Academic Integrity

Western University provides resources to support faculty members and graduate teaching assistants to ensure the academic integrity of all of our programs. On this page you will find a list of resources that will be useful for you to employ in the classroom.

The recent introduction of ChatGPT and other Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies presents new challenges and opportunities for conversations about Academic Integrity at Western. While Turnitin has recently added an AI-generated content detection tool, it’s important to note that this feature is largely untested, reports false positives (i.e., sometimes identifies student content as AI generated), and cannot provide evidence to support why it identified AI content in a student submission. At this time, instructors should not rely solely on this tool to determine if student work contains improper use of AI generated content. See What Do I Need to Know about Academic Integrity and AI such as ChatGPT? for more information about this tool and teaching and learning around ChatGPT in general.

What is Academic Integrity?

Academic integrity is the system of values that shape institutional policies on cheating and plagiarism. These values are also reflected in the way the university community sets and maintains academic standards and upholds expectations of honesty and rigour in research and publishing.

The International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) defines academic integrity as “a commitment to five fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility. …these five values, plus the courage to act on them even in the face of adversity, are truly foundational to the academy. Without them, everything that we do in our capacities as teachers, learners, and researchers loses value and becomes suspect … Rather than thinking of them merely as abstract principles, we advocate using the fundamental values to inform and improve ethical decision-making capacities and behavior. The fundamental values enable academic communities to translate their ideals into action.”


What are Western's Academic Policies on Academic Misconduct?

The University Secretariat website provides the policies on scholastic discipline for undergraduate and graduate students. These documents define scholastic offences (e.g., plagiarism, cheating, etc.) and the procedures for dealing with them. 

Sharing Academic Policies with Students

A Statement on Academic Offences is a required component of all Western course syllabi. The template wording can be found in the Academic Handbook policy on Course Outlines.

Faculties and departments act independently when it comes to general education and awareness of academic integrity issues. Many departments provide information beyond the definition outlined in the Academic Handbook in order to clarify guidelines within their discipline-specific context, and to ensure that undergraduate students have a firm understanding of academic misconduct. Some examples are provided below:

Promoting and Supporting Academic Integrity

How Do I Promote Academic Integrity Among My Students?

Top 5 Strategies

1. Share Policies and Include the Academic Integrity Tutorial in Your Course

Students may not be familiar with the university’s academic misconduct policies. As an instructor, there are a few things that you can do to help increase their awareness. 

  • Ask students to review the policies section of your course outline and review the policies with them during the first week of class.
  • Consider holding a discussion focused on academic integrity early in the term to highlight your expectations for student work. Discussion questions could include:
    • What is plagiarism? What does it look like? Why is it wrong?
    • When is it okay (and not okay) for students to collaborate on an assignment?
    • What are the consequences of plagiarism? cheating?
    • What resources are available to students that can help them succeed on assignments and exams?
  • Consider sharing academic integrity resources with students. These resources could be reviewed in lecture/tutorial or incorporated into the course OWL site. See Resources below for ideas and inspiration. See Resource below for ideas and inspiration, including the Academic Integrity OWL Tutorial for Students.

2. Provide Clear and Detailed Assignment Instructions

Even when students have a broad understanding of plagiarism, they may not know how to paraphrase ideas or cite sources using specific citation guidelines.

  • Consider reviewing essay writing approaches with your students, including your expectations around paraphrasing and citation.
  • Some faculty break up major writing assignments into a few components. For example, submitting an annotated bibliography or first draft gives students the opportunity to practice and receive feedback before submitting a final draft.
  • Connect students with campus resources that provide students with writing support. For example, Western Libraries provides guides to common citation formats for students.

Sometimes students do not know why they must complete an assignment and if the value of the assignment is unclear, students might be tempted to find shortcuts (e.g., copying and pasting text).

  • To increase student motivation, explain how completing the assignment will help them develop research and communication skills and why these skills are valuable. Explain the consequences of not developing these skills.
  • Consider reviewing your assignments on occasion. Do they continue to be relevant, meaningful exercises for students? Do they align well with your learning outcomes for the course?

3. Reduce Temptations to Cheat

Balancing the demands of assignments and exams across several courses may be overwhelming for some students. Consider what you can do as an instructor to help students negotiate academic stress.

  • Estimate how much time students will need to prepare for class, complete assignments, and study for exams. Or ask your current students to provide these estimates so that you can share with students in the following term. Previous students could also share strategies for success in the course.
  • Consider providing progress reminders throughout the course that will help them stay on track. For example, you might share due date reminders in class or post announcements to OWL.
  • Clarify when it is okay for students to collaborate on assessments and when they are expected to work independently. If you would like students to work independently, consider how you ensure that they do so – how will you detect collaboration if it does occur? Be sure to explain the value of working collaboratively and independently in different contexts and why those contexts might change across your course.
  • Adhere to the university’s examination policies for midterm and final exams. In addition, simple strategies like seating students at a distance from one another, or printing two versions of the same exam (questions ordered differently) may help to reduce cheating during exams.
  • If you plan to recycle some exam questions year-to-year, do not return exams to students. However, ensure that you make time available to students to review their work.
  • Consider revising/modifying assignments and exams regularly to ensure that graded work is not passed from one cohort of students to the next.

4. Have a Plan

When planning or revising your course, consider where preventative strategies might be useful, and what will be required if academic misconduct does happen. 

  • Familiarize yourself with Western’s academic policies on Undergraduate Scholastic Discipline and Administration of Exams. These policies provide clear courses of action for addressing academic misconduct.
  • Talk to colleagues about the typical instances of misconduct they see in the department, and what they do to prevent these issues.
  • Decide where you will introduce academic integrity guidelines into your courses. How will help students develop their skills as novice academics?
  • What method(s) will you use to detect plagiarism in student assignments (e.g., Turnitin)? How will you follow-up with students on flagged assignments?
  • Discuss academic integrity with your Teaching Assistants. Ensure that your TAs understand your expectations around academic integrity and what steps they should take if they believe a student has plagiarized/cheated.

5. Model Academic Integrity

Motivate student performance by demonstrating the importance of academic integrity.

  • Model scholarship by citing your sources on lecture slides and in OWL.
  • If you provide expectations, be sure to consistently follow-up with students if the expectations are not met.
  • Be positive in supporting students but also be honest about the consequences of academic misconduct

What Do I Need to Know about Academic Integrity and AI Content Generators Such as ChatGPT?

AI content generators are currently disrupting how we think about teaching and learning, much as the invention of the calculator and the internet did in the past.

There are three areas of academic integrity that we can focus on while negotiating the new ways that this technology will become part of our lives and our teaching. They are outlined in the “Ideas and Strategies for Academic Integrity and ChatGPT/AI” section below. All three strategies align with our Top 5 Strategies for Supporting Academic Integrity in the above section—simply substitute the word “plagiarism” for “AI Content Generators.

  1. Talk to Your Students
  2. Minimize Tasks that Can be Accomplished Using AI Technologies
  3. Incorporate ChatGPT/AI into Activities and Assessments


For a “deeper dive,” review the slides and speaker notes from the Centre for Teaching and Learning’s April 2023 ChatGPT Teaching and Learning Workshop

 ChatGPT Workshop PDF with Speaker Notes.pdf

Will Turnitin’s AI Content Detection Tool Conclusively Identify AI-Generated Content in Student Work? 

In short, no. In fact, there are currently no tools that will conclusively and accurately demonstrate whether there is AI-generated content in a written submission. We advocate that instructors avoid using this and other AI checker tools until such time as they improve in accuracy, transparency, and reporting procedures.

Here is what you need to know about Turnitin’s AI Detection tool:

  • This AI detection technology was rapidly developed and trained on an older version of ChatGPT. It was “turned on” in Turnitin with no opportunity for institutions to review how it functions, and it has not been tested at scale.
  • Turnitin clearly states that the tool reports false positives (i.e., identifies AI-generated content where there is none) and is more likely to report false positives in students where English is not a first language. Until the tool has been used at scale in real-world applications, the extent to which false positives will occur and in which populations remains unknown.
  • Turnitin AI reports identify where AI-generated content may exist in a written submission, but it cannot provide evidence to support its identification of AI-generated content (unlike plagiarism detection software, which provides a link to the source of the plagiarized content). This means there is no way to verify whether a report has identified a false positive or an actual instance of AI content.
  • Students are unable to access their own reports, unlike with the plagiarism detection tool where they see their own Originality report. 

Ideas and Strategies for Academic Integrity and ChatGPT/AI

Talk to Your Students

One of the most simple and effective solutions to reduce academic misconduct is to create clear communication channels with your students about your policies and expectations. This can be done with synchronous and asynchronous discussions about Academic Integrity and AI, through in-class dialogue and/or providing a Forum in OWL where students can comment and ask questions during the course.

Students are often driven by curiosity when disruptive tools are introduced and if instructors haven’t made their expectations clear about their use, there are greater opportunities for an AI tool to be used in unwanted ways.

You can also talk to your students about the well-documented limitations of ChatGPT, such as:

  • it commonly makes up references and creates false citations
  • it is missing new knowledge on topics that occurred after the AI had been trained, and it can also “make up” facts that are simply not true
  • it can reproduce biases and prejudices contained in its training materials
  • it can be repetitive and unoriginal in its writing style. Instructors who are unaware that content is generated by ChatGPT sometimes score it lower than true original work for this reason

Knowing how fallible the program can be and the extra work it causes for revising should help persuade students not to employ these tools when original work is called for.

Minimize Tasks that Can be Accomplished Using AI Technologies

A useful approach to minimizing the effectiveness of generative AI in assignments is to incorporate the learning process into assessment rather than one final assessed product. Having students hand in outlines and multiple drafts of a product makes it difficult to utilize a program like ChatGPT that specializes in grammatically correct production and does not excel in innovative idea generation. You can ask student to include how and why they came up with their ideas, as well.

Also, by allotting marks throughout the learning process, students can complete smaller tasks in shorter time periods and are less likely to engage in academic integrity misconduct due to a looming high-stakes assessment.

As noted above in “Will Turnitin’s AI Content Detection Tool Conclusively Identify AI-Generated Content in Student Work?”, AI-generated content detection software is currently in its infancy and is not a valid or reliable tool for demonstrating evidence of academic integrity misconduct. This includes the service provided by Western’s Turnitin installation. If you do not want students to use technology such as ChatGPT in your classes, the current best approach remains (as with almost all instances related to academic integrity) to talk to your students, set expectations, and design activities and assessments that discourage their use.

Incorporate ChatGPT/AI into Activities and Assessments

Generative AI can have benefits to teaching and learning. It has been described as a great tool to get writing started, by providing a reasonably coherent body of text on a topic. This can be used for an examination of content organization, research that is missing, as well as allowing the practice of more advanced writing and editing skills.

These tools are also excellent at summarizing and paraphrasing so there can be much work done comparing student production with AI-generated content. These exercises can also focus on language difference as the same content is repurposed for multiple audiences and are effective at evaluating incorrect content generated by the AI or identifying the biases and gaps which have manifested in its use

See the Centre for Teaching and Learning’s April 2023 ChatGPT Teaching and Learning Workshop above for more ideas.

What Technology Do Western Faculty Use to Support Academic Integrity?  

Plagiarism Checking Software (Turnitin)

Turnitin is a plagiarism detection tool that compares student-submitted work to its large collection of published and previously-submitted work. The software generates an originality report for each student submission, indicating how much (%) of the document appears to be plagiarized and includes links to the original materials. Instructors can choose to use Turnitin when setting up assignment submissions in OWL. For instructions on how to use Turnitin at Western, go to the OWL Documentation Site and type “Turnitin” into the search option. Additional resources related to this software can be found on the website.

Scantron Exams – Cheating Analysis

The answer sheets (Scantrons) used for most multiple-choice exams are processed by a program called Scan Exam II, which includes Answer Choice Match Analysis to assist with the investigation of cheating. The number of answer matches between any pair of exam papers can be compared with the expected number of answer matches. The program does not prove cheating took place, but it does alert the instructor to that possibility.


Additional Resources on Academic Integrity

Campus Support Services

  • Western Libraries provides helpful “how to” tutorials on citation styles/referencing and avoiding plagiarism.
  • The Writing Support Centre offers 1-hour writing seminars. The “Referencing Your Paper” presentation specifically focuses on citation and avoiding plagiarism.
  • Students can contact the Office of the Ombudsperson if they have been accused of a scholastic offence and want to speak to a neutral party in a confidential environment. The Office has published an information pamphlet for students and is currently working on a guide to scholastic offences that will help students avoid academic misconducts and explain the appeal process.

Western Academic Integrity (AI) Tutorial for Undergraduate Students

This tutorial is designed to help students understand the meaning of academic integrity and develop the skills necessary to avoiding academic offences. We suggest it be used in combination with discipline-specific academic integrity learning opportunities. Students who successfully complete this tutorial will earn a certificate.

The tutorial covers the following topics:

  • University policy on scholastic offences as outlined in the Academic Handbook
  • Positive strategies students can use to improve their academic efforts
  • Case studies on recognizing plagiarism and acknowledging sources
  • Overview of student support services on campus (e.g., Western Libraries, Student Development Centre, Academic Counselling Offices, The Office of the Ombudsperson)
  • A self-test allowing students to gauge how well they understand academic integrity

Students must log on to OWL and join the Academic Integrity site in order to access the tutorial (OWL > Membership > Joinable Sites > Academic Integrity Tutorial > Join).

Faculty are invited to direct students to complete the 90-minute tutorial in OWL:

The tutorial is designed to increase students' understanding of the key principles of academic integrity and provide strategies to help students avoid academic offences in common scenarios. We suggest it be used in combination with discipline-specific academic integrity learning opportunities. Students who successfully complete this tutorial will earn a certificate.

To include the Academic Integrity Tutorial in your course, share this link to the Academic Integrity Tutorial OWL site with your students.

Western Academic Integrity Module for Graduate Students

All incoming graduate students are required to complete the SGPS Academic Integrity Module in order to progress beyond the first term of their degree. This module is different from the undergraduate Academic Integrity Tutorial and includes useful information on how to appropriately reference graphs and data; cite research papers and credit the work of researchers in collaborative studies. Eligible students can access the module in the Graduate Student Web Services Portal.

External Resources on Academic Integrity

Need inspiration? The following resources offer strategies for promoting student academic integrity. 

Research on Academic Integrity


International Journal for Educational Integrity (IJEI)
Articles in IJEI focus on a variety of topics including plagiarism, cheating, academic integrity, honour codes, teaching and learning, institutional integrity and student motivation.

Journal of Academic Ethics
Articles in this journal broadly explore ethical concerns in research, teaching, administration, and governance.

Noteworthy Articles

Christensen Hughes, Julia M. & McCabe, Donald L. (2006). Academic misconduct within higher education in Canada. The Canadian Journal of Higher Education 36(2), 1-21.

Young, Ryan L., Miller, Graham N. S., & Barnhardt, Cassie L. (2018). From policies to principles: The effects of campus climate on academic integrity, a mixed methods study. Journal of Academic Ethics 16(1), 1–17.


If you need individual support in promoting academic integrity, please contact the CTL.