The Challenge of Original Work

During the course of your Princeton education, you’ll be exposed to the ideas, scientific theories, and creative works of countless scholars, scientists, and artists. Inevitably, your own ideas will be shaped by the words and ideas that you encounter. The intellectual challenge you face in your academic work is to go beyond what you learn in your textbooks, in lectures, and in the library—to evaluate, rethink, synthesize, and make your own the information, data, and concepts you find in your sources. The greatest satisfaction of academic work comes from making something original—something distinctly your own—out of the material you’ve learned in your courses and discovered in your research. Doing original work is the most demanding, but also the most rewarding, part of your Princeton education.

Your original work—whether an essay, a solution to a math problem, or a research paper—is also the basis for your professor’s evaluation of your performance in a course. For that reason, intellectual honesty is the cornerstone of our academic community. You must always distinguish your own words and ideas from the words and ideas of others—including the authors of print or electronic sources, faculty members, classmates, and friends. Making those distinctions isn’t always easy and can be made even more difficult by less-than-careful research habits or the time pressure of submission deadlines.

Take the time now to learn to recognize when it’s necessary to cite your sources and how to provide adequate and accurate bibliographic information for your reader. On this website, you’ll find definitions, discussions, and examples of terms such as plagiarism, collaboration, and common knowledge as well as useful advice on how to protect the integrity of your academic work.