Teaching students about academic integrity

A wordcloud for academic integrityThis page supplements the University’s Unfair Means policy. It focuses on how you can teach your students about academic integrity and support them in avoiding unfair means.

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Key Considerations

  • Students at all levels (UG, PGT and PGR) may be unfamiliar with how to use the work of others to inform their own academic work. Different cultures may understand the relationship between imitation and originality differently. Referencing conventions vary between disciplines. It is therefore important to articulate clearly the University’s expectations about academic integrity.
  • Students need explicit teaching about academic integrity. This should include providing multiple opportunities to practice the skills and engage with feedback on them in the early stages of a programme.
  • While students need to be aware of the consequences of using unfair means, focus on the positive side of developing the skills required to avoid unfair means. This should help to reduce anxiety.

In practice

Teaching students about academic integrity
  • Introduce students to the concept of unfair means and how to avoid it early in their programme. The University has a set of slides which you can use and adapt.
  • In some departments all students have to pass a short test on academic integrity / use of unfair means before starting their first assignment. Others ask students to do a practice essay and provide feedback on this early in the first semester.
  • Provide opportunities, especially during the early stages of a programme, to practice academic writing skills e.g. paraphrasing, summarising, synthesizing, and techniques for introducing and commenting on sources.  For example, see the slides developed by ELTC/MAT.
  • Provide information to students about academic integrity in an easily accessible place so that students can refer to this when working on assignments. This could be in an assessment handbook, for example
  • Ensure that students on dual programmes are aware of differences in referencing conventions between their two disciplines.
  • If you use Turnitin for detecting plagiarism, give students the opportunity to see a sample assignment report. Ask students to discuss possible reasons for any text marked as “unoriginal”. Discuss how the department uses these reports in the assessment process. Give students an opportunity to submit a practice assignment to Turnitin and discuss the report in class.
  • Students often find it useful to see examples of unintentional plagiarism that their peers have made.
  • Talk to students about the risks involved with using Essay Mills (websites that offer to produce assignments for a fee) and Coursework sites (websites where students are encouraged to share course materials such as essays, exam questions, lecture notes)
    Information for students about Coursework sites
    Information for staff about Coursework sites
    Copyright and your teaching
  • Ensure that students have detailed written guidance about each assessment task, including the purpose of the task, how to approach it, what materials they can access during the assessment, and, where appropriate, what might constitute unfair means for that task. This is particularly important for assessment types that students may not have completed before.
Assessment task design

Assessment design itself can support students in practising academic integrity in their work.

  • Ensure there are secure systems in place to collect and return student work.
  • Vary assessment tasks from year to year. Set a different resit task to the original.
  • Provide clear guidance to students on what you expect in terms of collaboration in group work. Ensure students know how to identify what is their own work and what is shared with the group.
  • Choose assessment tasks which don’t lend themselves easily to students using unfair means. Examples include producing an artefact, a reflective task, a presentation, focusing on the process of completing the task as much as the final outcome itself, asking students to relate the topic or data to their own experience or specific context. Ensure that you have a range of assessment types across your programme.
  • Write questions based on a specific context, data set or series of texts.
  • Include checkpoints with longer assignments. For example, students are required to present their initial research findings, discuss the main points of a first draft etc before the final submission. These make it hard for students to use unfair means. It also provides support for the students to see whether their work is progressing in the right direction before final submission.
  • For Blackboard Tests (quizzes), consider;
  1. Setting a time limit for students to complete the test in
  2. Randomising the order questions appear in
  3. Randomising the order of answers within a question
  4. Using a bank of questions
  5. Using calculated questions for mathematical questions so students get different sets of information to work from.

There are a number of University-wide resources that you might want to use for your teaching or to direct individual students to:

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Further information

Links and downloads

Internal links:

External links