Merriam Webster defines integrity as, “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” When we apply integrity to academics, it is even more powerful. It demonstrates a commitment to honesty in the classroom setting. Academic integrity is most important at the college level. It reflects a deep understanding of content and ones ability to uniquely master original ideas. However, it is vital for students of all ages to learn strategies for giving due credit.
Possessing integrity means that an individual is first and fore most, honest. Furthermore, integrity is demonstrated through consistency. The focus is on student responsibility, accountability and self-awareness. As an educator and a librarian, I know how challenging it is to foster strong study habits in students. I also know the extra work involved in monitoring student work for authenticity. The academic integrity resources and guidance covered today are for students, teachers, tutors and even parents. have a frame of reference in checking work before submission and to build a strong foundation of responsible research.
Academic integrity and plagiarism
The ultimate goal of academic integrity serves to avoid, at all costs, the pitfalls of plagiarism. When asked, most students will define plagiarism as simply copying someone else’s work. True plagiarism is much more complex than just duplicating the work of another. In my experience, some students do not realize the extent to which plagiarism can appear in their purview. I think it is critical to break down plagiarism into specifics. So, what is plagiarism?
In its most simplistic form, plagiarism is stealing. Taking the words, thoughts and ideas of another and passing them off as your own is theft. So, remember, “Swiper, no swiping!” When I’ve covered this concept with my students, it has always sparked an interesting conversation. It begins with a basic understanding of right and wrong and that stealing is, inherently, wrong. They get that.
Where it gets murky sometimes, is when plagiarism presents as “helping a friend out”. For example, your friend forgot to do her Spanish homework. You feel bad for her and tell her, “It’s ok, you can copy mine.” I pose this scenario to my students all the time and typically none of them view this as plagiarism. It’s just a friend helping another friend out, right? The thing is, it IS plagiarism. It’s an innocent and subtle form of plagiarism, but an infringement of academic integrity nonetheless.
Types of plagiarism
Plagiarism is not black and white. It is important to understand the many layers of misappropriating academic integrity. Let’s explore the most common types of plagiarism.
- Verbatim Plagiarism– This is when you copy something word for word, hence, verbatim. This is perhaps the most recognizable and obvious form of plagiarism. Certainly the one that my students will reference when asked about plagiarism. Sometimes, this is done intentionally. Other times, it may occur when a student is unfamiliar or unaccustomed to accurately documenting a source. In this case, it is critical for teachers to cover citations, paraphrasing and giving due credit to original authors. Consider seeking out the support of the school librarian to provide resources and instruction on proper research etiquette and citations! Librarians are champions of academic integrity in learning environments.
- Mosaic Plagiarism– Much like the name suggests, mosaic plagiarism is just that, pieces stitched together. Information lifted all from the same source in different areas of the article is mosaic plagiarism. Or, it might be multiple articles and authors cobbled together without proper citation. This often happens due to improper paraphrasing. which is arguably the most challenging barrier to academic integrity. Be careful with your note taking and don’t lose track of where you get your information from. Most importantly, be sure of your ability to differentiate between your own ideas and what you gained from outside sources. Always provide citations for direct quotes and indirect paraphrasing to maintain academic integrity.
Academic integrity checklist
While not copying someone else’s work word for word goes without saying as a no-no, how can you self check your work and avoid making an inadvertent academic integrity gaffe? We are here to help students, tutors and parents look work over before submission. For teachers, this is a great guideline to review with students prior to assigning a paper or project. Let’s review our Academic Integrity Checklist. Keep this checklist handy while you are working and refer to it often. The highlights of the checklist are expanded upon below.
Break it down
- Begin by making sure that you understand the expectations of your teacher for all individual and group assignments. Do you have to use a specified amount of outside sources? What format will you be using, MLA or APA? Know and understand these requirements before you begin and be sure to read your rubric carefully.
- Commit to yourself and your teacher that your work has been completed in your own words. Ensure that credit given to outside sources is cited correctly where appropriate.
- It is important to keep your notes, early drafts and other supporting material organized. Your early work demonstrates the evolution of your understanding and should reference where your sources originated from as well as the connections they make to your work.
- You should be sure that all of your sources are properly cited and in alphabetical order on your works cited page. Revisit the rubric and requirements of MLA or APA format and be consistent with this throughout the paper or project.
- Take advantage of your teacher or librarian to review your work, especially anything that you are unsure of, prior to submission!
Academic integrity: wrap up
Keeping this academic integrity checklist handy allows you to be confident that you are fulfilling your teacher’s expectations and not missing anything important. It is also great for parents and students to review this list together so that parents are on the same page about assignment guidelines and how to support their children’s work and research preparation. We left a section at the bottom for students to sign and date the checklist demonstrating their commitment to academic integrity of their work! Consider attaching this to your completed drafts and work upon submission.
I’ll leave you with this. Remember to take pride in your work and to take pride in the process of learning and writing!
Courtney is an MTT tutor, academic coach, and blog contributor for MTTES. If you check out our FB and Instagram pages, you might see her giving a storytime with her son Jack through the company’s Facebook Live service. Courtney’s love of the English language, learning, and creative writing inspired her to contribute relevant content to teachers, tutors, parents, and homeschoolers seeking support across an array of trending topics. She and her teacher husband have two small children and reside in Baltimore, MD with their dog Lottie May.