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Is it generally a big case of academic integrity/plagiarism to lie about the date accessed of a certain document or whatever when making citations, at least in the following case?

The case: The idea is for procrastinators/crammers who do work at the last minute to change the date accessed to, a day earlier so they don't get judged by whomever/whoever is reading the citations and comparing with the date of the publishing of whatever document the citation is going to be in.

Notes:

  1. I'm not asking if it can be a big case. The answer to that is obvious. Just make up some really wild thing in a case where precise date and maybe even precise time is highly sensitive.

  2. I'm not asking if it is a case. Again, obvious. But we don't give the death penalty to case of, oh say, 'take a penny, leave a penny.'

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    Haha I don't think changing it a day would affect the grader's judgment. Jan 13 at 21:48
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    In various cases one might well be doing the right thing to re-access and re-check the source right before turning in the material. You are waaaaay overthinking this.
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 13 at 22:54
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    Generally people will know you procrastinated based on the actual work itself, not some date-of-access in a reference.
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 13 at 22:55
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    Why would they care whether or not you procrastinated, while they're looking at the work you actually did? Anyway, procrastinating... but still getting things done on time... is a very minor "sin" in comparison to lying or faking timestamps, etc. Also, in a professional context, even more so! Jan 13 at 22:57
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    I do not disagree with @Buffy's point that there's "no need to lie". But I would want to be clear that, despite that, if you do lie, fake timestamps, etc., that's ... "bad". Jan 14 at 0:33
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Lying is a bad habit to get in to. Slippery slope and all that. It is also unnecessary in a case like this, but there won't be a penalty as no one but you will know. There are even good reasons to use a late date for some things like web resources, since you point to the most recent resource.

And, it has nothing to do with plagiarism.

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    Web links used in research publications need to be dated as to access since they can change. Or disappear.
    – Buffy
    Jan 13 at 21:53
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    aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh you mean like if i have to submit something on jan15 and even if i access something on jan13 6pm it is more beneficial to, say, double check the thingy on jan14 3pm to see if it's the same so i can write really jan14 and so date accessed of jan14 is not necessarily a sign of procrastination but actually a sign of diligence in double checking the material and consequently there is no incentive to lie at all?
    – BCLC
    Jan 13 at 22:24
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    I always check links as late as possible before press time and mark citations with a "last accessed [date]". Jan 14 at 1:17
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    'no one but you will know' On the kind of source where one provides an access date, there's a risk that the content has changed significantly between the claimed access date and the real access date, so that an assessor who checks (e.g. with Wayback Machine) may find the source doesn't say what the citation claims it says. Jan 14 at 11:47
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    Right, no incentive.
    – Buffy
    Jan 14 at 12:03
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As cases of academic misconduct go, falsifying the date of access to a resource for such a stupid reason certainly would not be the biggest case ever, but it would still be a considered to be misconduct. Intentionally falsifying information about sources is a giant red flag for more general academic dishonesty --- it shows that the researcher is willing to lie in their research to gain something they perceive to be a benefit to themselves. The stupid/trivial reason for the lie might arguably make it worst, since it shows that they're willing to lie for the most marginal possible gains.

In practice it might be difficult to show that the erroneous access date was an intentional falsification (as opposed to an error) so an actual misconduct case might involve some complex trade-offs relating to evidentiary matters. Nevertheless, if intentional falsification was established, I think this would generally be a reasonably big case and would be likely to lead to a fairly severe reprimand/punishment for the researcher.

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  • thanks for answering. 1 - ' since it shows that they're willing to lie for the most marginal possible gains.' --> well if it's only a marginal gain then why would you consider the lie a big deal? i suppose it's not very christian/catholic of me to think in this utilitarian sense and so i'm not arguing that it's not unethical just because the effects are small. i'm instead wondering why ultimately this is gonna be severe reprimand/punishment if the gain is marginal. 2 - i suppose the same would apply to those 'lies' people write on their resume or linkedin? don't really see much of a difference
    – BCLC
    Jan 13 at 22:16
  • 3 - 'if intentional falsification...reprimand/punishment for the researcher.' hypothetically what if i actually did do this just because someone on stackexchange said the preceding quote? like i make a paper and then a week after submission i tell my instructor/adviser/professor/teacher about it. not about fear of date accessed but really to prove a point to some user on stackexchange. so, what, i'd really get severe reprimand/punishment instead of cringe and eyeroll? and i'll make sure the only lie here is that i accessed something (at 12:01am) on jan14 but i'll write jan13
    – BCLC
    Jan 13 at 22:18
  • 4 - do you disagree with buffy? academia.stackexchange.com/questions/181179/… 5 - i interpret buffy's answer to say there's no need to lie at all. do you disagree with my interpretation? (note that the conclusion of my interpretation is that i will not lie. basically i'd be doing the right thing [but for the wrong reasons])
    – BCLC
    Jan 13 at 22:30
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    "i'm instead wondering why ultimately this is gonna be severe reprimand/punishment if the gain is marginal." if you can't be trusted when the stakes are low, why would you expect to be trusted on important issues. It largely isn't about the magnitude of the gain, it is about the persons attitude towards truth and truth is important in academia. Jan 17 at 18:41
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Do not lie.

If you are an academic, people will assume you procrastinated until they see you work ahead many times.

Access dates in references are among the least important things about your academic writing.

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  • 2nd follow up question - do you disagree with buffy? academia.stackexchange.com/questions/181179/… 3rd follow up - i interpret buffy's answer to say there's no need to lie at all. do you disagree with my interpretation? (note that the conclusion of my interpretation is that i will not lie. basically i'd be doing the right thing [but for the wrong reasons])
    – BCLC
    Jan 13 at 22:31
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    If you are spending much time on this issue, I suggest you discuss it with a mental health professional. Jan 13 at 22:50
  • thanks for answering. Anonymous Physicist, ok never mind the 1st follow up question. just the 2nd. i deleted my other comment. p.s. yeah of course i have ADHD as you can tell from my other posts on stackexchange.
    – BCLC
    Jan 14 at 0:25
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Let me say first that I think you should strive for integrity in any academic work. Lying is never acceptable, regardless of whether or not there are any consequences.

Having said that, I think you are worried about the wrong thing here. Procrastinating is not necessarily a problem in itself, as long as one is meeting deadlines and producing quality work. The issue is that leaving things to the last minute tends to diminish the quality of one's work.

It is much more likely that whoever is reviewing a work will be able to tell that it was written hastily or sloppily than it is that anyone will catch anything fishy about citation access times. And if the work is excellent, nobody is going to care about the timestamps. So your proposal is not only unethical but very likely to also be pointless and ineffectual.

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  • thanks for answering. 1 - do you disagree with buffy? academia.stackexchange.com/questions/181179/… 2 - i interpret buffy's answer to say there's no need to lie at all. do you disagree with my interpretation? (note that the conclusion of my interpretation is that i will not lie. basically i'd be doing the right thing [but for the wrong reasons])
    – BCLC
    Jan 13 at 22:30
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    Personally, I wouldn't spend any time thinking about this at all. I would just record the actual time I accessed the reference and move on. Any time spent thinking about this is time that could have be spent doing work that actually matters.
    – d_b
    Jan 13 at 22:37
  • ok i'll just assume buffy is right and my interpretation is right.
    – BCLC
    Jan 14 at 0:26
  • @BCLC Please slow down a little and re-examine this answer. Yes, technically there is no reason to worry, for plenty of reasons (just this week, I've reviewed a paper where authors confused two terms and put a bogus reference as a result no one else even bothered to examine... Do you REALLY think people would check the reference list going "ah yes, as expected, procrastinated to the last minute"? Do you REALLY think they will care?). Truly, let what d_b said sink in. If you've been thinking hard for months and only wrote the thing in two hours prior to deadline, no one cares.
    – Lodinn
    Jan 15 at 6:23
  • ...Long as it's a good work - without re-reading and editing, it rarely is. Some people compile the list of references as the last editing pass prior to proofreading. Personally, I often produce final plots only while writing. Learn about how you work and how much time you need to do different things. No one is going to judge you because of how late you put your pen to the paper - but they will judge you for failing to meet deadlines or sloppy writing.
    – Lodinn
    Jan 15 at 6:28
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The underlying issue here seems to be that you either (a) are engaging in this thought exercise over a trifling matter as a way of further procrastinating, or (b) have an outsized fear of being judged for procrastination. In reality, no-one is going to notice. If they do notice, they are not going to conclude that you procrastinated. And finally and most importantly, if they do notice and conclude that you procrastinated, so what?

I submit that the best course of action here is to get over your fear of being judged for procrastion. Not that I have a psychological study to base this on, but I am going to go out on a limb and conjecture that this fear of being judged for procrastination, far from pushing you to do things in time, is something that might very well contribute to your actual procrastination.

I suggest that you:

  1. Leave the dates as they are.
  2. Submit your assignment.
  3. Observe that nothing horrible happened as a result.
  4. Pat yourself on the back for having one less irrational fear in your life now.
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  • thanks for answering. 1 - do you disagree with buffy? academia.stackexchange.com/questions/181179/… [based on 'If they do notice, they are not going to conclude that you procrastinated.' i think you agree with buffy but not necessarily for the same reasons]2 - i interpret buffy's answer to say there's no need to lie at all. do you disagree with my interpretation?(note that the conclusion of my interpretation is that i will not lie. basically i'd be doing the right thing [but for the wrong reasons])
    – BCLC
    Jan 14 at 0:27
  • Re 'this fear of being judged for procrastination, far from pushing you to do things in time, is something that might very well contribute to your actual procrastination' --> nah not really it's just something i saw in an old post of someone on facebook over half a decade ago and i thought to ask about it on stackexchange out of curiousity/curiosity
    – BCLC
    Jan 14 at 0:27
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    I agree with Buffy. Obviously, if this is not your actual situation, then my answer is irrelevant. Jan 14 at 0:35
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Your question is very specific in a way that makes it unlikely to be useful to anyone but yourself, so let’s generalize it a bit. You are really asking whether it’s a big deal in an academic context to lie a pointless lie about a matter that has no significance whatsoever. For example, if I submit an assignment and write my name as “Dan Balthasar Romik III”, will there be any negative consequences?

The answer is, no, not officially, because no one is likely to care enough to accuse me of misbehavior, and also likely no one will understand why I’m even lying about such a thing.

That does not mean that there is no cost to the lie. In my opinion this is a case where someone developing a negative opinion of you is the main form of punishment for the act. It may not even be an effect that you are aware of or that you notice happening, but people thinking that you are an immature or untrustworthy person is something that can have a pretty negative effect on your career, so I’d advise you to avoid actions that cause this effect.

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  • thanks for answering. 1 - do you disagree with buffy? academia.stackexchange.com/questions/181179/… [based on 'If they do notice, they are not going to conclude that you procrastinated.' i think you agree with buffy but not necessarily for the same reasons]2 - i interpret buffy's answer to say there's no need to lie at all. do you disagree with my interpretation?(note that the conclusion of my interpretation is that i will not lie. basically i'd be doing the right thing [but for the wrong reasons])
    – BCLC
    Jan 14 at 5:51
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    @BCLC I have no opinion other than that no one cares when you accessed a file. If there’s a deadline and you meet it, that’s all anyone will ever care about. You seem to share a common misconception I see around here that professors spend a lot of time thinking about you and analyzing your every move and personality trait. They don’t, they are far too busy to even notice things like a file access time, let alone spend time thinking about it. Besides, plenty of very successful people are terrible procrastinators, and still get things done on time, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 14 at 6:03
  • As for “need to lie”, that’s another misconception. There is never a “need” to lie (well, setting aside hostage negotiation situations, and other unusual situations involving matters of life and death), only people who feel a misguided need to lie because they haven’t yet learned that that’s a terrible way to address their problems.
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 14 at 6:07
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    Here’s an awesome article about procrastination and what causes it. There’s also a TED talk by the same guy - highly recommended (and a good way to waste some time when you have a looming deadline and don’t feel like working :-)).
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 14 at 6:11

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