Resources

Model Syllabi, Suggestions, and Helpful Hints

Model Syllabus Language

A carefully constructed syllabus containing references to the Honor Code and clear expectations on the instructor's expectations surrounding academic integrity can contribute significantly to fewer instances of academic dishonesty. At the beginning of each semester, we encourage instructors to engage with their students in a discussion of the Honor Code and their expectation that students abide by the Honor Code, that students familiarize themselves with the Honor Code, and that students ask questions if they are unclear regarding any expectations of the course.

Below are some suggestions for syllabus language that may helpful to instructors seeking to clearly delineate their course expectations surrounding academic integrity.

1. Affirmation of the Honor Code

Ideally all class syllabi would actively affirm the application of the Honor Code. For example:

"The College of William & Mary has had an honor code since at least 1779. Academic integrity is at the heart of the university, and we all are responsible for upholding the ideals of honor and integrity.  The student-led honor system is responsible for resolving any suspected violations of the Honor Code, and I will report all suspected instances of academic dishonesty to the honor system. The Student Handbook (www.wm.edu/studenthandbook) includes your responsibilities as a student and the full Code. Your full participation and observance of the Honor Code is expected. To read the Honor Code, see www.wm.edu/honor"

2. Define Academic Dishonesty:

At the beginning of the semester spend a few minutes discussing course expectations surrounding academic integrity. Talk to  students using clear, common language about the University's definitions and descriptions of academic violations. 

For example, plagiarism in the form of "deliberate" or "reckless" representation of another's words, thoughts, or ideas as one's own without appropriate attribution to the original author in connection with submission of academic work,whether graded or otherwise,  is a serious breach of academic integrity demanded by the Honor Code and one of the most common forms of academic misconduct processed by the honor system.  Plagiarism can take many forms and there may be a number of reasons why it occurs. The more specific instructors can be in explaining what constitutes plagiarism in their particular course, the less likely the violation is to occur. Some are examples are as follows:

“Quote and cite any words that are not your own.” “If you paraphrase the words of another, you must still give proper attribution.” "If you look it up, write it down."

Additionally, if there is a particular citation style that students must use, be specific about the style to be used and provide students resources they can use learn more about that style. 

Authorized vs. Unauthorized Collaboration

The following is an example of how the difference between unauthorized vs. authorized collaboration could be discussed in the syllabus:

"All academic work in this course, including homework, quizzes, and exams, is to be your own work, unless otherwise specifically provided. It is your responsibility if you have any doubt to confirm whether or not collaboration is permitted." Whenever possible, be clear and concise. Ambiguous statements often lead to confusion by the student. For example, one phrase we do not recommend is: "You are permitted to work together, but all work submitted must be your own."  In this case, it would be helpful to clarify whether this requirement applies to, for example, graded work only, and helpful to clarify precisely what kind of collaboration is allowed.

Unauthorized materials

Be explicit about what materials students may use in completing academic assignments. If, for example, if students are not allowed use old exams, outside resources, internet articles, or any other such materials, this should be clearly stated both in the syllabus and in connection with the individual assignment.

3.  Resources for Additional Information

Instructors should be mindful of the needs of international and other students who, because of their cultural differences or unique prior educational experiences, may need additional supportive resources to avoid unintentionally committing academic misconduct.  We encourage you to offer extra support and feedback to these students about expectations in advance of turning in their formal assignments.

Honor in the Classroom


Advice on Fostering Academic Integrity & Tips for Preventing Honor Code Violations

Most faculty share high ideals about the importance of honesty, academic integrity, and shared respect within the university environment. Few anticipate with pleasure the challenges of dealing with student academic misconduct. The following list reflects the distilled wisdom of many faculty in far-flung institutions over the years, including links to other resources available from this website and from elsewhere.

  • Understand why students cheat, so that efforts can be targeted to prevent academic misconduct before it occurs. Bear in mind that perhaps 20% of students would never cheat and perhaps an equal proportion will attempt to cheat whatever is done to discourage it. Work on preventing problems that might arise for the other 60% of students.
  • Design tests and writing assignments so that cheating isn’t easy.  On tests, ask students to show their work, not just their answers. If using multiple choice questions, use alternate forms (which can be keyed in on Scantron answer sheets) or alternate short answer (at the top of the page) and multiple choice at the bottom where it’s not so easy to copy.
  • Provide clear instructions for group work. Encouraging collaboration can improve student learning, but can result in ambiguities-- leading to students who step over the line and engage in “unauthorized assistance or collaboration". Talk with students very specifically about what type of collaboration is permitted and when it is permitted. Make it clear to students that they are responsible for asking questions if they have any doubt about what is permitted, and make it easy for them to inquire. Consider providing a handout or an attachment to the syllabus that addresses the issue of collaboration specifically, and give special consideration to issues that may arise due to the culture of instant/shared information via online resources.
  • Don’t assume that students understand what plagiarism is and why it’s a problem. Recognize the points of tension and potential confusion such as those portrayed in the handout developed by the Purdue University Writing Center: Online Writing Lab: Avoiding Plagiarism.  Additionally, recognize that not all students will come from an educational background where citation is practiced in the way demanded in U.S. higher education, and consider the special concerns or resources that may  need to be addressed and utilized to help those students from unintentionally committing an act of academic dishonesty.
  • Emphasize to students faculty's commitment to take integrity seriously in connection with all their work, and clearly explain the expectations that they will do so too.
  • Make it easy for students to take responsibility for their own conduct and for them to be held to the standards set. Attach to the syllabus a summary regarding the expectations in the course subject’s discipline for avoiding plagiarism and for providing appropriate acknowledgement of authorities. Require students to attach the summary along with their signed statement representing that they have complied with the requirements each time they submit an assignment.
  • Become familiar with the easy ways you can detect plagiarism or other academic misconduct, should it occur.  Signs can include lack of references, strange formatting, language that is out of character for student writers (such as unfamiliar words), and more. There are also a growing number of “plagiarism detection” tools and strategies (including simple internet search techniques) that instructors can use to check the academic integrity of students' work.
Discussing Honor in the Classroom

Instructors who talk with their students about academic integrity at the beginning of the course have often found the experience a worthwhile one that also helps students recognize how important it is for them to take responsibility for their learning.  Individual faculty members may prefer to develop unique approaches to beginning such discussions. We offer the following outline as one approach that may be helpful in approaching this discussion.

Start with a simple statement such as:  "Today (the first day of class or shortly thereafter) I want to spend some time talking about academic integrity and why it matters to you, to our University, and to me."

One method of engaging students might employ open-ended questions to draw them into active participation (such an approach might take as little as 10 minutes or as much as 30 minutes):

  • "What do you think I mean by ‘academic integrity'?"

Draw out the class's ideas and array them on the board.

  • "What exactly does "x" mean?

Take the group through clarification of their statement.

  • "Why do you think I care about academic integrity?"
  • "Do you think that students care about academic integrity? Why? Why not?"
  • "How many of you have ever observed anyone cheating (here at the university or in high school)? What were they doing? How did that make you feel? What did you do about it? Why?"
  • "Have you heard of the Honor Code here at Carolina? Why do you think we have an Honor Code? Let's take a look at the provisions on academic misconduct. (provide handout) What does x mean?"
  • "What else should the University do to discourage academic dishonesty? What kinds of things do you think I should do in this class?"
  • "What else should the University do to aspire higher and to become known as a leader in graduating students who are committed to honor and integrity? What else might I do in this class?"

Be prepared to draw them out, then offer comments that touch on matters such as the following:

  • The importance of having the same ground rules for all students so that everyone is treated and evaluated fairly;
  • The importance for students to take responsibility for learning in a disciplined manner;
  • The importance of personal integrity as part of individuals' reputations, and the loss of ability to function effectively in various settings when someone becomes known as a person who cannot be trusted;
  • The importance of integrity as a philosophical matter (the pursuit of truth and why truth is important)
  • The importance of integrity to the University's reputation (and to the "value" of students’ degrees as members of the University's extended community);
  • The importance of mutual respect (faculty’s respect students, students’ respect for faculty, and students’ respect for each other);
  • The importance of integrity in students’ future roles as citizen-leaders in various settings;
  • The problems that arise for society when integrity is compromised;
  • The special responsibilities of those students who aspire to be professionals, including, but not limited to: the need to report misconduct on admissions applications and to licensing bodies; the need to maintain good character so that students will be able to provide solid references; and the risks to the citizens that students are pledged in their future professions to serve if students get into the habit of cutting ethical corners.

Another approach might be to present a short fact pattern raising issues of integrity relevant to the course discipline or something of widely shared interest to a cross section of the public.

  •  Consider using the "one minute paper" reflection strategy to get students to think more deeply before they speak.  Describe the scenario or distribute a short summary of facts describing the situation,  Then,ask students to read and reflect on it for a few minutes while jotting down notes on the nature of the problem presented, the choices available, the reasons why they agree or disagree with what occurred, or the approaches they might take to resolving the stated dilemma.
  • Next, move to discussion of the scenario, exploring these or other questions,drawing in comments from all around the class.
  • Move on to make the link into their experience in the University and in class. A possible segue might be: “Have you or someone you know ever faced what you think of as an ethical dilemma relating to academic integrity? What kinds of dilemmas?

Another option is pointing out the statement regarding academic integrity on the syllabus, then discussing with the class "what does 'academic integrity’ mean to you?” in a manner following the script above.

Content on this page is amended with permission of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill