Academic Integrity

Creating a Culture of Academic Integrity

  • Discuss the University’s Academic Integrity Policy early in the quarter. Define intellectual property and copyright, and clarify the differences between plagiarism, paraphrasing, misuse of sources, and improper referencing. In addition, explain that the implications of plagiarism extend beyond the classroom. It may be helpful to distribute the WWU Libraries' student handout on Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism. 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8
  • Set clear standards for assignments, grading, and citation that will be required of students. Include these standards and expectations on your syllabus. You might even include, or draft your own version of, Bill Taylor's Letter To My Students. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8
  • Encourage and model integrity and ethical behavior in your classroom. This could include citing resources for each lecture, obtaining permission to show videos or distribute handouts, or giving positive reinforcement for students who model this behavior in their work. 2, 3, 8
  • Have students sign an honor code at the beginning of the semester or quarter, and sign an honor code with each exam or paper submitted. Research indicates that when people are reminded of their own morality and ethics, they are less likely to cheat.2, 9
  • Enlist students to help create a culture of academic integrity. By emphasizing the importance and significance of academic integrity and giving students the responsibility to protect academic integrity within the classroom, students can be great allies for you in the classroom. Research suggests that students are more likely to cheat if they see or believe their peers are cheating, and that they often overestimate how many of their peers are cheating, so working to reduce that assumption and developing a shared moral code will reduce the likelihood that students will cheat. 2, 3, 7, 9, 10
  • Design assignments and test questions that require students to explore a topic in depth. Stress that the assignments are opportunities for rigorous learning and inquiry. When possible, change parts of the assignments for each offering of the course to reduce chances of students plagiarizing. 2, 4, 7, 8

Avoiding Cheating and Protecting the Integrity of Exams

  • Set office hours and appointments for students before the exams in order to meet individually with students to help prepare for the test. 1
  • Reinforce the honor code by making the first exam question a statement of commitment to academic honesty. Much like a user agreement, this reminds students of their morality and encourages them to stop and think before they are tempted to cheat. 9
  • Develop questions that are not just meaningful to the course content, but extend to students’ ability to express and defend their judgments and understanding of the course content by using essay and short answer questions. 1, 2, 8
  • Carefully monitor the classroom during the exam by walking around the room and watching for wandering eyes. 1, 2, 5, 7
  • Give clear oral and written instructions to students about what materials can and cannot be used. 2
  • Scramble tests by distributing two versions of a test with different question order and/or varied option order on multiple choice questions, or even with different questions altogether. Use alternate seating so that students who are close enough to see classmates' work won't have the same question order on their own exam. 2, 5, 7
  • Validate students' identity by requiring students to display their ID on their desks during the exam, and mark each student on the attendance sheet and/or to record their student ID # on each exam in order to have their exam grade recorded. 2, 7
  • As often as possible, change the exam questions, ideally from term to term. 2, 3, 7

Avoiding Plagiarism with Writing Assignments

  • Have students brainstorm possible topics for writing assignments early in the term so students have time to research in depth and don’t feel stressed for finding resources.
  • Explain research processes and expectations for resources, and ensure students have equal access to study materials. This includes teaching students how to use valid and reliable resources, both online and in libraries, and teaching students the expected citation standards. Be available for students in order to answer questions. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
  • Ask students to draw on and document a variety of sources, such as interviews, electronic resources, books, etc. 3, 4, 8
  • Collect notes and drafts of student papers throughout the term to track students’ progress. Require students to submit their paper electronically and use an Internet tool such as TurnItIn or, to check for plagiarism. Encourage them to run their drafts through these tools before they submit them to identify their own mistakes and learn from them before grades are at stake.  3, 4, 6, 7, 8
  • Incorporate oral presentations of students papers, in which students discuss the process of writing and developing their paper. 3, 8

What to Do If You Suspect Plagiarism

  • Compile a case by comparing the student’s current work to their work on previous assignments and/or comparing the work against original sources. Online tools like TurnItIn or can be helpful. 3
  • Talk with the student directly to discuss what you noticed. This will help you identify the learning opportunity: is this a student who doesn't understand proper citation expectations, or is this a deliberate case of cheating? a first-time offense or part of a pattern? Understanding the student will clarify an appropriate course of action. 1, 4, 7
  • Report possible cases of plagiarism to appropriate administrators or review boards, and notify the student of the action you have taken. 4


  1. Academic Integrity: A Letter to My Students Bill Taylor, Oakton Community College
  2. Creating a Climate of Academic Integrity: Tips to Prevent Cheating, includes general preventative steps, University of California, Davis
  3. Creating a Culture of Academic IntegrityBridges, published by The Gwenna Moss Teaching & Learning Centre, University of Saskatchewan, January, 2003, Vol. 1 No. 3.
  4. Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism, includes shared responsibilities for faculty, Council of Writing Program Administrators
  5. Parents: Speak with Your Student About Academic Integrity, UNC Greensboro
  6. Plagiarism and Anti-Plagiarism, includes possible countermeasures, Heyward Ehrlich, Rutgers University
  7. Minimizing Academic Dishonesty, Center for Teaching and Learning, University of California, Berkeley
  8. Preventing Academic Dishonesty in Writing: A Guide for Faculty, includes classroom strategies for faculty, Academic Achievement Center, Lawrence Technological University
  9. Our Buggy Moral Code, TED Talk by Dan Ariely, Director of Center for Advanced Hindsight at MIT.
  10. Classroom Ethics 101, Dan Ariely blog post.

Resources at WWU

Plagiarism Learning Tools for Students

Quizzes for Students on Academic Integrity

More Strategies for Promoting Academic Honesty

Also see these related pages in the Teaching Handbook:

WWU Resources: