When writing an essay or completing a final exam, the last thing on some students’ minds is integrity.
As students are getting ready for finals, there are certain risks one could face when incorrectly sourcing information in an essay or making false excuses to push back a test or project deadline.
Academic dishonesty, according to the Texas Tech Office of Student Conduct website, includes any action that can give a student an unfair advantage on an assignment.
Lisa James, unit manager at the Tech Ethics Center, said students may not realize some of the choices they make on assignments are academically dishonest.
“They don’t know what they don’t know,” she said. “Sometimes we get students that come to campus, and they’ve never been told to give credit where credit is due when they’re quoting someone in a paper.”
Regardless of why one committed academic dishonesty, a student may face a variety of consequences.
JaWana Green, managing director of the Tech Office of Student Conduct, said the office educates students about maintaining academic integrity and investigates academic dishonesty that takes place on campus.
“It really depends on what the report is saying,” she said regarding when a student is reported of being academically dishonest in the classroom. “A student ultimately receives what we call a notice of investigation. They’re notified that there may be a policy violation, because students are not responsible before they have the opportunity to tell us their side of the story.”
When a student is being investigated, Green said he or she has multiple opportunities to check submitted documents and share any additional information. The consequences of actually committing academic dishonesty can vary for students.
“It could be anything from reprimands, which is a warning about things, all the way through separation from the university depending on the severity,” Green said. “But there is also an academic penalty that also is associated with a responsible finding.”
Whether it be receiving half credit on an exam one cheated on or receiving a failing grade on that exam, Green said the academic consequences also vary.
Despite the consequences students face after taking part in academic dishonesty, Green said she hopes students can learn from their mistakes.
“It could have been a one-time thing,” she said. “One of our goals is to educate and to try to help prevent any issues from initially coming, but if they do, to prevent them from reoccurring.”
If a student who was academically dishonest is worried about people’s perception of them, Green said campus resources can be beneficial. Especially in the eyes of a future employer, she said resources, such as the Tech University Career Center, can help one carry out conversations about how their academic dishonesty was a mistake they learned to never commit again.
To avoid being academically dishonest in the classroom, students may utilize different methods when completing their assignments.
The Ethics Center is one department on campus James said educates students about how to practice academic integrity and works with other departments on campus to promote this knowledge.
“We offer workshops on how to paraphrase, how to cite correctly, how not to commit plagiarism,” she said. “We provide those workshops and opportunities to keep academic integrity and ethical issues and pertinent topics in the conversation.”
For students at Tech, James said she wants them to achieve their academic goals. Because the Ethics Center works to educate students, faculty and staff about how to avoid academic dishonesty, she said she wants people to continually practice integrity in and out of the classroom.
“I think it’s like anything else. If you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it,” James said. “Practicing good academic integrity is essential for successfully completing courses in your degree program and completing your education.”
Whether it be through the Ethics Center website, TechAnnounce or one’s Tech email, James said students should look for educational opportunities about academic integrity to be cognizant of how to be honest when completing their education.
In addition to the Ethics Center, students may utilize other campus resources to understand the scope of academic integrity.
Kimberly Vardeman, user experience librarian at the Tech University Library, said she was previously the administrator for iThenticate and Turnitin, which are technological solutions to check for plagiarism in students’ work. She said they would compare the texts of papers to a database of other works to see if there were any matches.
“Because I was the administrator for that, I did a lot of workshops for, I would say, mostly faculty and instructors, but students were definitely at some of them,” she said. “I talked about the technology solutions the library can offer, but I also tried to give them some instruction about how to avoid plagiarism.
For students unsure if they are utilizing someone else’s information correctly, Vardeman said she suggests they consult their professor or a librarian to get help on citations.
“Sometimes, it’s just hard to know exactly what to cite,” she said. “It takes a while to learn how to do that correctly, and so when I see things like that, I try to sit down with the students and talk through what should be done instead.”
Marcelo Schmidt, director of assessment, accreditation and data in the Tech College of Education, said Tech administers the McCabe Academic Integrity Survey to determine how students feel about academic integrity.
“There are some areas where students are a lot more relaxed,” he said. “Some of those appear to be the less consequential type of academic integrity.”
Collusion, or working together for projects, making false excuses and plagiarism are forms of academic dishonesty Schmidt said some students feel are not bad.
Regardless of how students perceive these actions, Schmidt said these all are violations of academic integrity.
“Because it’s the last part of the semester, there’s a tendency to be caught up in other activities,” he said. “At the end of the day, what’s making a difference is your academic performance and how you score on those tests.”