Like freedom of speech, academic honesty holds a special place in a community devoted to the creation, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge. For this reason, it is important for students to learn how to acknowledge the contributions of others in their own work and to document properly their reliance on others’ thinking.
Discovering how to use others’ work to advance one’s own is a key part of learning. Very few scholars ever have completely original ideas, and even the greatest scholars build on their predecessors’ achievements. Understanding how to incorporate others’ points into one’s own arguments, and how to acknowledge those points properly, is one sign of maturing scholarship.
It is also important to understand that failure to know or follow the conventions of documentation and citation—even when inadvertent—is considered a grave breach of academic integrity. The concept of academic dishonesty or cheating, detailed at greater length in the Undergraduate Regulations, includes any misrepresentation of others’ work as one’s own, such as unacknowledged paraphrasing or quoting, use of another student’s material, incomplete acknowledgment of sources (including Internet sources), or submission of the same work to complete the requirements of more than one course.
The Yale Center for Teaching and Learning's Web site offers more information about the conventions of using sources. Students who have doubts about when or how to cite should ask their course instructor, writing tutor, or residential college dean.