Academic integrity

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Academic integrity is the moral code or ethical policy of academia. This includes values such as avoidance of cheating or plagiarism; maintenance of academic standards; honesty and rigor in research and academic publishing.[1]

Historical evolution[edit]

During the late 18th century, academic integrity tightly correlated to the southern honor code. This was monitored mainly by the students and surrounding culture of the time. The southern honor code focused on duty, pride, power, and self-esteem.[2] Any act promoting the up rising or building of any of these within an individual was the goal. Thus, academic integrity was tied solely to the status and appearance of up standing character of the individual. Any acts of academic dishonesty performed to maintain their good name was seen as a necessary means to an end.

It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century when the goals of the university changed that the concept of academic integrity changed. Professors of this era were required to teach and produce original research. The pressure to acquire tenure and publish added extra stress to their jobs, though acts of academic dishonesty were viewed as acts of follies. Still, the southern honor code concept of academic integrity was evolving into a more contemporary concept. Academic integrity was now beginning to replace honor of the individual honor to the university as an institution.[2] Such an evolution was important to promote unity throughout the academic institution and encourage students to hold each other accountable for dishonest acts. It also allowed the students to feel empowered through the self-monitoring of each other.

As the importance of original research grew among faculty members the questioning of research integrity grew as well. With so much pressure linked to their professional status professor were under intense scrutiny by the surrounding society. This inevitably led to the separating academic integrity ideals for student and faculty.[2] Because of each groups different goal orientations it no longer made sense to hold them to the same standards. By 1970 most schools established honor codes for their student body and faculty members.

In today’s contemporary world there are several factors that reshape the notion of academic integrity. Technology is the most predominant factor. Its influence on the educational system is twofold. It has greatly expanded the traditional views of teaching and learning while challenging them. Technology’s largest contribution to society has been its ability to make large amounts of information available to millions of people simultaneously. Students growing up during and after this phenomenon then have a skewed perception of what ownership of information may entail. Previous generations were forced to seek out direct sources of material in order to obtain that material. Today however, a student can type in any keyword into an online search engine and pull up hundreds of sources with different degrees of relativity and possibly no stated authorship.

Thus, technology has changed the way information is viewed from an entity created by a single individual to more of a communal property. This in turn places pressures on the academic institution to acknowledge this “collective intelligence” and reassess how it is used in contemporary education. Therefore, academic integrity is now less an individual character assessment and more of a social phenomenon.[3]

The problem of academic integrity is discussed at international conferences, such as the 3rd World Conference on Research Integrity, and various tools for prevention of scientific misconduct have been suggested (e.g. Montreal Statement on Research Integrity in Cross-Boundary Research Collaborations and a publication ethics checklist for routine use during manuscript submission to a journal). The negative impact on integrity of university administrations trying to maximize research income has also been pointed out.[4]

Academic Integrity’s Impact: the University[edit]

Academic integrity is practiced in the majority of educational institutions, it is noted in mission statements and represented in honor codes, but it is also being taught in ethics classes and being noted in syllabuses. Many universities have sections on their websites devoted to academic integrity which define what the term means to their specific institution.

Universities have moved toward an inclusive approach to inspiring academic integrity, by creating Student Honor Councils [5] as well as taking a more active role in making students aware of the consequences for academic dishonesty.

“Promoting student moral development requires affirming shared values. More colleges are starting to focus on one value that goes to the heart of the academic enterprise: a commitment to honesty in the pursuit of truth.” Gary Pavela Director of Judicial Programs and Student Ethical Development, University of Maryland.

To help with understanding of a university’s level of academic integrity, Clemson University’s International Center for Academic Integrity at Rutland Institute for Ethics has developed a Campus Assessment Guide which includes information for universities to survey their own current academic integrity.

Apart from the Assessment Guide, the Computer Science and Engineering Department of The Chinese University of Hong Kong has invented a plagiarism detection software system named as VeriGuide. This system aims at upholding the academic honesty levels of various academic institutions (such as: universities, community colleges). Through its website, the system provides a platform for students and educators to manage and submit academic works (i.e. student assignments). The system also provides as a function of analyzing the readability of academic works and serve as an assignment collection system and database.

Despite these advances, academic dishonesty still plagues the university and in the 1990s the academic dishonesty rates were as bad, and in some cases worse, than they were in the 1960s.[6] The acknowledgement of this ethics crisis is inspiring many universities to focus more on promoting common values of academic integrity.

Academic Integrity Issues[edit]

There are quite a few problems surrounding academic integrity with regard to the modern world. The internet has provided a quick, relatively easy way to cheat — a temptation that did not exist in such a blatant form until quite recently. Furthermore, the definition of what constitutes cheating or plagiarism has become blurred. Students have become less likely to cite their sources simply because of the sheer variety of sources that they may use and the failure of some sources to attribute authorship. Prior to the internet, books and magazines were the primary sources of reference material. But now, information is being gathered at very high rates from the web and is often going un-cited because of an increasing ignorance of what ought to be cited. For example, because the information is found on the internet, a student may assume because it is “free” and “unpublished”, it need not be cited.[7]

There are many instructional articles on the web telling one how to cheat. Furthermore, there are instructional videos on how to cheat on websites such as YouTube. These videos give the student comprehensive guides and a variety of options on how to cheat. Because of these videos and their availability, a less serious attitude has been adopted by students with regard to cheating.

With the ever increasing ways in which one can cheat, it is difficult for academic institutions to keep up. This results in instances where rules and guidelines have not caught up with current problems.

Another interesting problem with academic integrity relates to grade inflation. This is an instance in which it is the faculty and administration of an institution that must adhere to academic integrity guides as opposed to the students. It is interesting to note, then, that academic integrity must be a dual effort among the students and faculty if it is to be exhibited properly.


  1. ^ Alison Kirk (1996-11-30), Learning and the marketplace, ISBN 9780809320929 
  2. ^ a b c Tricia Gallant, "Revisiting the Past: The Historical Context of Academic Integrity", Academic Integrity in the Twenty-First Century, pp. 13–31 
  3. ^ Tricia Gallant, "Twenty-First Century Forces Shaping Academic Integrity", Academic Integrity in the Twenty-First Century, pp. 65–78 
  4. ^ Ramsden, Jeremy (Noughth Week, Trinity Term, 2012), "Integrity, administration and reliable research", Oxford Magazine (323): 6–8  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Pavela, Gary (Summer 1997), "Applying the Power of Association on Campus: A Model Code of Academic Integrity", Journal of College and University Law (PDF) 24 (1). 
  6. ^ "Moral Panic: The Contemporary Context of Academic Integrity", Wiley InterScience (PDF) 33 (5), 2008: 1, doi:10.1002/aehe.3305. 
  7. ^

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