Navigating the Honor Code as an Instructor

Navigating the Honor Code as an Instructor

Advice to Faculty on Fostering Academic Integrity & Tips for Preventing Honor Code Violations

Most faculty share high ideals about the importance of honesty, academic integrity, and shared respect within the university environment. Few anticipate with pleasure the challenges of dealing with student academic misconduct. The following list reflects the distilled wisdom of many faculty in far-flung institutions over the years, including links to other resources available from this website and from elsewhere.

Understand why students cheat, so that efforts can be targeted to prevent academic misconduct before it occurs. Bear in mind that perhaps 20% of students would never cheat and perhaps an equal proportion will attempt to cheat whatever is done to discourage it. Work on preventing problems that might arise for the other 60% of students.

Design tests and writing assignments so that cheating isn’t easy.  On tests, ask students to show their work, not just their answers. If using multiple choice questions, use alternate forms (which can be keyed in on Scantron answer sheets) or alternate short answer (at the top of the page) and multiple choice at the bottom where it’s not so easy to copy. On major research papers, require students to submit the work in several phases (such as a list of sources with summaries, an outline, and the paper itself). Further good advice is available on Virtual Salt: Anti-Plagiarism Strategies for Research Papers.

Provide clear instructions for group work. Encouraging collaboration can improve student learning, but can result in ambiguities-- leading to students who step over the line and engage in “unauthorized assistance or collaboration". Talk with students very specifically about what type of collaboration is permitted and when it is permitted. Make it clear to students that they are responsible for asking questions if they have any doubt about what is permitted, and make it easy for them to inquire. Consider providing a handout or an attachment to the syllabus that addresses the issue of collaboration specifically, and give special consideration to issues that may arise due to the culture of instant/shared information via online resources.

Don’t assume that students understand what plagiarism is and why it’s a problem. Recognize the points of tension and potential confusion such as those portrayed in the handout developed by the Purdue University Writing Center: Online Writing Lab: Avoiding Plagiarism.  Additionally, recognize that not all students will come from an educational background where citation is practiced in the way demanded in U.S. higher education, and consider the special concerns or resources that may  need to be addressed and utilized to help those students from unintentionally committing an act of academic dishonesty.

Emphasize to students faculty's commitment to take integrity seriously in connection with all their work, and clearly explain the expectations that they will do so too.

Make it easy for students to take responsibility for their own conduct and for them to be held to the standard set. Explain that tests will not be graded unless the Honor Code statement on the Bluebook is properly signed. Attach to the syllabus a summary regarding the expectations in the course subject’s discipline for avoiding plagiarism and for providing appropriate acknowledgement of authorities. Require students to attach the summary along with their signed statement representing that they have complied with the requirements each time they submit an assignment.

Become familiar with the easy ways you can detect plagiarism or other academic misconduct, should it occur.  Signs can include lack of references, strange formatting, language that is out of character for student writers (such as unfamiliar words), and more. There are also a growing number of “plagiarism detection” tools and strategies (including simple internet search techniques) that instructors can use to check the academic integrity of students' work.

Read the Honor Code and related materials available on this website. Additionally, the Office of Student Conduct's staff is available to answer questions, and may be reached by contacting us