Advice on Fostering Academic Integrity
Most faculty possess high ideals about the importance of honesty, academic integrity, and shared respect within the university environment. Few anticipate with pleasure the challenges of addressing student academic integrity violations. The following list reflects the distilled wisdom of faculty, 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 15% of students would never cheat and perhaps an equal proportion will attempt to cheat no matter what is done to discourage it. Work on preventing problems that might arise for the other 70% of students.
- Design tests and writing assignments so cheating is not easy or effective (consult the Exam Integrity Matrix). 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.
- On major research papers, require students to submit the work in several phases (such as a list of sources with summaries, an outline, and the paper itself). Further good advice is available on Cheating: Preventing and Dealing with Academic Dishonesty and Virtual Salt: Anti-Plagiarism Strategies for Research Papers.
- Provide clear instructions for group work. Encouraging collaboration can improve student learning, but can result in ambiguity that can lead to students stepping over the line and engaging in “unauthorized assistance or collaboration". Talk with students very specifically about what type of collaboration is permitted and when (during what phases). 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 used to help those students from unintentionally committing an act of academic dishonesty.
- Emphasize the faculty's commitment to take integrity seriously in connection with all their work, why it's important, and clearly explain the expectations that students 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 of your expectations in the course subject’s discipline for avoiding plagiarism and for providing appropriate acknowledgement of sources. 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. Signs can include lack of references, strange formatting, language 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.
Content on this page is amended with permission of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill