October 09, 2014

Keeping it honest: Academic Integrity

How does academic integrity factor into your university career? Student Conduct and Accountability offers advice on how to keep your academic work honest, from assignments to exams. 

As you start preparing for midterms, assignments and essays, it is important to consider the role of academic integrity. No one wants to find themselves inadvertently in violation of the Code of Student Behaviour due to academic misconduct, which includes cheating, plagiarism, all other forms of getting unfair academic advantage. In an effort to keep students out of our office, the Discipline Officers have compiled a list of the top five things you need to know in order to keep it honest:

Plagiarism
(Image credit Jenna Clarahan)
Plagiarism is presenting others’ work (words, ideas, data, images, or any other way of expressing yourself) as your own. This applies to work submitted in essays and research papers, but also to every other kind of assignment you hand in – labs, short assignments, oral presentations, everything! Anything that you did not generate yourself must be cited. 

Unauthorized exam materials 
Even possessing unauthorized materials in an exam could get you into trouble. Don’t forget that cell phones and other unauthorized electronics are not allowed in exams and are considered “unauthorized materials.” Always put your cell phones, tablets, and other electronics somewhere you cannot access them during your exam. Remember, whenever you access your phone, you have access to the entire internet. If you need to text someone for a ride, do it after the exam.

Inappropriate collaboration
While there is no specific charge under the Code for inappropriate collaboration, be aware that working with friends on assignments that were intended to be individually done could end up being plagiarism and/or cheating.

Grades and academic misconduct
Academic misconduct affects all the students in your class. If one student artificially inflates his or her grade by cheating, that artificially deflates the grades of the other students in the class. This is important to remember if you are tempted to take unacceptable shortcuts, or when you see other students doing it. It’s bad enough to think that they are getting the grade without doing the hard work, but much worse when you consider they are also lowering your grade!

Ask your professor
Any time you have questions about what is acceptable or what is not, ask your professor. As details can vary from course to course, make sure to ask the professor of the course in which the question arose. Whether it is something you need clarification on (i.e. should I cite this?) or if you have observed other students engaging in questionable behaviour, your professor can assist.

When you keep these five simple things in mind, it is easier to remain academically honest in your university career. There are also a variety of great resources available to you on academic integrity and how to avoid academic misconduct at www.ualberta.ca/studentconduct.

Writing an essay? Read our blog post on preventing plagiarism in your work.