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Academic Misconduct

What the heck is Academic Misconduct?  That is a very good question.  Most of us have at least a fair idea of what it is.  And when students knowingly commit academic misconduct it is expected that serious consequences will result.  However, there are instances when academic misconduct occurs and the student involved says something like "Hey, I didn't know that wasn't allowed".  So, since "ignorance is not an excuse", here are some examples of academic misconduct and some suggested solutions.

Quite simply, Academic Misconduct occurs when a student misrepresents work (assignments, papers, exams) as being their own original work when it is not.  The following are some examples of academic misconduct - some will be obvious, others less so.

  1. Cheating on tests - This is an obvious one, it includes copying from a fellow student, using crib notes, obtaining information from electronic devices (e.g. cell phone, iPod, calculator, etc.). 

    Solutions: Sit in such a way that even inadvertent glances at a fellow student's exam would be difficult.  Quite obvious, but be sure that ALL notes and pieces of paper are neither in view nor readily accessible (put in a backpack).  No electronic devices are permitted in an exam without Instructor permission.  Calculators will need to be approved.  Also, there should be no sharing of calculators.

  2. Falsifying data - 'Making up data' or altering actual results, usually done in a lab situation to ensure that the lab produces the 'expected result'. 

    Solution: Use the original, faulty data and then explain why the lab 'didn't work out as expected'.  A fair grading system will respect this approach - i.e. any marks lost for improper lab procedure should be counter-balanced by your understanding of how the error affected the results.

  3. Unauthorized collaboration - This is often a misunderstood one ... yes, students are expected (and even encouraged) to study and discuss assignments together.  This is called collaborative learning and it is very effective.  However, unless there is expressed permission from the Instructor that the report is indeed a group report, then each student needs to organize and present their own thoughts and understanding individually.  Stated another way: discussing the assignment is collaboration; exchanging written or digital materials is plagiarism.

    Solution: Go ahead and discuss assignments with classmates, but write-up your assignment on your own (e.g. do the final write-up in your own space).  Submitted assignments should all be unique and an expression of your understanding of the assignment.

  4. Copying another student's assignment - This is an obvious one.  And making a few small changes does not make it your own work.  The student supplying the assignment is equally guilty and subject to the same consequences.

    Solution:  This is a no-brainer, don't do it!

  5. Submitting the same assignment in another class - This may be less obvious.  However, it is (unfortunately) often unspoken, yet still expected, that each assignment is a unique piece of work.

    Solution: If you wish to submit a previous piece of your own work, then you need permission of the professor of the second class.  So, simply talk to the Instructor.  Likely they will request that you revise the work so it fits the learning objectives of the current assignment.

  6. Plagiarism - There is definitely some gray area in this category.  And with the advent of the Web, it is very easy to commit plagiarism, both knowingly and unwittingly.  For a couple of very good descriptions of plagiarism see the following: University of Oklahoma - A Student's Guide to Academic Integrity and Penn State University Plagiarism and You and Plagiarism Examples

    Bottom line: it is understood that whatever written work you submit is in your own words and is an expression of your thoughts and understanding.  Words and ideas taken from others need to be properly cited.  We cite sources to provide recognition and credit to others for their ideas/works.  To present someone else's ideas and works without properly giving credit is plagiarism.  Note that 4 variations of plagiarism are described.
    • Copying words and presenting as your own
      Problem: no quotes and no citation of source, i.e. no credit is given, therefore, you are claiming the words to be your own.
      Solution: Use "quotes" and cite the source.

    • Copying words and only citing the source
      Problem: words not in quotes that are in your assignment are considered to be your words - it is not enough to simply provide a citation.
      Solution:  Although the source was cited, you still need to use "quotes" to properly indicate that the words are not your own.

    • Minor paraphrasing and citing the source
      Problem: minor paraphrasing is still plagiarism because the expression of the ideas you presented are still that of the original author - altering a few words here and there does not make "the work" your own.
      Solution: Either directly copy and "quote" the words, OR (preferably) truly 'make them your own' (i.e. clearly present your understanding of the work).  Either way, you will also still have to cite the source.

    • Expressing someone else's unique line of reasoning or conclusions in you own words with no citation
      Problem: if you present unique ideas/reasoning from someone else and don't give credit, then you are presenting them as your own
      Solution:  Simply cite the source.  (When in doubt, cite the source)

Links for Academic Integrity