Best Practices in the Classroom

Some of your questions may be answered below - please feel free to contact us with additional questions.

What can graduate faculty do to support the academic honor code?

  • Discuss the special significance of integrity in academic communities.
  • Talk about the graduate and professional academic honor code on the first day of every class, and write in into your syllabus.  Sample paragraph:
  • 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".
  • Talk about the academic honor code in conjunction with every major assignment.Provide clear explanations of plagiarism, proper citation, and appropriate collaboration. 
  • Require citations in every paper, even when the content is focused on only 1 reading. 
  • Lead by example, use 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 Graduate and Professional Academic Honor Council, and encourage students to attend.
  • When you find a violation of the Academic Honor Code, follow the procedure. (see Reporting Academic Dishonesty)
  • Model appropriate behaviors.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to integrity.
  • Cite sources in your own lectures and papers.

How can faculty prevent academic dishonesty?

  •  See "What can faculty do to support the academic honor code?"
  • Put the issue in the foreground.
  • Emphasize the importance of striving to produce original thought.
  • Stress the value and beauty of each individual's "voice."
  • Talk about the differences between high school and college-level work (transition from memorization and regurgitation to development of independent ideas).
  • Limit students' opportunities to be dishonest.
  • Change tests regularly. Use different questions in different sections of the course.
  • Require drafts of papers, programs, etc., so that you can observe the development of the student's thinking.
  • Narrow assignments (for example: give 5 choices for paper topics, all of which extend discussions that began in this specific class).


How can I tell if a paper is plagiarized?

  • "Listen" for a change in voice
  • 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?

When confronting 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 the student might 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 you can respond to them:

  • 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."
  • Maintain the policy.
  • 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."