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Academic Integrity

Academic dishonesty in any form is a violation of the NPS honor code and is taken very seriously by the university. This Department of National Security Affairs (NSA) policy governing academic integrity is intended to supplement the basic NPS policy on the issue that is described in NAVPGSCOLINST 5370.4C. NSA faculty report all cases of cheating, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty to NSA department authorities. Based on the severity of the violation, disciplinary action can include informal counseling, a failing grade on a test or paper, failing a course, the denial of a graduate degree, documentation in your officer performance report, and other non-judicial punishment. Ignorance of relevant rules and policies is no defense in the event of an infraction; students are wholly responsible for knowing and following the rules, academic conventions, and standards relating to academic integrity.


Cheating and Other Dishonest Conduct

The Department of National Security Affairs requires that all the work that you present to faculty members for comment and evaluation (including rough drafts), in all substantial respects, must be your own. It also requires that nothing be done to compromise the integrity of other students’ work or the academic functioning of the department. Cheating and other dishonest conduct, such as offering another person’s work as if it were your own, is categorically unacceptable.



Any work that appears with your name as the author on it is expected to reflect your own independent effort and judgment. This expectation of independence does not mean, however, that your work will be unrelated to the work of others. On the contrary, all scholars try to learn from each other to improve their own understanding and to locate their work within the larger work of their discipline and the academy generally. Scholarship is ultimately a collective enterprise, which nevertheless places a high premium on individual accomplishment. It imposes two fundamental requirements on those who participate in it. First, you must be able to show the evidence that has led you to believe what you believe, in a way that allows others to locate and evaluate that evidence themselves. Second, you must give proper credit for ideas, information, and any other substantive feature of your work that you have derived from the work of others.

Plagiarism refers to a range of practices that contradict these norms. The word itself refers to the presentation of another person’s work as if it were your own. Plagiarism in its most basic form means the use of someone else’s words without giving proper credit, such as using quotation marks for a direct quote and using citations; however, the concept applies with equal force to other media, including pictures, graphics, mathematical calculations, and all other forms of intellectual or artistic expression.

It is obvious that it is not possible to identify the source of all the facts or ideas that may be incorporated into your work. None of us was born knowing what we know now, nor do we necessarily recall how we came to know it—though, in the conduct of research, keeping track of such things is an essential obligation. Poor note taking, which fails to identify sources correctly or to take specific note of passages that are copied verbatim, is one of the most common reasons for inadvertent plagiarism.

Whenever you make use of another person’s distinctive ideas, information, or words, you must give credit. If a passage is quoted verbatim, it must be set off with quotation marks (or, if it is a longer passage, presented as indented text in what is often called block quote format) and followed by a properly formulated citation. The length of the phrase does not matter. If someone else’s words are sufficiently significant to be worth quoting, then accurate quotation followed by a correct citation is essential, even if only a few words are involved.

A citation is also required if you paraphrase or summarize someone else’s work. Paraphrasing means putting a passage or section of writing you get elsewhere into your own words, and a paraphrase is usually shorter than the original. Summarizing means putting just the main points or the author’s main ideas in your own words, and a summary is normally quite a bit shorter than the original. In either case, you are using your own words to present someone else’s ideas, and you must provide credit for the source of those ideas. In addition, if you are also presenting your own ideas, such as when you are critiquing an author’s arguments in a literature review, you need to make clear which points are your own and which belong to other authors.

Note also that if you paraphrase or summarize a text you must convert its substance into your own words, not merely change a few words here and there while leaving the rest intact, and you must still cite the source you have used—where the ideas came from—even though you are not quoting the original language. A good rule of thumb is that if you are using more than four or five consecutive words from someone else’s work, you should either use quotation marks or restate it in your own words.  

Information, concepts, and interpretations that are part of the common property of a scholarly field, such as one might find in textbooks, encyclopedia articles, or other works designed to provide basic information for non-experts, normally do not require citation. Information that is well known to students of a subject does not normally need be cited, even it is not “common knowledge” among the general public. Nor is it necessary to cite information that is widely available from a number of sources, even if the information may not be readily recallable by specialists (e.g., the date of the first moon landing). Famous phrases from works of art (“To be or not to be”) or other canonical texts (“Four score and seven years ago”), which have for all intents and purposes become part of language, require no citation. Recent or distinctive findings or interpretations always require citation, however, regardless of where you find them. So does factual information that is not widely available from multiple sources.

For more information, see the Dudley Knox Library research guide to “Battling Plagiarism” here and the NPS Thesis Processing Office’s citations page here. The following websites are also helpful:

  • The Office of the Dean of Students at the University of Texas provides an excellent brief discussion here.
  • Indiana University’s Writing Tutorial Services site (here) has an excellent discussion that includes illustrations of acceptable and unacceptable paraphrase.

Finally, when in doubt, ask your instructors and advisors for assistance.


Consultation in the Preparation of Master’s Theses and Research Papers

In writing a master’s thesis you are allowed, as a matter of department policy, to consult with other people and (within limits) seek their assistance. The same is true in the preparation of research papers for courses, unless forbidden by the professor. In order to execute independent projects of this kind you may find it necessary to ask librarians and others for advice and assistance in obtaining necessary materials. It may also be useful to discuss your ideas with other students, with the Graduate Writing Center, or with faculty members other than your course instructor or thesis advisors. You may want to seek the help of a typist or copyeditor in preparing the final manuscript—a particularly common practice among students whose native language is not English. Except when specifically ruled out by a course instructor, all such conduct is legitimate, provided it does not compromise the authorial integrity of the work being submitted. However, you are solely responsible for the entire contents of anything that bears your name as the author. It must be your own work with credit given where it is due to others.


Take-Home Examinations

Take-home examinations are used to allow appropriately complex problems to be incorporated into tests intended for advanced students. The principles governing academic integrity in the completion of such examinations are more stringent than those that apply to research papers or master’s theses. Absent explicit guidance to the contrary from the course instructor, the following basic rules apply to all take-home exams, including master’s comprehensive exams:

  • You must complete take-home examinations without help from anyone. You are not allowed to discuss your ideas, methods, arguments, or conclusions with other people, including people unconnected with NPS, until after the examination is submitted for grading.
  • Even if the ground rules for an examination permit you to consult published materials in preparing your answer, you are not allowed to ask a librarian, a friend, an editor, a staff member, or another faculty member to recommend material for you to consult.
  • You are not allowed to use unpublished material in preparing answers to a take-home examination, including course papers written by other students, even if the paper was written for a different course.
  • Your examination cannot be typed, proofread, or edited by another person.

Breaches of these standards, regardless of how they may occur, are your responsibility. If you have any doubt about the ground rules for a take-home examination, you should ask the instructor for clarification before beginning your work.