Academic Integrity

Learning Objectives

  • Evaluate the definition of academic dishonesty

What is Academic Integrity?

Academic Integrity is defined as the honest and responsible pursuit of scholarship. Academic integrity is characterized by

  • completing exams and other academic assignments in an honest way
  • presenting truthful and accurate data and research information in academic assignments
  • avoiding plagiarism by properly incorporating and acknowledging sources

Try It

A yellow road sign with two arrows pointed in opposite directions, next to one arrow is the word "right" and next to the other arrow is the word "wrong".

Figure 1. Having a strong sense of academic integrity is essential to your credibility as a writer and your future success as a student.

Academic Dishonesty

In all academic work, students are expected to submit materials that are their own and are to include attribution for any ideas or language that are not their own. Examples of dishonest conduct include, but are not limited to:

  • Cheating, including giving and receiving information in examinations.
  • Falsification of data, results or sources.
  • Collusion, such as working with another person when independent work is assigned.
  • Plagiarism.
  • Submitting the same paper or report for assignments in more than one course without permission (self-plagiarism).


Students are often shocked to learn that there is even such a thing as self-plagiarism. If I wrote a research paper, doesn’t it belong to me? How can it be plagiarism for me to use my own words and ideas? Keep in mind, however, that the professor who assigns you a research paper may or may not be okay with you re-using a paper that you wrote for another class. And does it really seem fair to be able to do so? Instead, think about approaching the professor, discussing your previous research, and asking about whether it would be okay to continue with that research or whether it would be possible to take that research in a new direction.


Cheating is the most well-known academically dishonest behavior. Cheating includes more than just copying a neighbor’s answers on an exam or peeking at a cheat sheet or storing answers on your phone. Giving or offering information in examinations is also dishonest. Turning in someone else’s work as your own is also considered cheating.


Collusion, such as working with another person or persons when independent work is assigned, is considered academic dishonesty. While it is fine to work in a team if your professor specifically requires or allows it, be sure to communicate about guidelines on permissible collaboration if you are unsure (including how to attribute the contributions of others).


It’s important to talk with your professors about the kinds of collaboration that may or may not be acceptable in your class. Some faculty encourage group work on homework and problem sets. Others want every piece of work to be completed independently. Especially in writing classes, faculty often (but not always) encourage collaboration as part of the writing process. Often, peer review of rough drafts, for example, is an integral part of the writing process. However, there’s no single approach to collaboration in college. Don’t assume – ask!

True Story: In 2012, 125 Harvard students were investigated for working together on a take-home final exam. The only rule on the exam was not to work together. Almost half of those students were determined to have cheated, and forced to withdraw from school for a year.

Falsifying Results and Misrepresentation

Falsifying results in studies or experiments is a serious breach of academic honesty. Students are sometimes tempted to make up results if their study or experiment does not produce the results they hoped for. But getting caught has major consequences.

Misrepresenting yourself or your research is, by definition, dishonest. Misrepresentation might include inflating credentials, claiming that a study proves something that it does not, or leaving out inconvenient and/or contradictory results.

True Story: An undergraduate at the University of Kansas claimed to be a researcher and promoted his (unfortunately incorrect) research on how much a Big Mac would cost if the U.S. raised minimum wage. His study was picked up by the Huffington Post, NY Times, and other major news outlets, who then had to publish retractions.


Plagiarism occurs when you present another person’s ideas, intentionally or unintentionally, as your own. In the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, Joseph Gibaldi likens plagiarism to “intellectual theft,” because it “gives the impression that you wrote or thought something that you in fact borrowed from someone, and to do so is a violation of professional ethics” (165). It is your responsibility as the student to avoid plagiarizing. As a scholar you are expected to credit the sources of the ideas that you use in your own work.

How Can You Avoid Academic Dishonesty?

  • Start your assignments early and stay on track with due dates.
  • Ask for help from your professor.
  • Join a study group.
  • Take careful notes as you do your research and organize your sources.
  • Work with a Librarian or the Writing Center to integrate and cite your sources and avoid plagiarism.
  • Prioritize your integrity!