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The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is an organization of professionals that “works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards” (National Association of Social Workers [NASW], 2008, About). Within this association there is a Code of Ethics that was created to help guide the behavior of both professional and student social workers. The NASW Code of Ethics provides ethical standards, values, and principles that all social workers are responsible to adhere to. The Code is presented in four sections detailing appropriate behavior for social workers. With these guidelines in mind social work students are expected to complete both assignments and practice in the field with the upmost highest integrity. While there are many topics covered within the Code, one that is essential for students to consider is plagiarism.

Plagiarism as defined by Columbia University School of Social Work's Writing Center is “the use of another writer's ideas or words as one's own without citing that person” (CUSSW Writing Center, 2010). Without providing proper documentation of where the writer obtained the information included in an assignment the reader will automatically assume that these are the writer's original thoughts and ideas. The fact that a social work student does not credit an author used in a writing assignment goes directly against the guideline of acknowledging credit depicted in section 4.08 of the NASW Code of Ethics, which states, “

a) Social workers should take responsibility and credit, including authorship credit, only work they have actually performed and to which they have contributed.

(b) Social workers should honestly acknowledge the work of and the contributions made by others” (NASW,2008, preamble).

All students in the School of Social Work are bound by the by the NASW Code of Ethics and by the policies of the Columbia University School of Social Work community. It is the student's responsibility to be fully informed as to what constitutes plagiarism and to refrain from all activities that constitute plagiarism. Typically this information can be obtained by visiting the school's website. As a social work student it is necessary to practice personal and academic honesty because it shows one's character. By copying information and passing it as your own can be considered deceitful and misconstrued as portraying fraud or deception.

The Code of Ethics also provides students a method to check ourselves as social workers as we go forth and set an example to clients. In addition, as read in Section 4, Social Worker's Ethical Responsibilities as Professionals, of the NASW Code of Ethics “Social Workers should not participate in , condone, or be associated with dishonesty, fraud or deception” (NASW, 2008, Section 4). This reinforces the concept that as social workers we have a commitment to be true to ourselves and recognize the work of others by crediting them.

After a close examination of the NASW Code of Ethics it is apparent that when one performs any act of plagiarism including cheating it is violating the code of many levels and aspects. Under the value of integrity stand the following ethical principles outlining “Social workers behave in a trustworthy manner” (NASW, 2008, Ethical Principles). The participation of plagiarism this value and ethical principle that are put upon social workers is disgraced. Additionally, under the value of competence, the ethical principle paired is, “Social workers practice within their areas of competence and develop and enhance their professional expertise” (NASW, 2008, Ethical Principles). All of these are broken when partaking in plagiarism, as we use others words we are not valuing that individual's worth of the person and more or less stealing their hard work and concepts. Not only do we lose trust of our colleagues but trust in ourselves and are overwhelmed with the feeling of being incompetent when one cannot honor another individual's work. The core values provided by the NASW Code of Ethics are important because our profession is based on these morals.

Since “CUSSW students are expected to conduct themselves in all aspects of school activities in a manner consistent with the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers” participating in plagiarism directly violates these standards (CUSSW, Policies, 2010). As a matter of professional development social work students need to develop a respect for written communication and the process of presenting work. Academic communication is often a balance between the presentation of your original ideas, representation of information gained from other sources and the integration of both. It is one's liability to account for the usage of other's work, so we stay in line with our social work ethics and values presented in the code.

Furthermore, the Ethical Standards provided in the code include: social workers' ethical responsibilities to colleagues, ethical responsibilities in practice settings, ethical responsibilities as professionals, social workers' ethical responsibilities to the social work profession, and Social workers' ethical responsibilities to the broader society. All of this is lost when not crediting someone else work. It is every social worker's mission to follow and have their professional worth be embedded in the core values that the Code of Ethics is based upon and identifies. It is crucial for academic institutions to hold the responsibility of students of fostering and evaluating professional behavioral development for all students in the social work program is (Atlantic University Florida). The School of Social Work also bears a responsibility to the community at large to produce fully trained professional social workers who consciously exhibit the knowledge, values, and skills of the profession of social work. The values of the profession are codified in the NASW Code of Ethics. When a student does not adhere to these ethical principles, a dilemma arises that question if a student fully comprehends the NASW Code of Ethics and what responsibility it carries. It is clear that quality students fully prepared for the profession will adhere to all the guidelines provided in the NASW Code of Ethics and demonstrate knowledge of the meaning.

  1. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/ssw/faculty/policies/index.html#ethics
  2. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/ssw/write/handouts/AvoidPlagiarism.html
  3. http://www.cosw.sc.edu/student/syllabi/sowk735.html
  4. http://www.naswdc.org/pubs/code/Default.asp
  5. http://www.fau.edu/ssw/expectations.html
  6. www.socwork.jmu.edu/demos/partone.ppt
  7. http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp
  8. National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Preamble to the code of ethics. Retrieved May 4, 2008,from http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/
  9. Code/code.asp
  10. Social work values and ethics Reamer, Frederic, G. Columbia University Press
  11. New York Chichester, West Sussex Copyright 1999 Columbia University Press
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