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Academic Honesty and Avoiding Plagiarism

What is Academic Dishonesty?

Plagiarism is a type of academic dishonesty. In all academic work, students are expected to submit materials that are their own and are to include attribution for any ideas or language that are not their own.

Additional examples of dishonest conduct include, but are not limited to:

  • Cheating including giving and receiving information in examinations.
  • Falsification of data, results or sources.
  • Collusion, such as working with another person when independent work is assigned.
  • Submitting the same paper or report for assignments in more than one course without permission (self-plagiarism).

Example #1: Cheating

Cheating is the most well-known academically dishonest behavior.

But cheating includes more than just copying a neighbor’s answers on an exam or peeking at a cheat sheet or storing answers on your phone. Giving or offering information in examinations is also dishonest.

Turning in someone else’s work as your own is also considered cheating.


Ed Dante (a pseudonym) makes a living writing custom essays that unscrupulous students buy online. You can read his story at The Chronicle of Higher Education. Purchasing someone else’s work and turning it in as your own is cheating.

Example #2: Collusion

Collusion, such as working with another person or persons when independent work is assigned is considered academically dishonesty.

While it is fine to work in a team if your faculty member specifically requires or allows it, be sure to communicate with your faculty about guidelines on permissible collaboration (including how to attribute the contributions of others).


In 2012, 125 Harvard students were investigated for working together on a take-home final exam. The only rule on the exam was not to work together. Almost half of those students were determined to have cheated, and forced to withdraw from school for a year.

Example #3: Falsifying Results & Misrepresenting

Falsifying results in studies or experiments is a serious breach of academic honesty.

Students are sometimes tempted to make up results if their study or experiment does not produce the results they hoped for. But getting caught has major consequences.  

Misrepresenting yourself or your research is, by definition, dishonest.

Misrepresentation might include inflating credentials, claiming that a study proves something that it does not, or leaving out inconvenient and/or contradictory results.


An undergraduate at the University of Kansas claimed to be a researcher and promoted his (unfortunately incorrect) research on how much a Big Mac would cost if the U.S. raised minimum wage. His study was picked up by the Huffington Post, NY Times, and other major news outlets, who then had to publish retractions.

Why Do Students Commit Academically Dishonest Acts?


Pressure is the most common reason students act dishonestly.  Situations include students feeling in danger of failing a course, financial pressure and fear of losing parental approval (Malgwi and Rakovski 14).

Opportunities to cheat also influence students to act dishonestly including friends sharing information, the ease of storing information on devices, and lack of supervision in the classroom (Malgwi and Rakovski 14).

Malgwi, Charles A., and Carter Rakovski. "Behavioral Implications of Evaluating Determinants of Academic Fraud Risk Factors." Journal of Forensic & investigative Accounting, vol. 1, no. 2, 2009, pp. 1-37. (pdf file)