Academic integrity

Are you a professor or member of the teaching team interested in learning more about academic integrity at the University of Ottawa? Then this page is for you! Read on to find out what academic integrity is, why it’s so important, what causes it, how to incorporate it into your courses, and many other useful tips.

What is academic integrity?

Academic integrity is a fundamental principle upon which research and higher education institutions are built. It provides both a moral code of conduct and credibility to the various members of the academic community and a framework for learning, research and teaching activities that ensures that they are taken seriously and conducted with honesty, transparency, respect, and authenticity.

A professor hands back assignments to students.]

In terms of teaching

Academic integrity allows faculty, teaching staff, and TAs to prevent academic fraud and misconduct, thereby promoting a fair and equitable evaluation of each student’s work. By upholding and communicating the importance of academic integrity, instructors can provide tailored feedback to meet the specific needs of each student and offer the necessary support for academic success.

A student in the library is researching information in a book.]

In terms of research

Academic integrity is also paramount, committing students and researchers to authentic work. Trust is established in a work, an author, and our university community through adherence to the code of conduct for academic integrity and its promotion.

What are the causes of academic misconduct?

There are many reasons for academic misconduct! Take a few minutes to discover the main factors that can influence student academic misconduct and the potential causes of these behaviours. As you learn about these factors and causes, consider how you might create policies, activities, or assessments that can help reduce academic misconduct in your courses.

References
This list of reasons for academic misconduct was created and synthesized from research by Brimble (2016), Choo and Tan (2008), Park (2010), Eaton (2019), and the Taylor Institute at the University of Calgary.

How do you address academic integrity in your courses?

To create a culture of honesty and responsibility, it is necessary to educate your students about academic integrity and reflect on the importance you attribute to it in your courses. Starting right at the course design stage, academic integrity can influence all your decisions, including how you structure your course, organize your lessons, and how you select and then design your evaluations (both formative and summative).

A student filling out an online quiz on their laptop.

Evaluation FOR learning

An evaluation is considered “formative” when the mark, grade or result of the assessment does not contribute towards the student’s final grade or success within the course. Formative assessments are used to informally support, improve, and verify student learning by enabling students to apply what they are learning, practice before a summative evaluation, and receive feedback to help them improve.

Students writing an exam in a classroom.

Evaluation OF learning

Summative evaluations, marked by a professor or a teaching team member, are assigned a grade, score or result that will influence the student’s overall success in the course. Summative tasks are used to evaluate what students have learned.

Addressing academic integrity in 5 steps

This is the time to look at your course holistically before you start putting it all together to examine the relevance and alignment of its components (to learn more about alignment, keep reading).

Action item

Ensure there is a clear link between the course's intended learning outcomes, summative evaluations, and formative learning activities (constructive alignment).

Tip

Structure your course to provide multiple opportunities for students to practice their learning. When students have the opportunity to gain confidence in their knowledge, skills and abilities before a summative assessment, they are less likely to cheat.

This is the time to actively plan your course by selecting the assessments students will complete throughout the term.

Action item

Choose assessments for the course while considering the factors surrounding the assigned work (time allotted to complete the assignment, weight of the assessment, number of competing assessments, etc.). These factors greatly influence the likelihood of cheating on an evaluation. Whenever possible, consider favouring assessment tasks that:

  • are completed in class
  • are personalized and unique (to the student and/or the course)
  • include an oral component or interview
  • involve reflection on a personal or practical experience

Tip

Consider incorporating one of the following types of assessments into your course. Research suggests that these are less likely to result in academic misconduct:

  • In-class exam
  • Critique/Commentary
  • Journal entry/Logbook
  • Group work
  • Case study
  • Poster fair
  • Annotated bibliography
  • Concept map
  • Discussion (forum)
  • Oral presentation
  • Debate
  • Letter/Opinion piece
  • Producing a resource (infographic, video, podcast, brochure, etc.)
  • Grant application
  • Memo (policy/practice)

This is the time to concretely develop the assessment tasks you will use to measure students’ learning.

Action items

Create assessments that target higher-order thinking skills (i.e., application, analysis, evaluation, and creation skills), making sure to pay attention to the design of your questions. Avoid misleading or trick questions. Ask questions that require answers not easily generated by an artificial intelligence tool! In addition to being clear, aim for questions that are creative and personalized to the course.

Tips

Foster students’ self-motivation (a factor that reduces academic misconduct!). To do this:

  • Design assessments that offer students choices in topics and/or work format

  • Include assessment questions that ask students to connect to their interests and personal experiences

  • Incorporate analogies and multimedia elements into your exam questions – these add specificity to your exams (making it harder to cheat)!

 

This is the time to initiate discussions about academic integrity with your students, clarify the objectives and expectations of the assessment task, and explain how to complete the assignment.

Action items

Discuss academic integrity with your students in light of the assessment task they will be completing. Go over the process to complete the work and what they are permitted to use:

  • How should they indicate when they paraphrase? How do you want them to incorporate citations?

  • What websites, technology, and search engines can they access?

Clarify expectations and remind them of the importance of academic integrity in their discipline and professional career.

Tips

Consider involving students in the evaluation process itself. This empowers them and cultivates a desire for honesty: a winning strategy for reducing the likelihood of academic misconduct! Among other things, you could:

  • Establish an academic integrity agreement with students that they can then validate and sign

  • Co-construct an assessment rubric or brainstorm the important criteria with students to clarify what is allowed in the assignment and specify all of its components

  • Explain the value of the evaluation task to be performed, the competencies and skills it seeks to develop, and the importance of being able to perform such work with integrity within one’s field of study and future employment.

 

This is the time to implement your assessment activities and engage students in their tasks.

Action items

Present the assessment to the students and then make yourself available. Research shows that when faculty (professors, teaching assistants, etc.) remain available during an assessment and in the weeks leading up to an assignment, there is less likelihood of cheating and academic misconduct. To implement monitoring or plagiarism detection technologies in assessments, be sure to also browse the Academic Integrity page (Ouriginal and Respondus).

Tip

On the day of the assessment, give final reminders to students. Clarify final details and focus on the principle of academic integrity one last time, then wish them luck: it’s their turn to work!

Think you’ve detected academic misconduct? What should you do?

See the Procedures section of the Academic Integrity and Academic Misconduct page of the University of Ottawa for the protocols to follow.

So what does academic integrity mean?

Academic integrity means upholding the values of honesty and transparency in academic work, which includes learning, research and teaching activities. Academic integrity is a moral and ethical code of conduct that lies at the heart of the university community.

A professor communicates the importance of academic integrity to his students.

From the faculty and teaching staff perspective

Academic integrity is a set of core values (honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage [International Centre for Academic Integrity, 2021]) that should be communicated to students regarding the academic work and activities conducted in courses. Sharing the importance of academic integrity not only supports the creation of a conscientious learning environment, it also helps to ensure that the students enrolled in your courses are the real authors of their work, that they have provided references, that they have worked ethically as a group, and that they have produced authentic and original work.

A student in class takes notes on her laptop.

From the student perspective

Academic integrity acts as a framework of action that outlines the behaviours and rules that must be followed in order to conduct student coursework, research, and academic activities honestly. More concretely, this may mean following specific guidelines for the use of citations and references, adhering to standards for the use and reuse of sources, or following rules for collaborative work with peers.

Want to explore further?

The following resources are divided into categories to help you focus in on what you would like to explore in more detail.

Man wearing a headset and using his laptop to talk to someone virtually

Do you need additional support?

If you would like more information or an opportunity to discuss how academic integrity applies to your courses and teaching, request a consultation with us! We will answer your questions and offer suggestions specific to your course and context.
Request a consultation

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