UNCP Faculty Corner

Academic Dishonesty

This is a discussion of academic honesty and dishonesty.

It has been reported that the incidence of academic dishonesty among college students is rising.  Results from a national survey of high school students appear to show academic dishonesty high among them.

What constitutes academic dishonesty?  How can we incorporate more discussion of it in our courses, particularly among freshmen and sophomores?


  1. Thanks for the useful information, Anita and Steve. I agree that education regarding plagiarism is key for all parties. In addition to lessening the number of cases that are brought to the CJB, better education may lead to more consistent, defensible decisions in the cases that are heard by the CJB.

    I know if I brought what I thought was an unequivocal plagiarism case to the CJB, and the student was found “not guilty,” I would probably want to be able to appeal. I am sure I would want to if I had heard what I considered flawed reasoning espoused by CBJ members during the hearing. (e.g., “Yes, clearly he copied that journal literature review article verbatim without attribution; and yes, he submitted it as his own final paper for 40% of his course grade. But he said he must not have been paying attention when you talked about plagiarism in your 3000-level psychology course. He also said he lost his course syllabus, the syllabus you’ve shown us presented information about plagiarism. Can you prove to us, Dr. Denny, that this student was paying attention when you talked about plagiarism in class and can you prove he didn’t lose his syllabus?”) Even though I would want to be able to appeal a “not guilty” verdict that appeared to be based on that sort of inane, “enabling,” reasoning (reasoning not too dissimilar from what I did face in a hearing years ago), I’m not sure I ought to be able to appeal. Although I don’t have any legal training, it seems to me that faculty members who bring academic dishonesty charges to the CJB are in a position analogous to “the State” in criminal matters. Typically, isn’t the state given only one bite at the apple? If so, a policy change to allow us to retry students on appeal could violate their due process rights.

    It seems a relevant issue here is oversight of the CJB. Rather than putting students in situations of “double jeopardy,” we could develop a policy that would allow a faculty member to request review of a CJB decision by some third party, perhaps by the Campus Appeal Board. (The student’s name would be redacted from the record reviewed.) Should a particular CJB member be found to have ignored relevant aspects of the Academic Honor Code in the case, although there would be no ramifications for the student who had been found not guilty, the CJB member could be removed from the CJB, just as judges can be removed from the bench. (Or at least the person could be warned officially to stop it!) This would, of course, require that detailed records be kept of the actions of the individual CJB members in each case heard, as well as the need for some universal general understanding of the Code/rules (which isn’t a bad idea anyway.) I understand the need to protect a charged student’s information and identity, and I understand that CJB members have a difficult job sometimes, but excessive secrecy regarding CJB deliberations and complete secrecy regarding the verdicts reached by individual CJB members may lead to abuses, particularly when only one party (the student) has the right of appeal.

    Comment by Libby Denny — February 6, 2009 @ 10:21 am

  2. The Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics published a special issue on academic honesty. It can be found at http://www.socialworker.com/jswve/content/blogcategory/17/55/. Patricia Ann Brock has devoted much of her academic career to the study of academic honesty. Her article will prove to be helpful for UNCP faculty.

    At http://www.socialworker.com/jswve/content/view/33/44/. you’ll discover a two descriptions of cheating incidents at UNCP.


    Comment by Steve Marson — February 6, 2009 @ 8:13 am

  3. I’m pasting in below a useful comment from the WPA listserv (Council of Writing Program Administrators) giving the wording used by U of the Pacific to help students understand various “good practices” in the academy:

    OK, having checked with my colleagues, anyone wishing to use our outline of
    academic practices is free to do so; it can be credited as shown. Our
    current web postings of it are on Blackboard and hence not publicly
    available, but we are planning to create a multimedia tutorial based on it
    for our library web site. I’ll pass that link along when available; it’ll be
    months yet. If you use it, we’d appreciate a note so we can get a sense of
    its dissemination.


    Paul Turpin, Ph.D.
    — – — — — – — — — – — — — – — — — – — — — – — — —
    Assistant Professor, Department of Communication
    Senior Fellow, The Jacoby Center for Public Service & Civic Leadership
    University of the Pacific, 3601 Pacific Ave., Stockton CA 95211
    209-946-2507 (office/voicemail) 209-946-2694 (fax)
    Principles of academic integrity from PacSem 2008, the first-year seminar of
    University of the Pacific:

    Academic Practices

    Academic work is devoted to pursuing, cultivating, preserving, and
    transmitting knowledge; it is similar to a very extensive and systematic
    conversation. Academic integrity consists of the virtues that support and
    nourish the conversation: accuracy, honesty, transparency, openness to
    questioning, willingness to communicate, and similar virtues. Violations of
    academic integrity thwart the purposes of academic work. All professions
    rely on these virtues and expect them of their members.

    Plagiarism consists of representing someone else’s words or ideas as your
    own, whether deliberately or inadvertently. It can take a variety of forms,
    and they all violate the norms of academic integrity, as do other actions
    like turning in the same paper for two different classes or cheating on
    exams. Avoiding plagiarism and maintaining academic integrity is
    accomplished by a set of good practices that begin with reading and go all
    the way through accurate referencing in bibliographies.

    * *

    *The good practice of reading* means taking notes (writing in book, etc.).

    *The good practice of attribution* means always making clear whose voice or
    idea is being presented.

    *The good practice of paraphrasing* means to transform an idea into new
    phrasing, and nearly always means to digest and condense it for the purpose
    of connecting it with other ideas.

    *The good practice of quotation* means both accuracy of form (including
    quotation marks) and aptness of selection.

    *The good practice of citation* means clearly locating cited materials in
    their original sources.

    *The good practice of accurate bibliographies *means clearly identifying the
    information needed for others to find the original sources.

    Comment by Anita R. Guynn — February 5, 2009 @ 9:30 pm

  4. I think we need to look again at the list of recommendations produced by the ad hoc taskforce on plagiarism; they include revisions to the Code and more consistent, extensive education for students.

    The only recommendation which has been implemented, to my knowledge, is the purchase of TurnitIn, which emphasizes the “gotcha” aspect of intellectual honesty rather than the “teachable moment” aspect. Students need to understand how and why academics (and other serous writers) use sources, and they need repeated opportunities to practice reading, thinking through, paraphrasing, and responding to others’ ideas. The QEP will provide a framework for such repeated practice.

    As Libby’s comment also points out, I think we as faculty also need a clear agreement about what constitutes fair (and unfair) use and a commitment to handle cases consistently. I have encountered too many cases where a student has privately “negotiated away” a charge of plagiarism.

    Comment by Anita R. Guynn — February 4, 2009 @ 10:21 am

  5. The report of the Plagiarism Committee in 2005 (http://www.uncp.edu/senate/fs/agendas/2004-05/3.2.05.pdf) recommended that the language regarding attitude and intent in the definition of plagiarism be struck from the Academic Honor Code. Although this recommendation was endorsed unanimously by the Senate, no change was made in the Code. Does anyone know why?

    In rereading the Code, I also noticed that all of the other violations (cheating, abuse of materials, fabrication/falsification, and complicity) are defined and specific examples of prohibited behaviors are supplied. The plagiarism section provides only a definition(one that includes intent and attitude as necessary components) and does not supply examples. Instead of providing examples of plagiarism, advice for avoiding it is provided. Although the desire to provide educational direction is laudable, I am not sure this kind of information belongs in the actual Academic Honor Code. One danger is that the advice given in the Code is so brief as to possibly mislead uninformed students. For example, if Source A states, Jack quickly ran up the steep hill after he picked up the large heavy pail, and Student B writes, After he picked up the large heavy pail, Jack quickly ran up the steep hill, as long as Student B acknowledges the existence of Source A in some way in his/her paper, this probably would not be considered plagiarism according to the meager advice provided in the Code. I am not sure most faculty members would agree, especially in an instance where an entire student paper consists of a patchwork of verbatim material that has been rearranged and presented without any quotation marks. In my own field (psychology), I’m fairly certain Student B’s report of Jack’s activities would not be considered acceptable paraphrasing.

    Although a search of the UNCP web reveals that many individual faculty address plagiarism in their course syllabi, perhaps we also should provide more extensive university-wide educational materials for students versus each of us attacking the problem on an individual basis. As the Provost pointed out, a collective response is likely to be more effective than multiple individual efforts. And as Susan Cannata said yesterday, given that our QEP involves writing, this would be a perfect time to address this issue at the institutional level.

    Here is a sample link from NCSU that I have given to my students. Although this source is tied to APA style, many of the links within it are not.


    Comment by Libby Denny — January 24, 2009 @ 9:24 am

  6. Of particular concern to me is the fact that given the current policies which govern the adjudication of allegations of violation of the University’s Honor Code, there is no opportunity for faculty to appeal the decision of the Campus Judicial Board. Should a student not be satisfied with the outcome of the CJB’s decision, they have appeal rights. Should we consider policy revisions?

    Comment by Charley Harrington — January 23, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

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