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.

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.”

Policies

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 Resources

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.

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 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 Turnitin.com 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. 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).

Students work through the tutorial sequentially using the navigation menu on the left side of the page. In several places, they will be directed to a new page in a new window. After reading the information, close the window to return to the tutorial. At the end of the tutorial, students will be invited to take a self-test. When all of the questions are answered correctly, students will have completed the Academic Integrity Tutorial successfully. Most people find that it is faster to review the information before taking the quiz than it is to try to pass the quiz and then review the sections they did not know.

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

Journals

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. http://journals.sfu.ca/cjhe/index.php/cjhe/article/view/183537/

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. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10805-017-9297-7


Questions?

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