronic communications with persons in other states or countries or on other systems or networks may also be subject to the laws of those other states and countries and the rules and policies of those other systems and networks.

It is impossible to list and describe every law and policy that applies to the use of University computing resources and the Internet—since, by and large, they all do—but in the following sections, some are described that students should know about.

B. Copyright Law

Copyright law generally gives authors, artists, composers, and other such creators the exclusive right to copy, distribute, modify, and display their works or to authorize other people to do so. Moreover, their works are protected by copyright law from the very moment that they are created—regardless of whether they are registered with the Copyright Office and regardless of whether they are marked with a copyright notice or symbol (©). That means that virtually every email message, Usenet posting, Web page, or other computer work you have ever created—or seen—is copyrighted. That also means that, if you are not the copyright owner of a particular Usenet posting, Web page, or other computer work, you may not copy, distribute, modify, or display it unless:

  • its copyright owner has given you permission to do so, or
  • it is in the public domain, or
  • doing so would constitute fair use, or
  • you have an implied license to do so

If none of these exceptions apply, your use of the material constitutes copyright infringement, and you could be liable under federal law for as much as $100,000 in damages for each use. In addition, if you reproduce or distribute copies of copyrighted material having a total retail value of $1,000 or more, you would be in violation of copyright law and possibly criminal law, even if you do not make a dollar from the distribution or posting. For example, this includes an instance where a software program or a music CD selection is posted on a Web site or is attached to an email you send to someone else or to a list serve. Consider that material with a value of only $50, downloaded 20 times, or sent to 20 friends, would meet this $1,000 threshold. Since the time necessary to restore lost data or damaged material is also covered by this law, it would take only 10 hours of repair time to meet the criminal threshold (federal law provides that the time is billed at $100/hour).

It is usually easy to tell whether you have permission to make a particular use of a work—the copyright owner will have told you so expressly, either in writing or orally—but it is not always so easy to tell whether the work is in the public domain or whether what you want to do constitutes fair use or is covered by an implied license.

It is not unusual for individuals to forward others’ email messages, although this practice technically constitutes a copyright violation in the absence of permission of the author. Cases are rarely pursued in this, since those involved are usually mutual acquaintances or colleagues. But beware, the law may support a legal claim against you if your judgment is wrong about whether the author will feel victimized or damaged by your forwarding of his or her writing to others without permission. It also makes good sense that if you wish an email message that you create not to be forwarded, you should probably communicate this as part of the message.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act

In 1998 the United States Congress passed into law the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This act protects the rights of owners of digital media. The DMCA is beginning to be used as a basis for initiating charges against students who violate the copyright of digital media, including music, movies, software, images, and online books or manuals.

There have been many cases over the past few years involving students being sued by record and media corporations for infringing on copyrights through illegal downloading of music and movies. In some cases the students have had to pay significant amounts of money to settle the cases.

If you are not absolutely certain that a song, movie, or image is NOT copyright protected, then assume it is until you find out for sure. All digital media and software should have a license agreement on its primary download site or in documentation that comes with it.

Read the Tufts Information Stewardship Act. It outlines the responsibilities you have as a subscriber on the Tufts network. It describes what is not permitted on the network and explains conditions to which subscribers must abide. Remember, there are consequences for violating copyright laws both in the University and in the courts. The University will not be able to intervene on behalf of students who are being investigated by the music industry for suspected violations.

Do not take a chance. The music industry is now taking a much harder stance against downloading or providing protected material, even for a few MP3 files. Websites such as Apple’s iTunes, Ruckus, Napster, and Rhapsody have been established that provide legal downloads of music at no cost or inexpensively. Spend the money—protect your future.

C. Public Domain

Generally speaking, a work is in the public domain only if:

  • its creator has expressly disclaimed any copyright interest in the work, or
  • it was created by the federal government, or
  • it is very old

Unfortunately, just how old a particular work must be to be in the public domain depends in part upon when the work was created, in part upon whether and when it was formally published, in part upon whether and when its creator died, and in part on still other factors. So, there is no one specific cutoff date that you can use for all works to determine whether or not they are in the public domain. As a rule of thumb, however, works that were created and published more than 75 years ago are now in the public domain. Works that were created less than 75 years ago, works that were created more than 75 years ago but published less than 75 years ago, and works that have never been published might be in the public domain, but, if you do not know for sure, it is best to assume that they are not.

D. Fair Use

In very general terms, a particular use of a work is fair if it involves only a relatively small portion of the work, is for educational or other noncommercial purposes, and is unlikely to interfere with the copyright owner’s ability to market the original work. A classic example is quoting a few sentences or paragraphs of a book in a class paper. Other uses may also be fair, but it is almost never fair to use an entire work, and it is not enough that you are not charging anyone for your particular use. It also is not enough simply to cite your source (though it may be plagiarism if you do not).

An implied license may exist if the copyright owner has acted in such a way that it is reasonable for you to assume that you may make a particular use. For example, if you are the moderator of a mailing list and someone sends you a message for that list, it is reasonable to assume that you may post the message to the list, even if its author did not expressly say that you may do so. The copyright owner can always revoke an implied license, however, simply by saying that further use is prohibited.

In addition, facts and ideas cannot be copyrighted. Copyright law protects only the expression of the creator’s idea—the specific words, notes, brushstrokes, or computer code that the creator used—and not the underlying idea itself. Thus, for example, it is not copyright infringement to state in a history paper that the Declaration of Independence was actually signed on August 2, 1776, or to argue in an English paper that Francis Bacon is the real author of Shakespeare’s plays, even though someone else has already done so, as long as you use your own words. (Again, however, if you do not cite your sources, it may still be plagiarism even if you paraphrase.)

Exactly how copyright law applies to the internet is still not entirely clear, but there are some rules of thumb:

  • You may look at another person’s website, even though your computer makes a temporary copy when you do so, but you may NOT redistribute it or incorporate it into your own Web site without permission, except as fair use may allow.
  • You probably may quote all or part of another person’s Usenet or listserv message in your response to that message, unless the original message says that copying is prohibited.
  • You probably may NOT copy and redistribute a private email message you have received without the author’s permission, except as fair use may allow.
  • You probably may print out a single copy of a Web page, a Usenet, listserv, or private email message for your own, personal, noncommercial use.
  • You may NOT post another person’s book, article, graphic, image, music, or other such material on your Web site or use them in your Usenet, listserv, or private email messages without permission, except as fair use may allow.
  • You may NOT download materials from Lexis-Nexis, the Clarinet news service, or other such services and copy or redistribute them without permission, unless the applicable license agreement expressly permits you to do so or unless your particular use would constitute fair use.
  • You may NOT copy or redistribute software without permission, unless the applicable license agreement expressly permits you to do so.

E. Libel

Libel is the publication of a false statement of fact that harms another person’s reputation—for example, saying that “John beat up his roommate” or “Mary is a thief” can be libel if it is not true. If a statement does not harm the other person’s reputation—for example, “Joe got an A on the test”—it is not libel even if it is false. In addition, a statement of pure opinion cannot be libelous—for example, “I do not like John”—but you cannot turn a statement of fact into an opinion simply by adding “I think” or “in my opinion” to it. “In my humble opinion, John beat up his roommate” is still libelous if John did not beat up his roommate. If you honestly believed that what you said was true, however, you might not be liable if it later turns out that you were wrong.

A libel is published whenever it is communicated to a third person. In other words, if you say, “Mary is a thief” to anyone other than Mary, you have published that libel. That means that almost anything you post or send on the Internet, except an email that you send only to the person about whom you are talking, is considered published for purposes of libel law.

A person who has been libeled can sue for whatever damages are caused by the publication of the libel. Since a libel on the Internet could potentially reach millions of people, the damages could be quite large.

A good rule of thumb to follow: If you would be upset if someone else made the same statement about you, think carefully before you send or post that statement to the internet, because it might be libelous.

F. Invasion of Privacy

There are a number of different laws that protect the right to privacy in a number of different ways. For example, under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a federal statute, it generally is a crime to intercept someone else’s private email message or to look into someone else’s private computer account without appropriate authorization. The fact that you may have the technical ability to do so, or that the other person may not have properly safeguarded his or her account, does not mean that you have authorization. If you do not know for sure whether you have authorization, you probably do not.

Invasion of privacy, like libel, is also a tort, which means that you can also be sued for monetary damages. In addition to the sorts of things prohibited by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, it can be an invasion of privacy to disclose intensely personal information about another person that that person has chosen not to make public and that the public has no legitimate need or reason to know—for example, the fact that someone has AIDS, if he or she has not revealed that information publicly. Unlike with libel, a statement can be an invasion of privacy even if it is true.       

G. Cyber Bullying

Any behavior, including electronic posting or other communication, that can cause harm, jeopardy, or humiliation to others may constitute invasion of privacy, harassment, or a violation of state laws or university policy on cyber bullying and may result in consequences. Please consult the Dean of Students Office if you have any concerns about such behavior: 617-627-3158.

H. Obscenity, Child Pornography, and Indecency

Under both state and federal law, it is a crime to publish, sell, distribute, display, or, in some cases, merely to possess obscene materials or child pornography. These laws also apply equally to the internet, and a number of people have been prosecuted and convicted for violating them in that context.

The line between what is obscene and what is not is hard to draw with any precision—as one Supreme Court justice said, “I could never succeed in intelligibly” defining obscenity, “[but] I know it when I see it”—but the term basically means hard-core pornography that has no literary, artistic, political, or other socially redeeming value. One reason that it is so hard to define obscenity is that it depends in part on local community standards; what is considered obscene in one community may not be considered obscene in another. That makes it particularly difficult to determine whether materials on the Internet are obscene, since such materials are, in a sense, everywhere, and it is therefore not enough that the materials are legal wherever you are. In one case, the operators of a bulletin board service in California posted materials that were not considered obscene there, but were convicted of violating the obscenity statutes in Tennessee when the materials were downloaded there.

Child pornography is the visual depiction of minors engaged in sexually explicit activity. Unlike obscenity, child pornography is illegal regardless of whether it has any literary, artistic, political, or other socially redeeming value.

Sexually oriented materials that do not constitute either obscenity or child pornography generally are legal. Still, it is illegal in most cases to provide such materials to minors, and displaying or sending such materials to people who do not wish to see them may be a violation of the University’s Sexual Harassment Policy.

I. Hacking, Cracking, and Similar Activities

Under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and under a variety of similar other state and federal statutes, it can also be a crime to access or use a computer without authorization, to alter data in a computer without authorization, to transmit computer viruses and “worms” over computer networks, to send multiple and mass letters, and to engage in other such activities that negatively affect the operation of the University’s computer resources. Engaging in such activities can also make you liable for monetary damages to any person who is harmed by your activities. Again, the fact that you may have the technical ability to do any of these things, or that another computer owner may not have properly safeguarded his or her computer, does not mean that you have authorization. If you do not know for sure whether you have authorization, you probably do not.

J. University Policies

Use of University computing resources is also subject to the University’s Student Code of Conduct, including academic integrity, the University’s Sexual Misconduct/Sexual Assault Policy, and all other generally applicable University policies. Please refer to Section III, Tufts University Information Stewardship Policy for Students in Arts and Sciences and Engineering.

K. For More Information

If you have questions about the legality of your use of University computing resources, it is best to ask before proceeding. You can get general information (but not specific legal advice) from the Dean of Students Office: 617-627-3158.

In addition, you can find more information on these and related topics at the following websites:

10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained                                                      

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Computer Crime Law Update

II. Policies for Tufts Email Accounts and Addresses

Email services are provided to the Tufts community in support of the teaching, learning, and research mission of the University and the administrative functions to carry out that mission. Users of Tufts email services are expected to act in accordance with the Tufts University Information Stewardship Policy for Arts and Sciences and Engineering and with professional and personal courtesy and conduct. Email may not be used for unlawful activities. This policy and related policies provide the framework in which all email services are provided and used at Tufts.

A. Email Accounts

Users of email must adhere to the Tufts University Information Stewardship Policy for Arts and Sciences and Engineering. For more information please see Tufts' Email Policy.

B. Email Distribution Lists

  • Mailing lists may be used for purposes related to teaching, course work, research, and administration at Tufts University and University-sanctioned student activities.
  • Commercial use of mailing lists, except for authorized Tufts University business, is prohibited.
  • See the separate Mailing List Policy.

C. Security, Privacy, and Confidentiality

Tufts cannot guarantee the security, privacy, and confidentiality of email. Users should not assume confidentiality of their email. Users are not advised to send confidential university communications (as determined by law, policy, etc.) via email. For more information please see Tufts' Email Policy.

D. Email Abuse and Policy Enforcement

Email services are provided to the Tufts community to conduct university business. Violations of the email and Tufts University responsible-use policies will be subject to disciplinary action. Violators may have their email account suspended during any investigation.  For more information please see Tufts' Email Policy.

Email abuse may be reported to abuse@tufts.edu. Reports of abuse will be investigated and handled as appropriate. In all cases, do not delete any evidence or message(s) as they can be used as evidence.

III. Tufts University Information Stewardship Policy

General Statement

 As a part of the institutional infrastructure, Tufts University acquires, develops, and maintains computers, computer systems, and networks. These computing resources are intended for university-related purposes, including direct and indirect support of university administrative functions; the university’s instruction, research, and service missions; student and campus life activities; and the free exchange of ideas among members of the university community and between the university community and the wider local, national, and world communities.

Review the Tufts University Information Stewardship Policy