Assigning a term paper for a history class, my professor said we shouldn’t use any papers we had written for other classes; he said doing so would be plagiarism. But is it plagiarism if the paper is my own work? And beyond the plagiarism question, is it ethical to hand in one paper for two classes?
—Anonymous, St. Louis
YOU SHOULD NOT hand in a pre-written paper. Your professor’s ban is reason enough, but even without it, you should still refrain from doing so. Though you may see a term paper as merely a dreary obligation, it’s not; it’s a chance to learn something about a new topic, and that’s what your professor is trying to get you to do. Simply printing out that paper you wrote last year about the Irish Potato Famine and “recycling” it for another class certainly violates the spirit—and in this case, the letter—of university life.
—Adapted from ‘The Ethicist’ in The New York Times Magazine