Academic Honesty

Students are expected to abide by George Mason University’s Honor Code, which requires all members of the George Mason community to maintain the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity. Cheating, plagiarism, lying, and stealing are all prohibited. All violations of the Honor Code will be reported to the Honor Committee.

English Department Statement on Plagiarism

Plagiarism means using the exact words, opinions, or factual information from another source without giving that source credit. Writers give credit through the use of accepted documentation styles, such as parenthetical citation, footnotes, or end notes; a simple listing of books, articles, and websites is not sufficient. Plagiarism is the equivalent of intellectual robbery and cannot be tolerated in an academic setting.

Student writers are often confused as to what should be cited. Some think that only direct quotations need to be credited. While direct quotations do need citations, so do paraphrases and summaries of opinions or factual information formerly unknown to the writers or which the writers did not discover themselves. Exceptions to this include factual information which can be obtained from a variety of sources, the writers’ own insights or findings from their own field research, and what has been common knowledge. What constitutes common knowledge for one audience may not be so for another. In such situations, it s helpful to keep the reader in mind and to think of citations as being “reader friendly.”

In other words, writers provide a citation for any piece of information that they think their readers might want to investigate further. No only is this attitude considerate of readers, it will almost certainly ensure that writers will not be guilty of plagiarism. Consult the George Mason Honor Code for more information.

Collaboration vs. Collusion

For the purposes of this course, collaboration is not collusion (unauthorized collaboration) and collusion is not collaboration. When you collaborate, you discuss; when you collude, you pass off as yours work that is not your own. While having someone rewrite or “fix-up” your project for you is collusion, having someone peer-review or proof-read your work is not. To avoid collusion, ask yourself this question: is this person pointing out for me problems to rewrite and/or correct myself, or is this person rewriting and/or correcting these problems for me? The former falls under collaboration, the latter under collusion.

Unsure? Ask

While issues of academic honesty are far from simple, there are three simple things you can do to avoid most problems: Do you own work, cite your sources, and ask when you are unsure.


Because this is a class that requires collaboration and discussion, you are expected to attend class and be prepared. We will often work on projects and other exercises during class time, and there is no substitute for your presence in class. Unless you have made prior arrangements with me, each missed class beyond the second will lower the final grade for the course by 5%. (Exceptions may be made after the fact for documented medical issues and emergencies.)

Conduct in Class Spaces

Students and the instructor are expected to treat each member of the class with respect and civility, and we are all expected to listen respectfully to the voices of other individuals and to share their own opinions and values in a positive, respectful manner.

Classroom behavior that a reasonable person would view as substantially or repeatedly interfering with the conduct of the class will not be tolerated in this course. Students who engage in disruptive behavior will be asked to leave the classroom and may be subject to additional sanctions.

Course Site vs. Blackboard vs. Slack

The course web site will host the online course documents, assignment guidelines, schedule, handouts, links to resources, etc., and the Blackboard site will primarily be used to distribute course readings via .pdf, post Weekly Reflections, submit assignments (unless the assignment guidelines stipulate otherwise), and to record grades via the grade book.

We will use Slack as a discussion space for our Participation Posts, general discussion, and general questions. Slack is a powerful communication platform with growing popularity within and outside the tech industry, and is an example of the kinds of communication platforms used in corporate and non-profit workplace environments. We’ll be using Slack rather than Blackboard’s discussion forums for a few reasons:

  1. Blackboard’s discussion forums represent a 1990s-era communication platform. While still in use, nested or threaded discussion forums are more common to the comments section of the open web rather than as communication tool for groups and institutions.
  2. Because different platforms offer different features and because it is quite common today to collaborate and work across organizations and institutions as well as with others within your organization and institution, becoming comfortable working with and across multiple platforms is important. On a project you might find yourself using a program like Slack for general messaging, Basecamp or Wunderlist to manage group to-do lists and tasks, DropBox or Google Drive to share files, Git/GitHub for distributed revision control of documents and code (essentially, a system that allows one or more individuals access to all drafts of a document as well as add to, revise, or fork those documents), Google Hangouts or Zoom for video conferencing, and Twitter and/or WordPress to share ideas and promote your work with people outside your group.
  3. Slack’s interface is based upon features found in many popular social media platforms while offering a closed environment (i.e., discussion is only available to those registered with our team account); therefore, our use of Slack will allow us to practice using an important communication medium in a closed environment.
  4. Slack offers multiple ways of access. Whether you want to access Slack from a web browser in a computer lab, from a standalone application on your laptop or desktop, or from you iOS or Android mobile device — or from all of the above — Slack has you covered.

Enrollment Statement

Students are responsible for verifying their enrollment in this class. Schedule adjustments should be made by the deadlines published in the Schedule of Classes. (Deadlines each semester are published in the Schedule of Classes available from the Registrar’s Website registrar.gmu.edu.)

  • Last Day to Add: Tuesday, Jan. 26
  • Last Day to Drop: Friday, Feb. 19

After the last day to drop a class, withdrawing from this class requires the approval of the dean and is only allowed for nonacademic reasons.

Undergraduate students may choose to exercise a selective withdrawal. See the Schedule of Classes for selective withdrawal procedures.

File Management and Data Backup Policy

As part of managing your files well, you should keep backups of your electronic data separate from your computer’s hard drive and portable storage devises. Hard drives crash, computers get ripped off, laptop power cords fail, USB drives get lost (or even eaten by dogs). Despite including such policies in syllabi for well more than a decade, I have had students lose their only copies of a project for each of the reasons listed above (and by other means as well). So, please, keep backup copies of your work so this does not happen to you.

As part of a larger file management and data backup system, I strongly advise obtaining and using a cloud storage service such as Google Drive or DropBox, particularly one that automates the backup processing, keeping files both on your computer and in the cloud.

If you are new to the idea of cloud storage the following two articles compare some common could storage services, many of which offer free versions:

Grades, Incomplete

Grades of incomplete will only be at the discretion of the instructor in light of a valid documented reason.

Late Assignment Policy

You are expected to submit all assignments on time, submitted as per the assignment guidelines. Late assignments will be penalized 5% of its total after the first 24 hours, 10% after 72 hours, and 25% after a full week.

Students with Disabilities/Need of Accommodations for Access

Students with documented disabilities are legally entitled to certain accommodations in the classroom. If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at 703-993-2474. All academic accommodations must be arranged through the DRC. I will be happy to work with students and the DRC to arrange fair access and support.

Syllabus Change Policy

This syllabus and the course schedule are subject to change. All changes will be announced on the course web site and in Blackboard. The course web site will reflect the most up-to-date version of the syllabus and will be the one we use to resolve any questions or issues.

Writing Center

Since you will be writing several papers in this course, you are strongly encouraged to use the University Writing Center (http://writingcenter.gmu.edu), located in Robinson A114. The Writing Center is one of the best resources you will find on campus. They have an outstanding website that offers a wealth of online resources for student writers. You can schedule a 45-minute appointment with a trained tutor to help with any phase of the writing process. You can even obtain assistance with papers by visiting the online writing center at http://writingcenter.gmu.edu/owl/index.html, but please plan ahead and allow yourself at least 2-3 days to receive a response. Make an appointment on their website, or by calling 703-993-1200, or stop by and schedule a session.