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Ethical Use of Information

This guide is intended to provide information and guidance regarding the difference aspects of creating and using information in a responsible and ethical manner.

What Is Plagiarism?

"What is Plagiarism?

Many people think of plagiarism as copying another's work, or borrowing someone else's original ideas. But terms like "copying" and "borrowing" can disguise the seriousness of the offense:

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to "plagiarize" means

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
  • to use (another's production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward"



Honor and Integrity

“Midshipmen are persons of integrity: We stand for that which is right.


We tell the truth and ensure that the full truth is known.  We do not lie.


We embrace fairness in all actions.  We ensure that work submitted as our own is our own, and that assistance received from any source is authorized and properly documented.  We do not cheat.


We respect the property of others and ensure that others are able to benefit from the use of their own property.  We do not steal.”


Honor Concept and Instruction 


“Another essential quality of leadership is integrity.  Without this, real leadership is not possible.  Nowadays, it seems like integrity – or honor or character – is kind of quaint, a curious, old-fashioned notion.  We read of too many successful and intelligent people in and out of government who succumb to the easy wrong rather than the hard right – whether from inattention or a sense of entitlement, the notion that rules are not for them.  But for a real leader, personal virtues – self-reliance, self control, honor, truthfulness, morality – are absolute.  These are the building blocks of character, of integrity – and only on that foundation can real leadership be built. "

United States Naval Academy Commencement Address

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Annapolis, Maryland, Friday, May 27, 2011


USNA Superintendent's Statement on Plagiarism

Sept. 29, 2010


For the Brigade:  It has come to my attention that there is some confusion over what constitutes improper use of other writings, opinions, and intellectual property.  Accordingly, I’d like to remind you all of my views on Plagiarism. 


The intellectual and scholarly process is a cumulative one.  We build upon one another’s ideas, accumulate information, and create knowledge.  Because readers of your work may want to investigate and build upon your ideas, it’s important that you give them accurate information to continue the investigative process.  In so doing, it’s important that you also properly acknowledge the work of others.  This maintains the integrity of knowledge and of scholarship. As your education progresses, you will gain confidence in expressing your own ideas – but it’s OK to acknowledge that someone else has expressed thoughts on a given subject that may be more insightful than your own. 


As you know, plagiarism occurs when you take someone else’s ideas, use them as your own, and do so without proper acknowledgement; plagiarism is a form of theft. Obviously, when you “resubmit” a paper from another person or turn in a copy of another person’s homework, that’s plagiarism. But fully understanding plagiarism also can be difficult. Most know that when you take another’s words verbatim, you must enclose those words in quotation marks and properly cite the source. But in addition, any time you use someone else’s words, no matter how well you paraphrase them, you must cite the source as well. Of course, it’s tempting to use the words of experts.  Experts often present an idea very well.  But the job of learning involves presenting the idea as you understand it, using your own words. When you fail to cite the work of others, or when you fail to do so accurately, that’s plagiarism.  Always cite the title, author, relevant publishing information and page number(s) of your source. 


It can be especially hard to cite material found on the Internet (the Nimitz Library website provides good guidance – read it at, and it’s tempting to “cut and paste” from the work of others.  Cutting and pasting without the use of proper citations is a common form of plagiarism – and simply put, it’s dishonest.  Feel free to use the ideas of others to stimulate your thinking, both critically and analytically.  But draw your own conclusions and use your own words. It’s your insight and your words that matter.


Bottom line … you can avoid plagiarism by fully and openly crediting all sources used. Give credit where credit is due, and do not compromise your honor by failing to acknowledge clearly where your work ends and that of someone else begins.  In the process, you will learn a lot more about not just the work of other scholars, but where you part ways with them.  Who knows, you might even provide insights that your professor hasn’t considered.


VADM Michael H. Miller