Academic Integrity Overview

no-cheating-480.pngAs long as there have been schools, academic integrity has been an issue. The Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University has defined academic integrity according to five core values: Honesty, Trust, Respect, Fairness, and Responsibility. According to their Fundamental Values treatise (1):

The Center for Academic Integrity (CAI) defines academic integrity as a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to five fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility. From these values flow principles of behavior that enable academic communities to translate ideals into action.

An academic community flourishes when its members are committed to the five fundamental values. Integrity is built upon continuous conversations about how these values are, or are not, embodied in institutional life. As these conversations connect with institutional mission statements and everyday policies and practices, a climate of integrity is sustained and nurtured. Vigorous academic integrity policies and procedures, with faculty and student support, promote the learning process and the pursuit of truth. This also helps create a stronger civic culture for society as a whole.

Clearly the concept of academic integrity covers a lot of ground. And rightfully so, because in an arean where individual ideas are highly valued and intellectual property is often the primary product, academic integrity is a big deal. In general use, though, academic integrity refers to specific issues that educators and academics deal with in the classroom and in academic circles. Most generally, these are:

Academic Integrity in 2009

In a paper written by Hongyan Jane Ma, Guofang Wan, and Eric Yong Lu, the authors explain the growth of technology and plagiarism among students. Students have been able to access the Internet for almost everything they need or want. School related material has been a monumental part of their use of the Internet. The drawback to having all this information is the ability to use that information inappropriately.

In the past few years, students rate of cheating has significantly risen due to their use of the Internet. From 1992 to 2002, according to The Josephson Institute of Ethics, the amount of students who said they cheated in the course of the school year went from 61% to 74% (2). The organization reported that as well as a rise in cheating, students also believe that cheating is not that bad. This relaxed view came from reinforcing issues between students and teachers. A study done by Stricherz in 2001 proposed that students believe teachers would just ignore the cheating. This ignorance has led to an increase in cheating (2). According to the article, there are five main identified reasons for cheating. These areas are:

1. Peer culture
Peer culture comes from the atmosphere of the students in and outside of the classroom. According to the research, students who knew of someone who cheated were more likely to cheat themselves (2).

2. The Internet
The internet makes cheating and plagiarism much easier due to its vast amount of information. Students would go to certain websites, copy and paste the information into a word document, and submit it as homework. Teachers were finding this by seeing similarities in certain homework assignments (2).

3. Insufficient Punishment
Students have not been punished enough or caught enough for plagiarizing. According to students, they only do it as a last hope, when there are no other options. Students rationalize that they cannot get caught - that there is just too much information on the Internet for a teacher to realize that they have cheated - so they continue to cheat (2).

4. Academic Pressure
Pressure can lead to plagiarizing. Students in this study were under a great deal of pressure to get assignments done and submitted to the teacher. The students believed the only way to get it done would be to copy and paste information on to their assignments. Teacher also saw more cheating on high stakes, graded assignments. Students responded by saying that they wanted to achieve the highest grade they could receive (2).

5. Lack of Understanding
Students were unaware of what actually constituted cheating or more specifically, plagiarism. Students really did not understand that they couldn't copy and paste information. Teachers needed to do specific lessons on the significance of cheating and plagiarism before assigning any papers to the students (2).

Technology and Cheating

Cheating needs no definition and is as old as academic work itself. In the past 20 years, technology has had a major impact on cheating, some positive and many negative.

Many people argue that widespread technological innovations have made cheating easier and more prevelant. In an article by Regan McMahon making just such an argument, the author lists the five most popular ways to cheat. Of the five, three specifically use technology and all five could easily be enhanced by technology. The list includes (2):

Top 5 Ways to Cheat:
•Copying from another student.
•Plagiarizing by downloading information or whole papers from the Internet.
•Cell phone cheating:
•Text-messaging answers to another student,
•Taking a picture of the test and e-mailing it to another student, or
•Downloading information from the Internet.
•Getting test questions, answers or a paper from a student in a previous period or from a previous year.
•Bringing a permitted graphing calculator into the test loaded with answer material previously input into the computer portion of the calculator.

Obviously technology plays a major role in the modern practice of cheating. Today's "cut and paste" generation, as many have called them, have a wide variety of tools at their disposal to pass off others' work as their own. Students these days can even use technology not just to cheat, but to learn how to cheat. Take these YouTube videos as examples:


Technology and Plagiarism

Appropriately Using Technology: How to Help Students Not Cheat

As noted in the Digital Cheating article(2), one of the top five reasons students end up cheating is a lack of understanding about what exactly constitute cheating. As such, one of the most effective methods of preventing classroom cheating is to educate students about cheating and plagiarism and to create a classroom culture that limits cheating's appeal.

For one, teachers can give lessons about plagiarism and cheating. Along with these lessons, the internet has provided teachers with a variety of online quizes that help interactively test student knowledge about proper use of material. A couple of quality sites are listed below:

Along with teaching lessons, teachers can create an "anti-cheating" classroom environment by enforcing rules appropriately and providing students with plenty of opportunities and resources to develop their own knowledge so they won't have to turn to cheating. If teachers keep consistent rules and culture, they can cultivate a more ethical student body (2).

The Teacher's Defense: Using Technology to Combat Cheating

Aside from educating students about cheating and its moral perils, there are also a few technological advances that can help students catch cheating.

One of the best ways to spot plagiarism and cheating are anti-plagiarism software such as and by using peer culture. Anti-plagiarism software works by searching through students’ papers for sentences and phrases that have connections to websites with the same subject as the paper. If the software detects several sentences from the same paper or line of papers, then the paper is flagged.

Cited Resources

(2) Ma, H., Wan, G., & Lu, E. Y. (2008). Digital Cheating and Plagiarism in Schools. Theory Into Practice, 47(3), 197-203.