26 Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity

Emilie Jackson

Learning Objectives

After reading this page, you will be able to:

  • name and understand the six fundamental values of academic integrity;
  • explain the personal benefits of adhering to academic integrity principles;
  • understand plagiarism and how to avoid it.

Why Is This Important?

An education that is achieved without compromising your own integrity and simultaneously upholding academic integrity standards means that your knowledge is a true representation of the hard work and dedication you put into your studies. Acting with integrity will also ensure that you will be well prepared for success in your career as you have put the necessary time and effort into your studies, gained much knowledge, and developed many valuable skills, such as research, critical thinking, and writing skills.

Six Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity

As a college student, you are a part of an academic community that is governed by the fundamental principles of academic integrity. It is important for all members of the community, professors and students alike, to uphold these principles for the advancement of academic scholarship and the continued building of knowledge.

The International Center for Academic Integrity (2013) defines academic integrity as a commitment to uphold the six fundamental values in the academic community, even when faced with adversity:

  • honesty;
  • trust;
  • fairness;
  • respect;
  • responsibility; and
  • courage.


Honest students respect college policies, follow the instructions of their professors and do their work on their own, without any unauthorized help. Dishonest behaviour, such as lying, cheating, fraud, theft, impersonating another person, and falsification of data are morally and ethically unacceptable to a person of integrity.


Your friend asks you if you want to meet up and do an online quiz together. Somehow you feel uneasy about this. What should you do?

Click on the responses to see the answers to each item.


If you are always honest, you will be able to build a relationship of trust with both your peers and your instructors. Trust is established over time and is based mostly on your actions.


Your friend Alex is having a difficult time writing their essay. They ask you if they can have a quick look at your essay to see how you went about it. As they are your friend and you want to be helpful, you give them your essay before you leave for your job. Alex is tired and thinks: “I just want to be done with this. I’m going to change a few things in my friend’s essay and then hand it in as my own.” Why do you think Alex made this choice?

Click on the responses to see the answers to each item.


A person of integrity is fair. You are fair to your peers when you do your own work instead of copying theirs, to authors when you acknowledge their work by citing it, to the college when you respect and follow academic integrity standards, and to alumni when your behaviour helps to support the value of their diploma or degree.


You are a new student and are struggling to keep up with your courses while also working a part-time job. You are a bit stressed about your upcoming exam. A student who is a year ahead of you offers you a copy of the exam questions to one of your courses. What action would be acceptable?

Click on the responses to see the answers to each item.


You show respect when you adhere to your assignment instructions, when you actively participate in learning and show interest in gaining new knowledge, when you contribute your thoughts to the academic discourse while accepting that others may disagree with you, when you credit others for their ideas, and when you show that you are putting your best efforts forward.


At the end of your class your instructor says: “Don’t forget your assignment is due next class. Remember, this is an individual assignment. You are meant to work on this alone!” You think, “Oh no, I already completed half of the assignment with Jason and Harpreet!” What should you do?

Click on the responses to see the answers to each item.


You show responsible behaviour when you lead by example, when you resist negative peer pressure, and when you discourage others from violating academic integrity principles. Being responsible means being accountable to yourself and others and doing your work to the best of your abilities.


You have difficulties with your studies, especially in one of your courses. You have been working on your essay for a whole week already. You are afraid that you may fail the course if you can’t improve the quality of your work. What should you do?

Click on the responses to see the answers to each item.


To uphold academic integrity standards requires courage to resist temptations to take the “easy way out” and to speak up against wrongdoing.


You are entering the room to write your final exam. You see a sign that reads “No electronic devices permitted. Please leave them at the front. You may pick them up after you have finished the exam.” As you enter, you see your classmates put their phones in their pockets. What might you do?

Click on the responses to see the answers to each item.

Academic Integrity Violations

Violations of academic integrity are taken very seriously and carry with them severe consequences. If reported, you may get a zero on your assignment, get a failing grade in the course, or even be suspended from the institution. You may face disciplinary action for any academic integrity violation, regardless whether you committed it intentionally or unintentionally.

Below are the best ways to avoid committing a violation.

  1. Be honest.
  2. Do your own work.
  3. Submit original work.
  4. Only work with others if your instructor has permitted it.
  5. If permitted to work in groups, acknowledge the contributions of others.
  6. Acknowledge all your sources of information by citing them properly.
  7. Learn to quote, paraphrase, and summarize properly.
  8. Adhere to copyright.
  9. Get help if you need it, but only from approved sources.
  10. Do not help another person commit a violation.

Understanding Plagiarism

Plagiarism is one of the most frequent academic integrity violations. It ranges in severity from blatant plagiarism, where a student simply submits a whole work that is not their own (for example, a paper they purchased online), to inadvertent plagiarism, where a student tried to do honest work but still accidentally plagiarized (for example, when trying to paraphrase information from an article but using too many of the original author’s words). There are many definitions of the word plagiarism, but all have one thing in common: the misrepresentation of someone else’s words or ideas as your own. Plagiarism is an academic integrity violation because it is considered ethically wrong to take credit for someone else’s intellectual output.


A woman stands in a library holding a stack of books.
A woman stands in a library holding a stack of books. Image source: Pexels

Why You Should Care

Being honest and maintaining integrity in your academic work is a sign of good character and professionalism. In addition to maximizing your own learning and taking ownership of your academic success, not plagiarizing is important for a number of reasons.

  • Your professors assign research projects to help you learn. You cheat yourself when you substitute someone else’s work for your own.
  • You don’t like it when someone else takes credit for your ideas, so don’t do it to someone else.
  • Plagiarizing comes with consequences. Depending on the offense and the institution, you may be asked to rewrite plagiarized work, receive a failing grade on the assignment, fail the entire course, or be suspended from the college.
  • Instructors may use search engines, databases, and specialized software to check suspicious work, so you will eventually get caught.[1]

What Counts as Plagiarism?

Intellectual output includes written and spoken words, music and videos, movies, performances, artwork, photographs, graphs, tables, figures, diagrams, data, computer code, and any other intellectual or creative product. It also extends to ideas. For example, a specific method or model, the plot of a story, the outline of an experiment, and, in your academic writing, even the structure of a paragraph.

Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional. It often occurs because the process of citation can be confusing, technology makes copy and paste so easy, and knowing exactly what to cite is not always easy. You can avoid unintentional plagiarism by learning how to cite material and keeping track of sources in your notes. Give yourself plenty of time to process sources so you don’t plagiarize by mistake. Here are some examples of plagiarism:

  • submitting a paper written by someone else;
  • using words and phrases from the source text and patching them together in new sentences;
  • failing to acknowledge the sources of words or information;
  • not providing quotation marks around a direct quotation, which leads to the false assumption that the words are your own;
  • borrowing the idea or opinion of someone else without giving the person credit;
  • restating or paraphrasing a passage without citing the original author; and
  • borrowing facts or statistics that are not common knowledge without proper acknowledgement.[2]


Instructors Can Recognize Plagiarism

Instructors can often recognize plagiarism quickly and easily. Methods that instructors use to identify plagiarism include: spotting differences in writing styles within the assignment or from previous writing tasks; judging if your writing and content exceeds your level of ability; spot-checking your sources for accurate quoting and paraphrasing or for accuracy of the citation (and remember that your instructors can Google, so it easy for them to find copied and pasted material); and using a plagiarism-detection service.

Key Takeaway

College students must apply the six fundamental values of academic integrity to their studies in order to adhere to college policies and learn the information taught in their program. 

Attribution Statement: Adapted from Academic Integrity by Ulrike Kestler, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. “Defining Plagiarism” in Introduction to College Composition provided by Lumen Learning, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. https://quillbot.com/courses/introduction-to-college-composition-b/chapter/text-defining-plagiarism/
  2. https://quillbot.com/courses/introduction-to-college-composition-b/chapter/text-defining-plagiarism/