When I was taking my gen-ed classes for nursing school (anatomy, microbiology, etc), I could go to the end of the professor's Powerpoint and click on any of the references if I wanted to find out more information about a subject.

When I got to nursing school, I discovered that their Powerpoints were a disaster. When I click on "file" in the Powerpoint, I see that the Powerpoints were originally created by another faculty member as far back as 1998. No one has updated the textbook pages referenced within the PPT to reflect the current textbook (very frustrating when you're trying to study for a test). No new drugs or conditions have been added. We're getting 1998 information.

I also noticed that some of the "facts" listed in the Powerpoint were changed to 2016 or 2017 (example: "According to a 2016 study, 1 in 10 nurses will be subject to violence from a patient."- a completely fabricated "fact"). Bored in class, I ran a search on the "facts" and discovered that most of them were either made up, or if they were true, the date had been changed so that the Powerpoint appears to be current. There are no sources listed at the end of any of the Powerpoints.

I complained about the textbook pages in the Powerpoint not matching the current text, and received a "disciplinary memo" in my file because my email was considered "incendiary", even though it was factually written and non-accusative.

When we write papers, we as students can be expelled for plagiarism or lose the grade if we invent facts or fail to cite sources correctly. Shouldn't instructors be held to the same standard?

  • 5
    I think your issue is that your instructors are presenting outdated/inaccurate information, not a lack of references. If they hand you a list of references for their outdated information, you'd still have a problem. I'd recommend editing the question to focus on that aspect.
    – ff524
    Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 16:50
  • As far as the question about citations in teaching slides, see Is it considered plagiarism for a professor to use uncited sources in teaching materials
    – ff524
    Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 16:51
  • 4
    Instructors should be held to the same standard, but as you seem to have found out, they generally aren't. However I fear that this is a fight you cannot win. Repeating you complaints will only get you marked as a troublemaker. And I do not know much about nursing schools, but I guess there is not enough competition that they'll worry about getting a reputation for bad teaching.
    – mlk
    Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 16:59
  • 3
    While this will not help with the poor quality slides, a good idea is to not use those slides for anything beyond the lecture anyway. They were not written to be referenced without being alongside the presentation, so they are not suited for studying for an exam. Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 17:20
  • I'm not trying to belittle your claim, but how exactly did you figure out that the statement "According to a 2016 study..." was fabricated? Does it cite a particular study? Or did you just read all studies published in 2016 and concluded that none of them contains the stated fact? Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 22:52

3 Answers 3


The situation you are describing is not very pleasant. I try to cover most aspects in order of appearance.

  • First of all, everyone citing work must reference it (including images). It is not just helpful for you as a learner to find the original material, but also a legal liability.

  • A ppt creation date or author is not a helpful information source. The date of the most recent change and most recent author might be helpful, but maybe the ppt style (corporate design) was created long time ago by the named autho. I just checked one of my very recent ppts which was created 2011 by a person I don't know - and I created every slide in it by myself and it was updated very recently.

  • If the slides do not reflect the current textbook you are recommended to use it might be on purpose (which would allow you to ask why this is the case) or just lazyness of your teacher - which is just frustrating since you can not force them to update their slides. It the later is the case, try to compare the content of slides and textbook and try to figure out which information is true (or more relevant) - sometimes slides are only an excerpt of a textbook to reduce complexity. This allows you to make the best out of a bad situation.

  • If there are really made-up facts in the slides, this would be a matter of academic misconduct. You should be very sure about it and if you are, report it to a person responsible for academic misconduct. Every insttution should have one.

  • The fact that you recieved a "disciplinary memo" is disturbing. At my institution we are glad if students bring up issues with lecture materials and we try to improve constantly. If this is a generally accepted behaviour a your institution, I would consider finding a better place to study. If it's only one teacher, I would recommend to swallow it and move forward, you did your best to improve the situation and if they don't want to improve, you can not force them to do so.

  • 1
    What sort of legal liability are you referring to in the first point? Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 20:27
  • The only relevant legal liability I can think of is copyright, and that would not apply to short excerpts of text, text that is not verbatim, or any use that qualifies for a fair use exemption. (And citation does not fix a copyright violation anyway, unless the thing you copy is released under a license that allows copying with citation.)
    – ff524
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 21:10
  • @TobiasKildetoft copyright and authorship issues (as stated by ff524) - legal implications might vary from yountry to country, though.
    – OBu
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 21:20
  • I was saying that there is most likely not a copyright violation here (and if there was, it probably wouldn't be fixed by citation). Plagiarism is an ethical issue, but not generally a legal one.
    – ff524
    Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 2:27

You have quite a few assertions in this question that seem to reflect a misinterpretation of information that you have obtained.

To answer your specific question: No, lecture presentations are summary material meant to help you (as a learner) identify and understand the important points in more detailed material from your textbook, personal reading and other materials. There is no requirement to reference them.

But you appear to be coming from a perspective where you are disappointed in the quality of the materials (understandable) and therefore attributing things you notice to a cover-up. It is much more likely that your lecturer simply hasn't been able to produce high quality resources due simply to a lack of time and potentially skills. But you can still use the lecture materials as a guide, not a complete set of knowledge as you seem to want to do.

For example, when you check the powerpoint File menu and see 1998, that does not mean they haven't been updated since 1998. That means the first version was created in 1998. You have no idea whether any of that content is even still in the slides. In fact, it is obvious that they must have been updated since 1998 as nobody would have reported a 2016 statistic in 1998.

You can be very confident that your lecturer is not making up statistics. They may have mistyped the year and meant a 2017 study, accidentally typing 2016. While it is true that there are examples of making things up, there is no benefit in doing so for lecture materials. More likely, they are referring to a study that you haven't seen. The difference between 1/4 and 1/10 is likely due to different definitions of violence (for example, does it include verbal abuse?).

You are a student at an educational institution. To get the most out of your education, try a more inquisitive approach. For example, ask for a reference to the violence study so you can understand what is covered by violence. You need to think about the information, not just remember it.

Being confrontational does not help you resolve the situation. If you hadn't already lodged a complaint, you could have sent an email to the lecturer noting that the page references are to a previous edition (which is probably the edition that the lecturer has on their bookcase) and providing new page numbers. After all, it's probably not too hard to look the topics up in the index. You could have also sent an email saying that it would be helpful to have references to the studies so you could get further information on those you found interesting and perhaps noting a couple of studies you wanted to look up and ask for those references even if the lecturer was unable to provide a complete list. However, I would recommend against doing that now.

  • 1
    I disagree, if, as a lecturer you are presenting information then it is incumbent on you to present factually correct and properly referenced material, both to reduce confusion and to set the standard that you will be expecting from the students. If you don’t reference material correctly, how can you then, with integrity, mark them down for poor referencing?
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 16:47
  • While I agree with you from the perspective of good practices, the question was whether there is a requirement or penalty similar to marking down applied to students who fail to reference.
    – JenB
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 18:17
  • Your second paragraph clearly states " there is no requirement to reference them" - I still disagree, the material should be correctly referenced...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 18:26
  • If you didn't reference something and a student complained to the administration, would there be any consequences such as a reprimand? If not, there is no requirement in the sense that I believe the OP is asking about. But there is certainly a requirement from the perspective of good practices.
    – JenB
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 19:31
  • @SolarMike But there is a huge difference between lecture slides which are made available to the students as an additional service, as compared to actual teaching material. Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 20:25

Bored in class, I ran a search on the "facts" and discovered that most of them were either made up, or if they were true, the date had been changed so that the Powerpoint appears to be current. There are no sources listed at the end of any of the Powerpoints.

I complained about the textbook pages in the Powerpoint not matching the current text, and received a "disciplinary memo" in my file because my email was considered "incendiary", even though it was factually written and non-accusative.

If you made the same claims in the email as you are making here then that does indeed sound incendiary and accusative. (Note this this does not mean your accusations are false.) It is not clear from your question how you determined that facts were "made up", as opposed to just being things taken from studies that were not referenced, and that you could not find. (Since the date is recent, it is even possible that the factual assertion might come from a study not yet published.) In any case, where an assertion is made without reference, and you find its authenticity to be dubious, the usual first step would be to inquire as to the source of the assertion. If you leap straight to an accusation that facts were fabricated, this skips intermediary steps that could allow you to hear from the other side. In such a case, if your accusations turn out to be wrong, it is unsurprising to me that this could lead to disciplinary action.

Notwithstanding this, I want to be clear that it is certainly sloppy work for your teachers to present factual assertions without any referencing that would allow you to check the source of the claim. To some degree, they share the blame if this leads you to claim that they are making things up. However, in these cases you should apply Hanlon's razor: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." Start by making a polite inquiry about the source of asserted facts before you leap to an assertion that facts were fabricated.

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