In the Classroom

By agreeing to teach at Saint Mary's College, all facutly agree to uphold the academic honor code, an institutional policy.   

Be an ethical role model!                     

  • Talk about the academic honor code in conjunction with every major assignment.
    Write a reference to the academic honor code into your assignment sheet, or at the top of every test/exam.
    Consider asking students to write a statement on their papers, tests, labwork, etc., that says "In preparing this work, I have neither given nor received inappropriate aid.
    Reiterate the importance of integrity throughout the term. 
  • Provide clear explanations of plagiarism, proper citation, and appropriate collaboration.
    A wide range of schools have excellent sites that explain plagiarism and proper paraphrasing in great detail.
    Require citations in every paper, even when the content is focused on only 1 reading. Teach about proper forms of citation in every course.
  • Specify what level of collaboration/cooperation (both in and out of class) is appropriate for each assignment.
  • Work a reading or unit about integrity into your syllabus.
  • Attend public events held by the Academic Honor Council, and encourage students to attend.
  • When you find a violation of the Academic Honor Code, follow the procedure. (See Reporting Process.)
  • Model appropriate behaviors.
    Cite sources in your own lectures and papers.
    Demonstrate a commitment to integrity.

Syllabus language example:  

  • SMC is an honor code institution that expects students to do their own work without seeking inappropriate aid in preparing for exams or assignments. This course operates under the premises of the academic honor code, including the expectation that you will work to uphold high standards of integrity.  I am required to report any violations of this code to the Academic Honor Council.   I am available to discuss issues of academic integrity and any questions you might have about the relationship between the policy and this course. To understand the academic honor code in full, please see the most recent Student Handbook.

How can I prevent academic dishonesty? 

  • Is cheating fair to the students who don't cheat?
  • How has it felt when others have cheated off of you?
  • Is cheating a problem is our larger society? Should we be concerned about it?
  • How would you feel if you cheated and it appeared on the front page of the Collegian? How about if your mother found out?
  • What if 80% of the class regularly cheated on assignments? What would it feel like to be in that class?
  • Have you ever noticed that someone was looking at your answers during an exam? Did you cover them up? Why did you care?
  • In the outside world, how do you gain the trust of another person? What happens if you betray it?
  • What if I got lazy at the end of the semester and decided to make up your grades rather than calculate them accurately? How would you feel?
  • Should I care about cheating going on in my class? Why?
  • How does cheating affect the people who don't do it?

Emphasize the importance of striving to produce original thought.

  • Talk about the differences between high school and college-level work (transition from memorization and regurgitation to development of independent ideas).
    Stress the value and beauty of each individual's "voice."

Limit students' opportunities to be dishonest.
Narrow assignments (for example: give 5 choices for paper topics, all of which extend discussions that began in this specific class).
Require drafts of papers, programs, etc., so that you can observe the development of the student's thinking.
Change tests regularly. Use different questions in different sections of the course.

How can I tell if a paper is plagiarized?

"Listen" for a change in voice:

  • Shifts from first to third person
  • Shifts in vocabulary/style
  • Use of anachronistic phrases
  • Use of high level academic vocabulary not discussed in class
  • Use of foreign or archaic terms not introduced in class
  • Watch for multiple shifts in verb tense.
  • Note ideas that were never addressed in class.
  • Assess whether the vocabulary and sentence structure seem typical of the student.
  • Be sure that the version/translation of the work matches the one used in class.

Use intervention strategies:

  • Enter suspicious passages into a search engine such as Google, Lycos, or Yahoo.
  • Post suspicious passages to a department or program email list.
  • Ask the student.

How do I talk to a student with a suspicious paper/assignment?

What do I say to the student initially?

  • If you find the source from which the work was taken, say: "I found this on the internet [or in the library, or in our text, etc.] and it matches the content of your paper. What happened?"
  • When you can't find the original source, say: "I found your work to be very impressive, but atypical. I'd like to ask you a few questions about some of the words and ideas in it."
  • Show the student the text of the academic honor code that directly relates to the matter and say: "Our academic honor code specifies that ______ is a violation of the policy. I think that your work is an example of this violation. Explain to me what happened."

What will the student say in response?

  • "I don't know what happened."
  • "I didn't do it."
  • "It was an accident."
  • "I didn't know that was a violation."
  • "I'm under a lot of pressure."
  • "This class is not in my major."
  • "I made a mistake."
  • "I'm really sorry."

How should I respond to them?

  • Maintain the policy. Say: "I support our academic honor code, and as a member of this community, you have agreed to do the same. In this work, you have violated that agreement."
  • Reiterate your commitment to integrity. Say: "I know that it is difficult to write papers. I struggle too, when I write. Overcoming those obstacles is an important part of the college level experience."
  • Use silence. Often, they will speak with sincerity when given the opportunity.
  • Tell them that you are hurt. Say: "It actually made me sad when I realized that this wasn't your work. I know that you are capable of doing your own work; that's why the college admitted you in the first place. So I am sad that you have chosen not to do what you are capable of doing. I am also hurt that you chose my class as the place to make this choice."
  • Explain the procedure.
    If the student admits the violation, say: "I need to contact the Academic Honor Council, and you and I will meet with one of their members to resolve this situation."
    If the student denies the violation and you retain your suspicion, say: "I am not convinced that this is your own work. It is my obligation to contact the Academic Honor Council and ask them to review this matter."
  • Remind them why integrity is important. Say, "The decisions that you make have consequences. I can't give you credit for work that you didn't do. This is a time for you to stop and reflect on your decisions, and to ask yourself what your decisions say about your character."
  • Some useful metaphors:
    • "Your writing is like your fingerprint, your voice, or your face; it must be unique to you."
    • "You wouldn't send someone to the gym to lift weights for you; this is the academic equivalent of that."
    • "I can't let you steal someone's words any more than I would let you steal someone's money; words and ideas have special value in the academic world — even yours, when you have struggled to create them."