Academic Integrity: A Quick Guide
by Martha Harris, Academic Integrity Officer, Office of Student Academic Integrity
(With thanks to Kristi Gourlay and Steve Livingston)
One of the biggest challenges for new students to U of T is learning about new expectations and rules. This can be particularly difficult for students like you who are transitioning from a different culture, and might have to change some ideas you learned before you came to U of T.
You’ll hear a lot of talk about “academic integrity”. What is academic integrity anyway? Integrity is about living your life with honesty, fairness and respect, through good times and bad. Academic integrity is about earning your university degree through your own hard work. It is also about making difficult choices and not taking the easy way out during hard times. Integrity is important to the University.
The idea of accidentally committing an academic offence can be scary. Learning more about academic offences and what the University expects of you can make you feel more prepared and ready for any academic challenges you may face. The rules that you need to know and follow are listed in a document called the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters. It is a legal document and might be difficult to understand, but all students are expected to know it and understand it.
|Type of Offence||Example(s)|
|Plagiarism||Copying an idea from a website, book, or another source without a reference to say where you copied it from
|Forgery, fraud, altering documents||• Changing the date or name on a medical note so you can miss a test or exam
• Getting a medical note to miss a test/exam when you aren’t really sick
• Changing an answer on a test that has been marked
|Unauthorized Aid (giving or receiving)||• Bringing a cell phone into a test or exam
• Bringing a dictionary into a test or exam if everyone isn’t allowed a dictionary.
• Emailing your assignment to a friend who might copy from it
• Having study notes in your pocket during a test or exam (even if you don’t use them)
• Working together on an assignment that is supposed to be your own work
• Allowing an “editor” to change your work or add material, rather than just suggesting places which need work
|Impersonation||• Writing a test for a friend, using their TCard
• Using a friend’s iClicker to answer questions for them when they aren’t in class
|False or Concocted References||• Making up a reference to a book that doesn’t exist
• Citing an incorrect source
|Submitting work for which credit has already been received.||• Submitting the same essay to two different courses
• Copying paragraphs from one of your older essays into an essay for a current course
If you still have questions about academic offences, talk to your registrar. And always ask your TA or instructor if you aren’t sure what they expect.
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Q: If I commit an academic offence, will I be expelled?
Probably not. Expulsion happens in rare cases involving very serious offences. There is a wide range of penalties in the Code, including receiving a warning letter, a zero on the assignment, reduction in final grade, zero in the course, a 1-5 year suspension, or expulsion. Every case is different.
Q: I have a tutor/editor who helps me with my assignments. Is that cheating?
No - as long as your tutor or editor only identifies mistakes in your assignment, gives you feedback, or shows you how to improve your study habits and test-taking. Your tutor or editor shouldn’t correct mistakes for you, add material to your work, or write your paper for you. It is up to you to do that. To be safe, ask for help at your college’s writing centre or the Academic Success Centre.
Q: What if I didn’t mean to plagiarize?
Unintentional plagiarism can happen when you:
• Lose track of where you got your information from;
• Paraphrase or summarize very poorly, so most of the words from your source remains in their original order;
• Forget what parts of your notes are your ideas, and what parts are directly from your sources.
Unfortunately, plagiarism is an offence under the Code, whether you meant to do it or not, so it is important to learn how to avoid it. Margaret Proctor’s How Not to Plagiarize and the University of Toronto Writing Website are good places to find tips on how to improve your research and writing skills and avoid accidental plagiarism.
Q: Things were different in high school in my home country. How do I know if I’m doing something wrong?
Check your course syllabus for information on what your instructor expects of you for citation styles, group work policies, late penalties, and deadlines. Usually, your instructor or TA will have time set aside each week for office hours, where you can ask questions and ask for advice.
Q: I don’t understand why I could be committing an offence if I work too closely with friends. I thought working together was a good thing?
Most instructors agree that discussion in study groups is a good idea. What is important is that the work you submit for credit must be your own work, unless group work is allowed. Unless your assignment requires or specifically allows people to submit assignments in groups, you must write your assignment on your own. Make sure you know what your instructor expects from you and if you aren’t sure, ask.
Q: Why should I worry so much about references? So many ideas come from other places, is it really worth it?
By giving references, you (1) show respect for the person who did the original work, (2) make your work stronger by showing that other people agree with you, and (3) allow people who are interested in that idea to look at your source and learn more. Your professor wants to read your thoughts on what you have read, too. Show that you understand what you have read and can build on it.
Q: My English isn’t very good and I feel like I’m not going to do as well as the other students in my class. How can I succeed?
We know that working and writing in a new language takes time. Studying and writing assignments in Canada will be part of your learning process and is important language practice. Avoid comparing yourself to other students in your course – your fears that you are a terrible student may not be true, and they will discourage you.
Be proud that the work you submit is yours alone, just like your degree. Getting a C on an essay instead of an A or a B might seem discouraging, but it’s proof that you are learning. Stick with it, and you might be surprised at what you can accomplish!
Q: Where can I get more help?
• Centre for International Experience
• Academic Success Centre
• Writing at U of T
• Academic Honesty (Student Life)
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