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I was writing a take home exam where I was allowed to use notes. I copy-pasted some of my lecture slide show into one of the answers, to speed up the process of referring between my notes and the slide show and this way I could easily reference my notes. It was around two sentences and the font was completely different than my answer. I ran out of time on the test and I am not sure if I deleted the two sentences copied from the slideshow.

My question is: Do I email my professor and let him know this just in case I did not erase it? I do not want him to think I plagiarized, I had no intention of keeping it there, and it is blatantly obvious that I was not trying to pass it off as my own (because you can tell it came directly from the slideshow and is not incorporated into a sentence).

Do you think I should be worried about getting in trouble?

  • I'm curious about the logistics of this. If you wrote a take home exam on a computer (as implied by copy-pasting), do you not have a copy of the answer file to check for sure if you erased it or not? Or is this handled through some sort of web interface? – Anyon Oct 31 '18 at 1:41
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    That said, if you can't tell whether you did or not, emailing the professor seems like a good idea. This way you can make sure he knows where the two suspicious sentences came from - he might not remember they were in your slide show. – Anyon Oct 31 '18 at 1:44
  • Without the instructions for the takehome exam we can’t be sure... if one instruction was “make sure you reference everything properly” then claiming “different font” or “I forgot” may not be sufficient. You can but ask... – Solar Mike Oct 31 '18 at 5:28
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As an instructor, I usually appreciate when my students let me know about a potential problem in their work before I even have a chance to discover it myself. It signals to me that they're 1) concerned about their work, and 2) aware of their own work -- which, sadly, not all students are.

I can't imagine it would hurt to send that kind of email, unless your instructor feels a certain kinship with the Grinch.

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Regulations in your University may be different. In where I am students tick a declaration saying that they submit the work which is entirely their own and all citations are properly labelled and attributed. So formally copy-pasting a sentence from another source without attribution may be considered a bad academic practice and result in penalty.

Formalities aside, I also think that copy-pasting someone else's text and changing it to make a part of your own submission is indeed a very shallow approach to learning and I would discourage my students from adopting it. You are supposed to work with concepts, ideas and methods, not with words, sentences and fonts.

To answer your question — I recommend you to get in touch with your lecturer, explain your mistake, and mention what you intend do in order not to repeat it.

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