Types of Academic Dishonesty


Since each school differs somewhat, we won’t be able to cover every possible term or violation you might encounter with students. We’ll discuss the most common kinds of academic misconduct in written campus policies. Keep in mind that the terms used in this module are fairly common terms, but may differ/vary according to a school. In addition, we would encourage your discussions to focus on the idea of "integrity" itself--as a value of ethics.

Cheating refers to any kind of unauthorized materials, methods, assistance, or advantage. It’s most common to think of cheating in the context of the person who is receiving the help, but the person who is giving the help is just as much in violation as well. It’s important to note that cheating doesn’t only apply to tests and quizzes. It includes falsifying research data, and at some schools, cheating even applies to assignments or requirements that are not graded, such as a survey you might take, or homework that is done only for practice and won’t be collected.

Examples of cheating can include copying answers for anything, such as homework, a worksheet, or a lab report. It can also include consulting a textbook or notes during an online quiz or an in-class quiz. Many students assume that if an instructor uses a learning management system for online quizzes or tests, for example, that the assessments completed through it must be open-book or open-notes. Students need to be aware that unless they are explicitly told that they can use additional materials, they should assume that they can’t.

Teaching Strategy: The Cheating Game

As a whole class, have students come up with some words associated with cheating. This is a short fast activity which should ensure that everybody can agree that they are clear about the meaning of cheating.

Now, break up your class into small groups. Each group will come up with and write down as many examples of cheating as they can--from the simple, to the outrageous.

Facilitate a discussion  about the sorts of students who are likely to cheat and ask them to consider cheating from a more morally mature perspective by answering what the impact of cheating is:

             On students?
             On the school?
             On the community?

The final discussion asks students to define what it means to have (personal) integrity and then to define Academic Integrity.

Plagiarism is a serious problem in high schools and universities around the country.  Students may be required to do a lot of writing and research, but many are not clear on exactly what is required in order to avoid plagiarism.

In fact, a lot of plagiarism is actually unintentional and stems from poor understanding of what really needs to be attributed, instead of intentional malice or misrepresentation. Ultimately many schools do not distinguish between intentional and unintentional plagiarism, so it’s critically important to understand what needs to be cited and how to do so.

Many schools have in-depth resources for helping students better understand how to avoid plagiarism. These are often available through either the library or, at a university, the academic integrity office. Students need to take advantage of these resources to ensure that they stay on the right side of this policy.

Teaching Strategy: "Inspired by" or Plagiarism?

Music plagiarism is the use or close imitation of another author's music while representing it as one's own original work. Plagiarism in music now occurs in two contexts—with a musical idea (that is, a melody or motif) or sampling (taking a portion of one sound recording and reusing it in a different song).  

Have students listen to two versions of songs that have been debated about their originality.  Then make the connections to plagiarism that happens with writing, how students paraphrase, and what it would feel like to have something they created plagiarized.  Here are some samples of famous music cases:

1. Vanilla Ice rode a funky bass line to music success in 1990, giving hip-hop its first-ever No. 1 hit. Unfortunately for him, plenty of listeners pointed out the song's similarity to the 1981 song "Under Pressure" by David Bowie and Queen. 

2.  The band Coldplay reach No. 1 in 2008 with "Viva la Vida," attracting the attention of guitarist Joe Satriani, who claimed it copied parts of his 2004 instrumental track "If I Could Fly."

3.  Led Zeppelin was sued for allegedly stealing the opening to the iconic rock track “Stairway to Heaven.” A jury had to  decide whether the band lifted elements of the Spirit song “Taurus,” an instrumental track released three years prior to “Stairway.”

Were they "inspired by," or was it plagiarism?

And finally, collusion is when students work together on any assignment without permission to do so. It's also called Unauthorized Collaboration. This can be a confusing issue. Although policies can vary from instructor to instructor, many schools/departments/professors expect and encourage students to work together in the process of learning material for the course. However, they may make a distinction between collaboration for the purposes of studying, and collaboration on any assignment that will be graded or turned in.

The safest course of action is for students to assume that they must do all their work independently unless otherwise given permission to collaborate with classmates.

Remind them that it never hurts to double-check with each instructor at the beginning of the semester about what types of assistance are acceptable in that course.