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Academic Integrity

Supporting Academic Integrity

At the beginning of a semester, students have the best of intentions about their courses. They are not planning to take major shortcuts that involve plagiarism of papers, cheating on exams, or copying homework. By the end of semester, however, some instructors report being discouraged by problems with plagiarism and cheating.

Why are people tempted by academic shortcuts?

Students often take shortcuts in their work like others do because they have competing responsibilities and they are short on time. Some students may lack time management skills. They may be novices with expectations that require them to rapidly develop expertise, but they may not have the required knowledge. Most likely, they fear the challenges of their academic tasks, but they want to be regarded as high performers.

What can instructors do to encourage academic integrity?

Instructors can make relatively small changes in their courses and in their teaching that will help students engage in their academic assignments, manage their time, improve their academic skills, and learn the different disciplinary expectations. The payoffs will be evident in better all-around performance on assignments in addition to reduced plagiarism or cheating.

  • Take the time to teach students how experts in your discipline read, write, and conduct research, or alternatively, what your specific expectations are. Students report that they rarely receive direct instruction in how to cite, paraphrase, and shape arguments that are based on the work of others. If they have received instruction in one discipline, they cannot easily translate their learning to another one.

  • Talk to students about the points in the semester when they will struggle with time management, starting assignments, or lack of knowledge that may interfere with their completing an assignment. Remind students about upcoming assignments and ask students to give brief progress reports to each other in class.

  • Help students to manage their time by creating short assignments as steps to completing major assignments. Even a three-sentence progress report written during class time will help students along, especially if they give these reports to each other for feedback.

  • Give students a specific statement about the ethics of academic work in your disciplines. The example of such a statement on the next page could be amended to include academic principles important for your courses.

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