Academic Honesty

What is plagiarism?

UBC Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies ( defines plagiarism as follows :

Plagiarism is intellectual theft. It occurs when an individual submits or presents the oral or written work of another person as his or her own. This applies to draft work and oral presentations as well as to final submissions. Failing to properly cite the work of another also constitutes plagiarism, even if it is accidental.

The ACM ( defines plagiarism as follows :

ACM defines plagiarism as the misrepresentation of another’s writings or other creative work (including unpublished and published documents, data, research proposals, computer code, or other forms of creative expression, including electronic versions) as one’s own. […]. Plagiarism manifests itself in a variety of forms, including:

  • verbatim copying, near-verbatim copying, or intentionally paraphrasing portions of another’s work;
  • copying elements of another’s work, such as equations, tables, charts, illustrations, presentation, or photographs that are not common knowledge, or copying or intentionally paraphrasing sentences without proper or complete source citation;
  • verbatim copying of portions of another’s work with incorrect source citation

As a rule of thumb, you should not be copying text written by someone else and submit it as your own. This includes copying text and re-writing it slightly. Refer to the UBC wiki for some specific examples:


You will receive zero on any written submission (paper response, proposal, final write-up) that is found to have plagiarised materials. This includes even a single plagiarized sentence.

It is always better to submit less original text (i.e. a shorter response or proposal), rather than more copied text. In a paper response, it is always better to voice your own points of confusion, or partial understanding, rather than re-state what the authors say. If you want to directly quote a paper in the paper response, then make sure the quoting is explicit (with “” or Piazza quote blocks).

Should you have any concerns or clarification questions about this policy, feel free to reach out to me via e-mail (, or set up a 1-1 meeting with me.

Why is plagiarism bad?

  1. Learning outcomes. Original writing is a key part of the research process. Part of the purpose of the written assignments (including responses) in this class is to give you practice in original writing. If you are not writing your own text, you are not getting practice writing. Further, it is easy to copy text from someone else’s paper. It is much harder to understand the concepts in that text, and even harder to write them in your own words. Writing the key concepts of a paper in your own words conveys what you have understood—even if that understanding is only partial.
  2. Values. Academic honesty is a cornerstone of not only the values of this class, but of UBC, and the academic community as a whole. Part of the purpose of this class is to train you to conduct original research, and academic honesty is a vital part of of that.
  3. Consequences. Because academic honesty is such a core value in the research community, there are serious consequences to misrepresenting another’s work as your own. Penalties for severe plagiarism in ACM papers include retraction of the published work and 5-year publication bans in ACM publications. This would have a devastating impact on both you and your collaborators’ research career.

Tips on writing original text

You may be inspired by the ideas you get from reading other people’s work. But you should never be copying text directly from other people work and attributing it as your own. Quotes must be explicitly attributed with “” (or, on Piazza, quotation blocks).

Writing is hard. It is a skill learned through practice. Here is a process that may help you ensure you write original text.

  • Take a break between reading reference work and starting your own writing process. E.g., go take a short walk to think what you want to write.
  • Bullet-point the main points you want to make. Consider doing this on paper/whiteboard to help you nail down your own ideas.
  • Translate, in your own words, those bullet points to rough sentences. Refrain from referring to other people’s text in this process.
  • Let the writing sit for a bit, and return to edit your rough text

You may have to iterate through this process, e.g., start by bullet-pointing the point of each paragraph, then each sentence in the paragraph.

I have recently discovered the practice of freewriting, which has been useful to me when I have writer’s block: wikipedia on freewriting, MIT on freewriting, grammarly on freewriting.

Additional Resources

Tips to avoid plagiarism from UBC learning commons:

ACM policy on plagiarism: