See no evil...Reprinted by permission of author.

Acting ethically requires constant vigilance. One slip-up can have serious, long-term consequences.

A recent news report demonstrates the importance of a strong defense when it comes to acting ethically. 

On July 23rd, the New York Times published a story accusing Senator John Walsh of apparent plagiarism in the paper he wrote in order to obtain his master’s degree from the United States Army War College in 2007. The article included a line-by-line analysis of Walsh’s paper showing where text was taken from other works. 

According to the New York Times article– “About a third of his paper consists of material either identical to or extremely similar to passages in other sources …. Another third is attributed to sources through footnotes, but uses other authors’ exact – or almost exact – language without quotation marks.”

On August 7th, Senator Walsh withdrew from the Montana Senate race.

So how does one avoid ethical issues?

The best defense is awareness.

Three types of awareness are needed –

Awareness of the ethical norms you are expected to uphold. In order to act ethically, one needs to know, and understand, the rules you are expected to follow.

Awareness of sources of temptation. In addition to knowing the rules, it is helpful to be aware of the types of situations that often pose ethical dilemmas.  That way you will be better able to spot them when they do arise. 

Awareness of one’s actions – and how others are likely to view them. If you do find yourself in a situation that presents an ethical dilemma, it is important to recognize it. Once an ethical dilemma is identified, you are better equipped to make a decision about what action to take. You can also seek input from a trusted advisor or confidant on how to proceed.

Want to check your knowledge about plagiarism?

Check out the resources listed below.

Related Resources:

Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement: Is Copying Illegal? 

What to see how much you know about plagiarism? Click here to take a 10-question quiz.