Academic Integrity

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Understand the importance of academic integrity and the consequences of dishonesty.
  • Identify most common types of academic dishonesty.

Throughout this book, we have focused on how to have a successful college experience. An important aspect of college success is to practice academic integrity, which means doing your own work to the best of your ability. Academic dishonesty is the opposite of that value and goes against being an active, successful student. If grades are viewed as the end-all in academics, students may resort to dishonest academic practices to try to get the best possible grades or to handle the pressure of an academic program. Although a few students may be tempted, they should be mindful of the consequences of cheating:

  • Boy looking at notes on arm while taking testStudents risk failing the course or even expulsion from school. Each institution has its own definitions of and penalties for academic dishonesty, but most definitions include cheating, plagiarism, and fabrication or falsification. The exact details of what is allowed or not allowed vary somewhat among different colleges and even instructors, so be sure to check the school’s website and the instructor’s guidelines to see what rules apply.
  • Cheating causes stress. Fear of getting caught will cause stress and anxiety and decrease performance with material that is known.
  • Cheating lowers self-esteem. Students who cheat are telling themselves that they are simply not smart enough to handle learning, which is almost always not the case. Those students are robbing themselves of the feeling of satisfaction that comes from genuine success.

Technology has made it easier to cheat. A credit card and an Internet connection can procure a paper on just about any subject and length. Students can copy and paste for free from various websites, and many have made creative use of texting and video on their cell phones to gain unauthorized access to material for exams. On the other hand, technology has also created ways for instructors to easily detect these forms of academic dishonesty. Most colleges make these tools available to their instructors. Instructors can also modify their testing approaches to reduce potential academic misconduct, such as in-class essays that evaluate application, thinking, or oral presentations.

Examples of Academic Dishonesty

Academic dishonesty can take many forms, and students should be careful to avoid them. The following list from Northwestern University is a clear and complete compilation of what most institutions consider unacceptable academic behavior.

  1. Cheating: using unauthorized notes, study aids, or information on an examination; altering a graded work after it has been returned, then submitting the work to be graded again; allowing another person to do one’s work and submitting that work under one’s own name; submitting identical or similar papers for credit in more than one course without prior permission from the course instructors.
  2. Plagiarism: submitting material that in part or whole is not entirely one’s own work without attributing those same portions to their correct sources.
  3. Fabrication: falsifying or inventing any information, data or citation; presenting data that were not gathered in accordance with standard guidelines defining the appropriate methods for collecting or generating data and failing to include an accurate account of the method by which the data were gathered or collected.
  4. Woman looking at phone under classroom tableObtaining an Unfair Advantage: stealing, reproducing, circulating or otherwise gaining access to examination materials prior to the time authorized by the instructor; stealing, destroying, defacing or concealing library materials with the purpose of depriving others of their use; unauthorized collaboration on an academic assignment; retaining, possessing, using or circulating previously given examination materials, where those materials clearly indicate that they are to be returned to the instructor at the conclusion of the examination; intentionally obstructing or interfering with another student’s academic work; or otherwise undertaking activity with the purpose of creating or obtaining an unfair academic advantage over other students’ academic work.
  5. Aiding and Abetting Academic Dishonesty: providing material, information, or other assistance to another person with knowledge that such aid could be considered a violation of academic honesty, or providing false information in connection with any inquiry regarding academic integrity.
  6. Falsification of Records and Official Documents: altering documents affecting academic records; forging signatures of authorization or falsifying information on an official academic document, grade report, letter of permission, petition, drop/add form, ID card, or any other official college document.
  7. Unauthorized Access to computerized academic or administrative records or systems: viewing or altering computer records, modifying computer programs or systems, releasing or dispensing information gained via unauthorized access, or interfering with the use or availability of computer systems or information.

See the College Catalog and Student Handbook for MCC’s polices regarding academic integrity.


1. What are the most common forms of academic dishonesty you have heard about? How can students avoid those behaviors?



2. What resources do you have on campus to learn about correct forms of referencing other people’s work in your own?