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Faculty Development Center

Academic Integrity

Researcher Donald L. McCabe of Rutgers University found that “on most campuses, over 75% of students admit to some cheating. In a 1999 survey of 2,100 students on 21 campuses across the country, about one-third of the participating students admitted to serious test cheating and half admitted to one or more instances of serious cheating on written assignments.” McCabe’s research on high school students discovered similar patterns of academic dishonesty. More information on these surveys is available at the Center for Academic Integrity.

UMBC’s Statement of Values for Student Academic Integrity at UMBC and the Student Academic Conduct Policy may be found at the Provost's Academic Integrity website. Included in the Statement of Values is a paragraph on academic integrity—an example of the kind of explicit announcement that faculty should include on all syllabi.

Informing students about academic standards for scholarship is perhaps most important when assigning written work, especially research papers. Many students know that copying another writer word for word is unacceptable, but are less certain about what specifically constitutes plagiarism when using research materials. We can teach students about the need for citation (e.g., when they paraphrase ideas or ‘borrow’ information) by providing examples and reviewing them; useful examples to use in explaining what constitutes plagiarism can be found at the writing center pages of De Pauw University and Hamilton College or in Davis (below). And as we discuss what constitutes plagiarism, we can teach proper forms of citation at the same time; for concise examples see Dartmouth's Sources website.

Professors can also minimize plagiarism by being careful about the types of assignments that are required. Specific topics or questions linked to course goals and content are better than open-ended topics. Requiring outlines, bibliographies, thesis statements, and drafts over several weeks not only helps deter outright plagiarism, but it discourages the kind of procrastination that often drives students to last minute copying.

In addition to educating students about academic dishonesty, faculty need to confront instances of it when they appear and make certain that students understand the consequences of such behavior. Because many cases of plagiarism now involve borrowings from the web, UMBC has purchased a site license to the plagiarism detection service Turnitin.com which checks submitted papers against all available Internet materials. Once a faculty member registers a class, students can submit their papers directly to the site and a report on the nature of any borrowings will be available to the faculty member within 48 hours. The initial setup time required to use the site for a class is usually 15 to 20 minutes. For more information about the service and about how to get a course established in Turnitin.com, please contact me at lhodges@umbc.edu or x1829.

SafeAssign is a web-based prevention tool available through Blackboard that compares documents submitted by students to a database of existing published articles and papers, in addition to all student papers submitted to the site. Through UMBC Blackboard, students can now submit assignments in any course into SafeAssign's database that are unique to UMBC. You can find more information about SafeAssign here.

The Academic Conduct Committee of UMBC's Faculty Senate has forms for reporting instances of academic misconduct. These can be found in the faculty resources section of the Provost's Academic Integrity web site.

For more strategies on deterring plagiarism see:
Robert Harris, “Anti-Plagiarism Strategies for Research Papers,”
Barbara Gross Davis, “Preventing Academic Dishonesty,” (Chapter 34 in Tools for Teaching, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993)
Rutgers University: http://newark.rutgers.edu/~ehrlich/plagiarism598.html
See also Amy Baldwin’s “Practical Plagiarism Prevention” (The Teaching Professor, May 2001, Vol. 15, no. 5), available at the Faculty Development Center.
Students may be directed to the UMBC library resources page, Avoid Plagiarism.