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Academic Integrity: Overview

Academic integrity is the cornerstone of education.  The free exchange of ideas depends on the participants’ trust that others’ work is their own and that it was done honestly. Intellectual progress in all disciplines demands the truthfulness of all participants. Plagiarism and cheating are attacks on the very foundation of academic life, and cannot be tolerated within universities.

The goal of this page is to provide only a general overview of the University’s policies on academic integrity and some of the common understandings related to those policies.  For greater clarification, students, faculty, and staff are strongly encouraged to seek advice from their individual professors, contact our office, or read the Code of Student Conduct.

What is Academic Misconduct?

The Code of Student Conduct does not provide a single, broad definition that encompasses all aspects of academic misconduct.  Instead, the Code provides a listing of several behaviors that fall into four basic categories of misconduct:

  • Cheating
  • Plagiarism
  • Aiding and Abetting another to Cheat or Plagiarize
  • Destruction or Removal of Academic Materials

Generally, academic misconduct can be thought of as any behavior that involves the giving, taking, or presenting of information by a student that unethically or fraudulently aids the student or another on any work which is to be considered in the determination of a grade or the completion of academic requirements or the enhancement of that student’s record or academic career.


Plagiarism is defined under the Code of Student Conduct as either (a)  representing the work of others as his or her own; or (b)  submitting written materials without proper attribution or acknowledgment of the source.

The free exchange of ideas depends on the participants’ trust that they will be given credit for their work. Everyone in an academic community must be responsible for acknowledging when they have used others’ words and ideas. Since the intellectual work of others constitute a kind of property, plagiarism is like theft.

In addition, as a reader you may want to follow other writers’ paths of research in order to make your own judgements about their evidence and arguments. In doing so, you will depend on those writers’ accuracy and honesty in reporting their sources. In turn, your readers will depend on yours.  This is frequently the case with professors as they grade and provide feedback to students on papers written.  Faculty are more easily able to evaluate and assess the arguments contained in a paper if they are provided an honest and thorough “road map” for where the ideas came from.

When reviewing the definitions of plagiarism in the Code, it is important to consider the following:

  • Not only does plagiarism include borrowing someone else’s direct language, plagiarism can also include using others ideas, thoughts, or actions and representing them in a way that leads others to believe they are your own.  An example includes reading someone else’s interpretation of a poem and incorporating it into a paper you are writing about the poem, but without acknowledging where you got the idea.  In order to avoid plagiarism, you must acknowledge where that specific idea came from (ideally using the style manual required by your instructor – MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.)
  • Whether a student acted intentionally or “meant” to plagiarize is not a relevant factor that is considered when deciding if the student is actually responsible for this allegation.


Cheating is defined by a number of behaviors, all of which tend to provide an unfair advantage to the student involved.  The most common behaviors include copying from another assignment or test, collaborating with others on an assignment when the professor has required independent work, using outside resources when completing an assignment or test, and falsifying test answers or grades. For a more complete listing of the behaviors involved, please see the Code of Student Conduct.

Cheating prevents students from attaining the most important goals of higher education: learning and critical thinking.  By cheating to gain answers or a higher grade, students fail to obtain the critical thinking skills necessary to learn future lessons.  In addition, they put into practice a habit that will ultimately disadvantage themselves by allowing them to take shortcuts.

More practically, cheating breaks down the trust that exists between teachers and students.  Professors who have been impacted by cheating often report the additional effort they must go through to root out unethical behavior and that cheating behavior affects their willingness to form close bonds with students.

Also, cheating affects other students whose grades in the class are often impacted by the unfair advantage a single student has achieved.  Contrary to popular opinion, students care deeply about and look negatively upon cheating behavior.

A few important points to consider when reviewing these definitions in the Code include:

  • When students submit an assignment to the professor, the student is providing an assurance that the work is the result of the student’s own thought and study, produced without assistance, and stated in that student’s own words, except when quotation marks, references, or footnotes acknowledge the use of other sources.
  • In most cases, whether a student acted intentionally or “meant” to cheat is not relevant when deciding if the student is actually responsible for the allegation.

Aiding and Abetting Others to Cheat or Plagiarize:

Aiding and Abetting others to cheat or plagiarize is defined by a number of behaviors, all of which tend to unfairly advantage another student.  The most common violations include providing portions of an academic evaluation to another student, providing unauthorized aid to another student, and sharing academic materials.  As with cheating, a student should always consult with the professor prior to aiding another student.  In addition, students should never make assumptions about the appropriateness of providing aid to others.

Destruction of Academic Materials:

Destruction of academic materials is defined under the Code as either (a)  Removing or attempting to remove, destroy, steal, or make inaccessible library or other academic material without authorization; or (b)  Willfully damaging the academic work or efforts of another.