Engineers could be philosophers, but that’s not the reason we talk about ethics. In practice, it is essential that we act in a manner beneficial to the public at large and credit individuals for their work. We often work in shades of gray, and in such cases, we need to make decisions ethically.

In the Classroom

The classroom environment requires that both students and teachers conduct themselves in an honest and ethical manner.

  • Assignments and Tests If you are qualified to sign up for a certain course, it implies you are capable of understanding most of what is taught in that course and completing everything that is assigned in that course in the manner specified. Never plagiarize on tests and exams. On group assignments, do your share of work. The goal is ultimately to learn something from the course and not just to get a good grade. You know you could do both! Plagiarizing at NC State University is never taken lightly and may result in the guilty party being expelled from the university.
  • Confidentiality Agreements A lot of information given out in class may be confidential and must remain so. Students need to abide by such confidentiality agreements and copyrights where applicable.

In Research and Publishing

After you’re done with a research project that’s both original and creative, you might want to publish a paper. Below are tips on how to do so ethically.

  • Citations Publish your research paper in all its brilliance, but do not forget to put in citations and references. Acknowledge everyone who’s had a helping hand in the project to provide proper recognition. Referencing a quote in your paper to a previously published or unpublished source is called a citation.
  • Gaining permission from copyright holders If you are quoting something extensive like a page or using a figure from another paper, it is essential to gain and cite the quote with permission from the copyright holder(s). This would usually be the publisher. If you are quoting something from your own work that has been previously published, you might still need to gain permission from the publisher. This largely depends on the individual publisher’s policies. An exception would be articles authored by US Federal Government workers which are not copyrighted. However a citation is essential.
  • Your own work If you wish to publish one of your articles for the second time but in a different journal, you may do so by stating that it’s a copy of an article previously published, including the name of publication or conference.

In Performing Professional Duties

Engineers turn the beautiful world into paradise for all people. Engineering has a direct impact on the quality of life. Being members of such a profession requires engineers to maintain high standards of ethical conduct.

In general, the primary considerations of engineers should include the safety and well-being of all people and avoid all acts of deception. Engineers are required to be honest in all professional acts, credit those who are due, and avoid decisions based on personal and monetary gains.

For a guide to professional ethics, visit the National Society of Professional Engineers Code of Ethics webpage.

People work very hard when researching and writing papers, and in general creating. Copying such “Intellectual Property” without acknowledgement, or by not gaining permission when required is unethical. Getting away with it is equivalent to being a successful thief.