Rule Out Academic Dishonesty

Of all the mistakes students can make academically, the biggest is the decision to cheat. Whether it involves copying another student's answers, failing to cite sources in a term paper, or fabricating quotes for a journalism class article, academic fraud is a threat to the integrity of a college education.

Colleges impose severe sanctions on those who deliberately misrepresent their academic work. A failing grade in the class is typically the smallest sanction; suspension or expulsion is also a possibility — especially for repeat offenders.

The key to maintaining one's own academic integrity is to respect others. That means citing the source of any ideas or unique information you present in any aspect of your collegiate output. If you have any doubts about whether to cite something, either check with your professor before turning the work in or just cite the source. Remember: It's always better to attribute excessively than minimally or not at all.

Keep these other points in mind:

  • Guard your own work when taking a test. If two exams are turned in with the same wildly incorrect answer to question 6, the professor may place both of you under suspicion.

  • The Internet works both ways. Just as the Internet has made it easier to submit fraudulent papers, it also has made it easier for professors to detect such deceit.

  • Plagiarism is not only cheating, it's theft of intellectual property. If you're tempted to plagiarize, keep in mind that the penalty for being a day late with a paper is far less than what you'll face if you're caught cheating.

Be aware of unintentional plagiarism. This happens when you've taken the notes for your paper from a number of sources and forget that what you wrote in your notes was a quote. When you write your paper, you may end up using the author's words and ideas, thinking they were your own. This is true even if you have paraphrased — that is, restated another person's ideas in your own words. Each thought or idea that isn't your own must be clearly marked in your notes so that when you write your paper, you can give credit to the author whose information you are using.