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:
"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.
Be explicit about what materials students may use in completing academic assignments. If, for example, students are not allowed use old exams, outside resources, internet articles, or any other such materials, clearly state this 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
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.
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):
Draw out the class's ideas and array them on the board.
Take the group through clarification of their statement.
Be prepared to draw them out, then offer comments that touch on matters such as the following:
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.
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