In coming to Dartmouth, you join a scholarly community, a group engaged in various intellectual conversations. Some of these conversations have continued for several terms, some for decades, and others for centuries. Your professors want you to join in. Every Dartmouth student has the capacity to contribute new perspectives to the ongoing conversation of scholarship. The faculty and librarians will help you.
Imagine the following.1 You enter a dining hall, get your meal, and sit down at a table where people are engaged in a lively conversation. You listen for a few minutes and then decide to join in by picking up on one of the conversational threads. Following the etiquette of good conversation, you would not repeat someone else's idea, passing it off as your own. Instead, you would credit the original speaker, building on this idea by giving it a new twist, or using it to launch your own perspective.
The conventions of a dinner conversation resemble those of a scholarly conversation. When you compose a paper, a lab report, a presentation, or a film, you add your voice— your ideas, your point of view—to a conversation that is in progress. When you acknowledge and cite your sources, you act as a responsible member of the scholarly community. Those reading or viewing your work know that you have done your research; they can tell which ideas in the work are yours. If you fail to cite your sources, you will be thought of as a poser or a fraud. At best, you will leave your readers or viewers confused about which ideas are yours. At worst, they will know that you have taken credit for the work of others and will regard you as an intellectual thief. Alas, the practice of citing sources is not always as straightforward as it might seem. Below, we examine some of the issues that arise as you work with and cite sources, that is, as you participate in those conversations we call scholarly. Some of these issues relate directly to plagiarism; others deal more broadly with careful, responsible academic work.