You’ve been swamped with work - as a matter of fact, you haven't felt organized or in control of your time this whole semester. Now you're trying to finish a ten-page paper that’s due tomorrow. You feel pretty good about it; you know what you want to say, you've done tons of research, and you have quite a lot written. But now you are beginning to panic. In your haste, as you did research earlier this semester, you cut and pasted a lot of material into your paper. Now you're not sure which parts you wrote yourself and which parts you borrowed. And you didn't keep track of your sources very well, so it's virtually impossible to go back to the original sources to check. It's too late to redo it all. You are tempted to just turn in the paper as it is, perhaps with a few made-up sources in your Works Cited section, and hope your professor doesn't figure out that some of the material is not your own.
You risk: Suspension or expulsion, a failing grade for the assignment or course, and a notation on your record. Disciplinary action is part of your disciplinary record for four years after you graduate (or eight years from your date of matriculation), and, if you are suspended or expelled, the suspension or expulsion is permanently noted on your transcript. If it's a first and minor offense, your professor may choose to resolve the matter with you outside of the judicial process.
There are also important personal risks in such decisions: your self-regard begins to erode. You not only compromise the quality of the work you submit in a particular assignment, but over time you also compromise your values. Are your decisions -- even "small" ones, like copying someone else's words -- consistent with the kind of person you want to be?
You risk: a failing grade on the assignment, if your professor won't grant the extension.
To choose this option:
- E-mail your professor (or call or stop by), explain the situation, and ask for an extension on the deadline. (You can find a professor's email address, phone number and office location using the Duke Phonebook.)
- Keep in the mind that the penalty for turning in a paper late is far smaller than the penalty for plagiarism, even if it means a failing grade on the paper.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your professor for help. To get tips about how to talk to your professor, read Good Reasons to Meet With Your Professors from the Academic Skills Instructional Program (ASIP).
Take notes carefully and systematically
Identify words that you copy directly from a source by placing quotation marks around them, typing them in a different color, or highlighting them. (Do this immediately, as you are making your notes. Don't expect to remember, days or weeks later, what phrases you copied directly.) Make sure to indicate the exact beginning and end of the quoted passage. Copy the wording, punctuation and spelling exactly as it appears in the original.
Jot down the page number and author or title of the source each time you make a note, even if you are not quoting directly but are only paraphrasing.
Keep a working bibliography of your sources so that you can go back to them easily when it's time to double-check the accuracy of your notes. If you do this faithfully during the note-taking phase, you will have no trouble completing the "works cited" section of your paper later on.
Keep a research log. As you search databases and consult reference books, keep track of what search terms and databases you used, and the call numbers and url's of information sources. This will help if you need to refine your research strategy, locate a source a second time, or show your professor what works you consulted in the process of completing the project.
The Academic Skills Instructional Program (ASIP) can help you manage your time
Next time, don't let yourself get to the point of desperation. Developing time management skills will help you avoid situations like this. Request a private conference with an instructor from the Academic Skills Instructional Program (it's free!), who can help you develop a time management schedule that will work for you. Call ASIP at 684-5917 to schedule an appointment. The ASIP also offers handouts (You Too Can Beat Procrastination!) and workshops for any group of undergraduates.
Make an appointment with the Writing Studio
The Writing Studio offers 50-minute one-on-one tutoring sessions, during which you can discuss research strategies, brainstorm ideas, or work on your paper. Tutors can help make sense of your ideas and assist in the creation of an organized, stress-free outline to work with. They can also help you with strategies for keeping track of your sources. Knowing what's involved and getting help along the way could be an enormous help.
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