Learning the ropes: avoiding accidental breach of academic integrity

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You’ve just started uni, and because you know what plagiarism is, you work hard to avoid copying someone else’s ideas or words without proper attribution. But is that all there is to it? What else can be considered a breach of academic integrity? In this article, the Learning Skills team will help you identify and avoid six other possible pitfalls.

1. Getting someone to write your assignment (also called ghost writing or contract cheating)

Did you know that having a friend, family member or anyone other than yourself write your assignment – paid or not – is considered a breach of academic honesty?

You may discuss your assignment with a friend, but you have to do the actual writing yourself (because you want to learn!). And paying someone or a writing service to write your assignment is a definite no-no. Neither is it acceptable for you to write an assignment for another person.

You can stay clear of this situation by starting early on your assignment. Don’t be afraid to seek help from lecturers, librarians and Learning Advisers. In this way, you can count on yourself to start and complete your assignment writing and meet the submission deadline.

2. Working in groups but submitting individually

Quite often, you could be asked to work collaboratively on a group assignment. You may find yourself sharing similar content through the exchange of information and ideas.

Do take note, however, if you’re asked to produce and submit individual reports. While you may share similar content with your group members, you’re expected to develop your own answer and write the report in your own words.

One way to avoid submitting the same piece of writing is to make your own notes (preferably in your own words) during discussions. Check out the note-taking and paraphrasing resources on StudyWISE in iLearn.

3. Citing fake resources and falsifying data

When you cite scholarly sources such as journal articles in your writing, you’re demonstrating that you can critically evaluate and use them to support your thesis.

Assignment markers are well-versed with the subject, so responsible writers wouldn’t mislead them by providing false or non-existent literature. Similarly, responsible students wouldn’t falsify data in a research project. It is a breach of academic honesty if citations and data are fake.

Again, start your research for your assignment as early as you can. This allows you more time to find and evaluate credible and good sources for your assignment. If you need help looking for resources, talk to a Research Librarian at the Library Info Desk.

4. Uploading Macquarie University’s course materials to websites

It may have crossed your mind to help your peers by sharing course information – such as notes, a lecturer’s Powerpoint slides, assignment questions and guidance notes – with them on the Internet.

Don’t do it. Course materials are the intellectual property of the University and you need to ask for permission from your lecturer before you can share or distribute. Find out more about copyright here.

5. Pretending to be someone else and vice-versa

Sometimes you may feel that you’re not fully prepared or that you’re not feeling well enough to sit for a quiz or an exam. It may be tempting to ask another person to sit for the exam on your behalf. Or, another student might approach you to do so. Don’t.

Such behaviour is considered as a very serious breach of academic integrity and can stop you from earning your degree.

Early in the session, check your unit guides for procedures if you’re ill on the day of an exam. Also, exam preparation need not be a stressful activity. Look at the exam prep strategies on StudyWISE to be exam-ready.

6. Sabotaging and obstructing

You may think that it’s a harmless prank to change your friend’s lab results. Or that it’s okay to withhold information from your group members. Or that forgetting to return library books or breaking laboratory equipment is no big deal.

The fact is that even small actions which sabotage and obstruct another student’s academic work, progression or completion of study are also considered breaches of academic integrity.

Where can I find out all about academic integrity?
The new Academic Integrity Module (which is on iLearn under Student Support) will equip you to fully understand academic integrity.

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