Professionalism and Good Faith
Robert Oscar López, PhD
- The Current Crisis in the Ethics of Professional Writing
Aside from the usual strictures about plagiarism, your professor has very high requirements regarding professionalism and good faith. A college English class is not only designed to improve your writing and reading skills, but also to introduce you to the basic standards that govern any functional workplace. Your professor views college writing as the beginning of a student’s understanding of the duties and standards associated with presenting information to a wide audience.
It would be fair to say that the United States’ financial stability is often threatened by people who present information in bad faith. The last few decades have each witnessed scandals of corporate leaders betraying the trust of their employees and clients. In the 1980s, the savings-and-loan industry invested billions of investors’ dollars in bogus development projects and junk bonds, which they unethically claimed were soundly backed by equity. In the late 1990s, the dotcom millionaires created a stock market bubble that eventually burst and left a whole generation of information-technology experts jobless. In this decade, firms like Enron and Worldcom misrepresented how much money they had by hiding their debts or filing misleading SEC reports, which jeopardized countless people’s retirement plans and allowed greedy executives to get rich while middle-class account holders saw their portfolios shrink. In 2005, in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, oil companies hiked their prices unnecessarily, citing a huge gasoline shortage that didn’t really exist. And in the 2010s, there will probably be a new real-estate scandal, since housing prices are artificially inflated across the country.
While your freshman research papers are not quite so high-stakes, you need to understand and apply some basic principles about research, so that you don’t become accustomed to the types of bad-faith reporting that caused all the scandals in the above paragraph. Good faith means being honest, forthcoming, and unbiased in the information your present.
- Writing in Good Faith
The following behaviors violate principles of good faith and will cause an enormous drop in your grade, should I find out about them. Some of these things overlap with plagiarism; I have starred the items that do.
- Incorporating things that other people wrote and claiming that you wrote it (either in part or in whole).*
- Citing texts that don’t exist.
- Quoting or alluding to a text that you haven’t read in its entirety.
- Misrepresenting a text that does exist; i.e., claiming that it says something that it does not.
- Using another student’s ideas without giving him or her credit.*
- Writing someone else’s paper for him or her.*
- Paying another student to type your paper for you.
- Including a block quote that goes on for more than one half of a page, in order to fill up space.
- Using formatting tricks to appear that you have written more pages than you have really written. Observe these rules about honesty in formatting so you don’t get into any problems:
1. All papers should be double-spaced, with 12 pt. font in Times, Times New Roman, Arial, Palatino, Georgia, or a normally sized typeface with serifs.
2. I DO NOT ACCEPT PAPERS in (1) Tahoma, (2) all capitals, (3) all bold or all italics, or (4)anything ornate like Papyrus, Venice, or Gothic. If you use Courier, change the font size to 10 pt.
3. Margins can be no greater than 1 inch at the right and left, and no greater than 1.5 inches at the top and bottom.
4. Headers and footers should be written in 10-pt font and should not involve more than two lines.
5. There should be no double-returns (i.e., blank lines between paragraphs).
6. Not all professors have the same standard, but for my classes, the page minimum is satisfied even if you have only a few lines of text on the last page. Therefore, if the minimum is five pages and your fifth page of text only has three lines on it, you have fulfilled the requirement.
7. If you turn in a title page, it does not count toward the minimum page requirement. Nor does your works-cited list, which should be affixed as a separate page.
8. If you turn in a paper that does not fulfill the minimum page requirement, I will return it to you without reading it and ask that you resubmit it at the next class meeting.
You need to learn how to turn in papers that are acceptable according to guidelines set by the Modern Language Association. While your major discipline may use other citation systems like APA or Chicago, it is most important that you get experience adhering fully to one citation system so that you are aware of the types of details you need to watch out for. Do not postpone learning these rules anymore. If you do not own a handbook, buy one immediately. Here are a few absolutes:
I. All papers must have a title. This title should be centered and placed at the top of the first page. It does not need to be in any larger font than then the rest of the paper, as long as it is underlined or put in bold, and followed by a blank line. Do not turn in a title page. Don’t make your title too long; generally it should not be more than one line.
II. All quotations, allusions, and references must cite the page of the original text. Citations go inside parentheses inserted in the text of the essay, not as footnotes or endnotes.
III. For example, imagine you are quoting this document in one of your papers. You would have an entry describing the syllabus on your works cited list at the end of the paper. But inside the text of the paper itself, as long as there are no other works by an author with the last name Lopez, you should have citations that look like the following in bold:
a. Some professors believe that students should “not postpone learning these rules anymore” (Lopez 35). In this case you need to include “Lopez” inside the parens. because the sentence does not specify the author.
b. Robert Lopez, my English professor, believes that students should “not postpone learning these rules anymore” (35). In this case, it would be wrong to name the author within the parens., because the sentence specifies Lopez as the author, and to name him again would be redundant.
The following citations in bold would be wrong:
a. Robert Lopez believes students should not “postpone learning these rules anymore” (Lopez, Robert, 35). Do not put first names of authors inside parens. No commas are necessary between the author’s name and the page number.
b. Robert Lopez believes students should not “postpone learning these rules anymore” (Robert Lopez, Syllabus, 35). Same as above. Also, it is not necessary to give the title of Lopez’s work, since there is only one work by Lopez on the works cited page.
c. My professor believes students should not “postpone learning these rules anymore” (Lopez, 35). No comma is necessary.
d. Robert Lopez believes students should not “postpone learning these rules anymore” (Syllabus 35). Since the sentence indicates that Lopez is the one making the quote and Lopez has only one work in the works cited list, it is not necessary to name the work. Only the page number is necessary.
e. Robert Lopez believes students should not “postpone learning these rules anymore” (Page 35). Never insert “page,” “pg.”, “page number” or “Page #” inside the parentheses. It is obvious, by convention, that the last number inside the parens. is the page number so the word “page” is always redundant.
If you cannot tell what is wrong with the above citations, ask me and I’ll explain it to you.
IV. All papers should have numbered pages. These should be placed in the upper right hand corner of the header. The page numbers should merely include your last name, an abbreviated version of your paper title, and the page number. For instance, you could write, “Sayer. Humanism. 3” on page 3, if your name is John Sayer and you wrote a paper called “Humanism in the Age of Commodities: The Golden Ass as a Trope of the Unidentified Roman Consumer.”
V. Below are some examples of incorrect formats for the page numbering within the header:
a. John Sayer. Paper on Humanism for Robert Lopez, Page 3. Too bulky and distracting. Not necessary to indicate the professor’s name to the professor himself.
b. Sayer for Lopez, Page 3. Awkward and confusing. Do not include the word ‘page.’
c. Sayer Paper 3. Refer to the title of the paper, not the role it plays within the syllabus.
d. III. Do not use Roman numerals. It is not enough to indicate only the page number, since it would be impossible for me to rejoin the page with the rest of your paper, should it get separated by accident.
e. Paper for Intro to Lit Class, Page #3. What matters is the title of the paper, not the name of the course or the fact that it is a paper. It is obvious that you are turning in a paper, and your teacher will know what course he’s teaching. Do not include “page” or “#” because those words and symbols create clutter.
VI. It is perfectly acceptable to make corrections in ink, if they are minor, on your final version. It is better to do that than to turn in a paper that you know has mistakes in it.
VII. Spelling and grammar matter. You should use the checking function on most word processing formats. Also, you must own a good dictionary to make sure that new words you are using really mean what you want them to. Take the time to check words that you want to use in order to expand your vocabulary, but which you may not be sure about.
VIII. EVERY PAPER MUST HAVE A WORKS CITED PAGE. Consult the MLA manual to find out the proper format for listing works on it.