Academic Integrity

The University of Alberta places a very high value on academic integrity. Our Code of Student Behaviour (COSB) outlines what students are prohibited from doing, provides the rationale for those rules, and possible sanctions for violations. 

As straightforward as the concept of academic integrity might seem, it may carry different meanings for different people, vary from institution to institution, or vary from culture to culture. Students may also not bother to read the COSB; this is a dangerous assumption that can lead to an inadvertent rule violation.

Students are expected to engage in the highest level of honesty in their work. It is possible, however, to violate academic integrity even if you believed you were being honest. The onus is on students to understand the University of Alberta’s expectations regarding academic integrity. Not knowing is not an excuse.

Academic Integrity Videos

What Academic Integrity Looks Like

We all know that academic integrity means not cheating, plagiarizing or engaging in other forms of academic dishonesty. So we know what it’s not, but what is it? 

According to Dr. Bill Taylor, academic integrity involves a system of interconnected rights and responsibilities. Our ability to succeed as students, as teachers, and as an institution depends on every person exercising their rights and living up to their responsibilities. The failure of any of us to do what is required to uphold academic integrity diminishes the opportunity for the rest of us to achieve our goals. 

Academic Integrity is not a passive thing; academic integrity is a practice that requires action:

  • Preparation
    It requires that students, teachers, and TAs all come to class prepared to participate as needed by their role.
  • In Class
    It requires that teachers, TAs, and students take each other seriously and treat each other with respect, including showing up on time, participating and showing enthusiasm for the topic, making an effort to share what they know, and learn what they don’t know.
  • Exams
    It requires that instructors ensure an even playing field during exams and that students write on their own.
  • Assignments
    It requires that instructors devise meaningful assignments to assess student work fairly and students make an honest effort to learn through those assignments, to work alone when required or together when required, and to cite all sources used.

Academic Integrity Quiz

How much do you really know about academic integrity? Put your instincts to the test in this quick quiz:

1. You and a friend stay up all night working on a lab assignment together. It's nearing 2:00 a.m., and you still have to write up your findings. You know it's supposed to be an individual assignment, but due to time constraints you decide to type it up once and, then, cut and paste for your friend's assignment. If you change the wording a bit, is it still academic dishonesty?

  • Answer

    YES

    If your instructor specifies that you are expected to do your own work, then both you and your friend can be charged with Plagiarism (Section 30.3.2(1) of the Code of Student Behavior). If you’re not sure whether or not you are allowed to work in groups, ask.

    Code of Student Behaviour Section 30.3.2(1)
    No Student shall submit the words, ideas, images or data of another person as the Student’s own in any academic writing, essay, thesis, project, assignment, presentation or poster in a course or program of study.

    This definition does not include intentionality; it's plagiarism whether it was intentional or accidental.

2. You let your buddy look over your shoulder during a quiz worth only 10% of your grade. You know your friend could be charged with cheating if she's caught, but could you be charged too?
  • Answer

    YES

    Helping someone to cheat is frowned upon and is definitely a no-no under the Code of Student Behavior. You could be charged and face sanctions ranging from grade reductions or a grade of F in the class to Conduct Probation or Suspension. See Section 30.3.6(5) – Participation in an Offence – in the Code of Student Behavior.

    Code of Student Behaviour Section 30.3.6(5)
    No Student shall counsel or encourage or knowingly aid or assist, directly or indirectly, another person in the commission of any offence under this Code.

3. You quote from Coles' notes in an English essay on Oliver Twist. Since it says exactly what you wanted to say, you put in a citation, not for Coles' notes, but only for the passage quoted from the novel. Is this plagiarism?
  • Answer

    YES

    You are still copying someone else’s ideas without acknowledging the author, even if you were going to say the same thing. Every single time you quote from another source, you must include the citation. See Plagiarism - Section 30.3.2(1) in the Code of Student Behavior.

    Code of Student Behaviour Section 30.3.2(1)
    No Student shall submit the words, ideas, images or data of another person as the Student’s own in any academic writing, essay, thesis, project, assignment, presentation or poster in a course or program of study.

    This definition does not include intentionality; it's plagairism whether it was intentional or accidental.

4. You go to the doctor for an exam deferral, but you decide that the note would be better if it included two exams rather than just the one. You add another day onto the note yourself to ensure that you can defer both exams, just in case. Is this cheating?
  • Answer

    NO – But this is a trick question

    Altering a medical note falls under the category of Misrepresentation of Facts and carries penalties just as strict as the other Inappropriate Academic Behavior Charges. Refer to Section30.3.6(4) in the Code of Student Behaviour – Misrepresentation of Facts.

    Code of Student Behaviour Section 30.3.6(4)

    No Student shall misrepresent pertinent facts to any member of the University community for the purpose of obtaining academic or other advantage. See also 30.3.2(2) b, c, d and e. [Cheating]. 

5. You have stacks of homework to do, and it's all due tomorrow. Your friend offers to do one of your assignments since she has already taken the class and can do the work very quickly. Can either of you be charged with an academic offence?
  • Answer

    YES

    You could be charged with Plagiarism (after all, you are handing someone else’s work in as your own), and your friend could be charged with Participating in an Offence. Both of these charges can carry penalties of up to F8 in the class and a suspension. A notation of 8 stands for Inappropriate Academic Behavior, and it stays on your transcript for 2 years. After that, the “8” is removed, and you are left with just the grade. See Plagiarism (Section 30.3.2(1)) and Participating in an Offence (section 30.3.6(5)) in the Code of Student Behaviour.

    Code of Student Behaviour Section 30.3.6(5)
    No Student shall counsel or encourage or knowingly aid or assist, directly or indirectly, another person in the commission of any offence under this Code.

    Code of Student Behaviour Section 30.3.2(1)
    No Student shall submit the words, ideas, images or data of another person as the Student’s own in any academic writing, essay, thesis, project, assignment, presentation or poster in a course or program of study.

    This definition does not include intentionality; it's plagairism whether it was intentional or accidental.