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Academic Integrity

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What? and Why? of Academic Integrity

What is academic integrity? Academic integrity means honesty and responsibility in your coursework, scholarship and research.

Why is academic integrity important? In an era when accusations of plagiarism erupt regularly, your reputation of integrity will be priceless. You and your work will be trusted in academia, research and your future career.

As a top-ranked college and New American University, Arizona State University (ASU) must preserve its reputation for excellence and quality. Therefore, any student who fails to meet ASU standards of academic integrity can suffer serious consequences.

Consequences of non-compliance can be significant, including:

  • Reduced or failing grade for an assignment or course
  • An "XE" grade which is usually permanent on the student's official transcript with the notation "failure due to academic dishonesty."
  • Federal granting agencies have barred grant applicants who violated academic integrity standards from receiving grants or sitting on grant panels for up to three years.
  • Expulsion or temporary removal from a major or program of study within an ASU school or college.

Serious violations can result in the revocation of a degree several years after it was granted. The pressure to finish a degree may be intense but it can’t be as hard as picking up the pieces of your life when you are stripped of a degree that you worked hard and long to earn.

Your role

Graduate student

Learn the ASU policy
The ASU Academic Integrity Policy explains student obligations and responsibilities regarding academic integrity. The policy also details the process used when investigating allegations of misconduct.

Ignorance of the policy is no excuse. Even if you unknowingly violate a standard of academic integrity, you are still held responsible.

Don’t get caught up in the blame game—faculty are not able to discuss every nuance of academic integrity in their syllabus or in class. Take the initiative and start the conversation with your faculty about questions you may have.

Know what constitutes an academic integrity violation
Violations of academic integrity include, but are not limited to: cheating, fabrication, tampering, plagiarism or aiding and/or facilitating such activities. At the graduate level, it is expected that students will be familiar with these issues and take personal responsibility in their work. Visit the ASU Academic Integrity Policy webpage for the Definition and Student Obligations to Academic Integrity.

Own your work
The ethics of authorship is a critical issue for graduate students to understand. When does your name go on a shared piece of scholarship? When does your advisor or faculty colleague have the right to put their name on your work? Talk to your department chair or graduate director if you feel bullied into putting a faculty member’s name on your research paper when it is not deserved or appropriate.

If you are concerned about raising eyebrows in your unit, ask your graduate director to host a brown bag session with faculty and graduate students to discuss the ethics of authorship. This will create a shared understanding of appropriate norms.

Use ASU resources

  • Navigate the maze of policies, procedures and issues. Check out the Provost’s Website on Academic Integrity.
  • ASU Libraries hosts a comprehensive website on academic integrity with resources for learning and teaching.

Teaching assistant

As a teaching assistant, your responsibility is to:
educate students on the ASU integrity policy and the expectations in your assignments, class, lab or other ASU settings. Use this guide to help you start a conversation with your class. Your syllabus provides the foundation.
take care with your assignments
Be careful about where you obtain assignments and exams. A cautionary tale: A professor was sanctioned after students in his class found that the test he gave them was lifted from an online test. Learn techniques that make it difficult for students to cheat in the following evaluation instruments:

  • Preventing Plagiarism on in-class Exams (pdf)
  • Preventing Plagiarism on Papers (pdf)
  • Preventing Data Manipulation in the Lab (pdf)

use plagiarism detection software
ASU has plagiarism detection software available that may help you detect cheating on course assignments. For a start-to-finish guide for using Safe Assignment, visit the ASU Help Center.

learn your department and college academic policy
Be prepared before you have to deal with a violation. Talk to your professor or graduate advisor about how violations are handled in your department; At ASU, disputes over academic integrity violations are resolved at the college level. See your college procedures at College Specific Processes.

enforce academic integrity standards
If you ignore suspected violations, you send a message to students that this behavior is acceptable. See the process for handling allegations at Allegations of Academic Dishonesty.

You can also use this checklist as a guide on what to do now.

Professional and scholar

Know the standards of your profession
Each profession and discipline has its own standards of conduct. Part of becoming a member of a profession is learning the standards of behavior expected for the highest level of conduct in your discipline. Discuss the research conduct expectations in your discipline with your advisor and faculty.

  • Have you read the ethical code of conduct for your profession?
  • How long are you required to keep lab records? Data? Notes?
  • Can you Photoshop an image to remove material that is hard to explain?
  • How much can you modify an image to claim it as your own?
  • Does your profession use citations, endnotes, footnotes, program notes, wall credits, or acknowledgements to give credit?
  • What famous violations shaped the code of conduct in your field?
  • What governing body enforces these codes?
  • What issues of academic integrity are controversial in your discipline?
  • What are typical sanctions for violations?
  • In your discipline, what factors determine the order of authorship on papers?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you need to talk to your professors and advisors. Suggest a brown bag seminar on this topic so that your fellow students can learn about these issues along with you.

Learn the appropriate citation style
See the ASU libraries’ comprehensive listing of citation style manuals. This site includes general style manuals for APA, MLA, Chicago and Turabian styles, as well as links to manuals for specific science disciplines.



Cheating involves any form of academic deceit and, with technology changing every day, new methods of dishonesty keep emerging. Refer to the Provost's webpage on Student Obligations to Academic Integrity for a laundry list of situations that constitute academic dishonesty.

Too much co-dependency in academic work can lead to violations of academic integrity. For example you may not:

  • Act as or use a substitute
  • Provide aid or use the aid of others
  • Use the work of others or provide your work to others
  • Sign or have others sign for you
  • Hire someone to do your work

When you share work, you share the sanctions as well.

Misrepresenting your effort, time or work
Overstating or misrepresenting the effort or time spent in a course, lab, internship, externship, clinical activity, field experience or other required activity crosses the line into academic deceit.

Claiming something as yours that is not
This forms the basis of all academic deceit. With the advancement of technology it is easy to find the answers to homework, case problems, images, music, etc., that fulfill academic requirements. You may think you are only using this information to help you figure out your assignment, but if you do not make attribution to the sources you used, you have violated standards.

In creative activities, when does your use of someone’s images, movements or music become a transformative original piece versus a misappropriation and violation of intellectual property? Talk with your faculty if you’re uncertain.

Putting words into the mouths’ of others
Changing or influencing the words, records, letters or grades of others to your benefit is clearly deceit.


Defining plagiarism
Acts of plagiarism can be glaringly obvious or very subtle. Understanding plagiarism, with all of its intricacies and nuances, provides a foundation of knowledge one can use to make sound decisions and avoid getting caught up in a plagiarism scandal—whether intentional or unintentional.

The Council of Writing Program Administrators provides a guide on Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices.

What misdeeds lurk in your academic work
Lapses in one's technique for paraphrasing ideas, quoting information or citing sources can make way for accusations of plagiarism. Make it a point to learn how to integrate the ideas of others and to document the sources of “borrowed” information appropriately. View citation styles.

Avoiding unintentional plagiarism
Keeping track of the deluge of notes and source material can become a mind-boggling undertaking, and mistakes can lead to unintentional plagiarism. Learn about web-based tools such as RefWorks Bibliographic Management Software. As a TA, you can request a RefWorks session for your class or invite a librarian to speak to your class.

Data fabrication and manipulation

How creative can you be in manipulating your data, images or art and still be considered original vs. accused of stealing someone’s work?

Can you delete data or samples that do not fit your hypotheses?
If you delete outliers, you need to follow the standards of your profession. If you do so, indicate it in the methods section. Check a research methods text or ask your professor if you’re uncertain.

An image is worth a thousand words
Does this image represent your data? Don’t over or under-expose images or otherwise alter them to make them support the results you want.

Data fabrication
It seems that every week you read about a scientific study that is retracted because the researcher made up data. Often this comes out after years of experiments in which others have tried to replicate the results but could not. The consequences for these researchers are often very severe.

Making up quotes or interview results
It may seem harmless to sprinkle your paper with quotes from fictional sources to bolster your argument or to interview a few family members to round out your data set, but this clearly violates standards of integrity.

A little too much help from your friends

When is collaboration no longer acceptable?
It may or may not be acceptable to split up the work with other students and then combine it to form the sections of the final report. Ask your professor to be sure.

If a member of your team plagiarizes his/her part of the paper or research, you may be held accountable. Your name is on the final report, and the whole team can suffer the consequences of a faulty team member. (Sadly, this has happened on NSF grant applications and the consequences are severe for all listed on the grant.)

The slippery slope of collaboration
It starts with the best of intentions — you study with your graduate student cohort. Then someone suggests it would just be easier if you split up the readings or divide up the assigned problem sets. Before you realize it, you are turning in work that others have done.

How do you say no to the people you care about?
The toughest challenge you may face is telling your closest friend, future research partner, or potential love interest that you are uncomfortable sharing your work with them. Don’t let personal relationships derail you from achieving your career dreams.

When you can and can’t work with others
This guide defines collaboration and offers some ground rules.

Online course issues

Students and faculty often have different ideas about collaboration versus independent work in online courses.

If your instructor does not explicitly prohibit a behavior, then it is okay?
No. Instructors for online courses often assume that students know what behaviors violate academic integrity and constitute independent work. Assume that most behaviors banned in a classroom situation would also be banned for an online course. When in doubt, contact the instructor with your questions.

Open book? Only if the instructor says it is okay. Sharing and exchanging quiz or final exam answers? Not allowed. Collaboration with others? Ask the instructor if this is fair game.

Two-headed students
If you were in a classroom, you wouldn’t be sitting side-by-side and working on assignments, so this is not acceptable for an online course either. Similarly, you could not use a cell phone while taking an in-class exam, so this would be unacceptable in an online class as well.

Taking an online exam for another student
You “aced” the course in person and your work colleague wants you to take the online exam for him. He helps you out on a lot of work projects, and besides, he knows the material, but is just too busy to take the exam. Do not do it. This is a clear violation of ASU policy.

Using others’ ideas as your own discussion board comments
Posing the instructors’ questions to your friends may make for scintillating conversation, but using their remarks as your own on an online discussion board violates standards of independent work. Will you get caught? Maybe not, but you are shortchanging your ability to learn to think critically.

Stealing from yourself – self-plagiarism

Quoting words or borrowing ideas without reference to the author is a problem, even if you happen to be the author.

Same story – different outlets
Can you:

  • submit the same paper for different classes?
  • use sections of your previous work for a comp exam answer?
  • expand on your master’s thesis for your dissertation?
  • submit the same research article to different journals?

No to all of the above. Learn more about the complicated issue of self-plagiarism. Talk to your faculty about what this means in your profession.

Recycling is not always good
Not when it comes to your own words. Many researchers use the same literature, research methods or analyses across studies and find it time consuming to write new versions of these sections. Yet blind journal reviewers or electronic cross-checking may indicate you are plagiarizing. Take the time to rephrase and remember you need to cite yourself.

Avoid salami-slicing
Or publishing multiple studies from the same data set. You may need to reduce a complex set of distinct hypotheses into separate papers. If so, let the readers know you did this. If the slices can be combined to make a whole, then it is better to go with the whole salami. To learn more about the nuances of “salami-slicing” in your discipline just pop this term into Google scholar and it will open your eyes.

Shed light on the shadows of self-plagiarism
Learn more about this grey area. Two good sources are:

  1. Bretag, T. & Mahmud, S. (2009). Self-Plagiarism or Appropriate Textual Re-use? Journal of Academic Ethics, 7:193–205
  2. Scanlon, P. M. (2007). Song From Myself: An Anatomy of Self-Plagiarism. vol. II. Ann Arbor, MI: Scholarly Publishing Office, University of Michigan Library retrieved July 2010


Website resources

  1. ASU Libraries, Citation Styles guide and Academic Integrity and Plagarism resources
  2. Office of Research Integrity, Avoiding plagiarism, self-plagiarism and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing.
  3. The Visual Communication Guy, Did I Plagiarize?
  4. Ethics at ASU: Ethics is...The Sun Devil Way 


  1. Academic Integrity Tutorial, York University (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  2. All About Plagiarism, University of Texas Libraries
  3. ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism ( describes plagiarism from a journalist’s perspective.
  4. Plagiarism 101: How to Write Term Papers Without Being Sucked into the Black Hole, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York
  5. The Plagiarism Court: You Be the Judge, Fairfield University (Fairfield, CT)
  6. Plagiarism Tutorial, University of North Carolina
  7. Plagiarism Tutorial, Trinity College, Duke University (Durham, NC)
  8. Understanding Plagiarism (, Indiana University Bloomington
  9. What is Plagiarism?, Rutgers University Libraries (Camden, NJ)
  10. You Quote It, You Note It!, Vaughan Memorial Library, Acadia University (Nova Scotia, Canada)