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Academic Integrity and Referencing

Learn best practices for increasing personal responsibility and practicing ethical behavior in the classroom and beyond.
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By: Ceceilia Parnther, Editor-in-Chief

Academic integrity and referencing are essential skills for all students. College-level work now requires students not only to understand academic work but also that they independently demonstrate that understanding. When used correctly, these skills aid in learning and protect students from misconduct violations and threats to privacy and security. Academic integrity is a cornerstone of the college experience. The value of a college degree or credential largely depends on student honesty and a willingness to learn. Society depends on trusting that individuals with certifications and skills can use those skills in the workplace. For example, it is not easy to feel confident in a nurse who allowed another student to sit for their exam, a journalist who falsifies data for a news story, or someone in banking without accounting skills. Independent learning requires academic integrity and referencing skills.

What Is Academic Integrity? defines the concept of academic integrity. It provides examples of how these skills can be used in everyday life using the six fundamental values of academic integrity: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage. Types of Academic Misconduct reviews the most understood types of academic misconduct. Understanding these concepts is essential in protecting students and academic work from being used in ways that lead to misconduct violations. Most students believe they understand these concepts; however, colleges and universities define misconduct in complex ways. Using examples of ownership, use, and representation, students can use these concepts to make thoughtful decisions with integrity in mind.

The Academic Integrity and Referencing module aims to show how assignments can be completed with integrity. Plagiarism is a review of one of the more commonly occurring types of academic misconduct. This skill covers various types of plagiarism, including how plagiarism occurs using text, ideas, data, music, art, computer code, and design. The skill also reviews self-plagiarism, a lesser-known form of misconduct. Whether intentional or unintentional, plagiarism is a concern; this skill offers practical ways to identify plagiarism and prevent it in academic work. The skill Citation defines the practice, helps students understand why citation is necessary, and illustrates how citation is used in academic work. Whereas there are several citation forms, recognizing standard components and formats is a necessary skill for academic writing. Likewise, Referencing dives further into attribution, offering students guidance on the skills necessary to give appropriate credit and demonstrate when and where information originates. Finally, it explains the role of appropriate referencing and academic integrity, choosing references, and gaining familiarity with library resources and referencing styles.

The final skills focus on recently defined types of misconduct that every student should know. Contract Cheating describes and defines various types of contract cheating. It assists students in identifying the misconduct policies associated with the practice and offers suggestions for students to avoid widespread pitfalls that lead to contract cheating. In addition, the skill offers suggestions for students to protect their academic work from individuals and companies with malicious intent. Similarly, Collaboration Policies and Academic Integrity explores collaboration’s growing definition. Whether in person or online, collaborating in real-time offers opportunities for further learning but represents a risk when submitting work intended to represent an independent contribution. This skill reviews the role and importance of academic integrity in group projects. Specific examples, including messaging applications and group collaboration, offer examples of the role of collaboration in academic work. The skill includes expectations of student responsibility in group assignments and the experiences of gathering information that requires collaboration but results and assignments require an independent submission.

It is important to consider ways that students can successfully implement academic integrity. Communicating to Understand Academic Integrity Policies in Every Class offers essential suggestions to understand faculty expectations, express concern, or find appropriate resources. It includes information on understanding the role and use of a syllabus or assignment guide, reaching out to faculty (even when it feels difficult to do so), and confidently asking for what is needed to complete an assignment successfully. Another strategy is discussed in Preventing Academic Misconduct With Time Management. Making the switch to college-level work and balancing personal and academic responsibilities can be challenging. Here, students learn concepts and strategies that will assist them in working smarter, not harder, and alleviating the stress associated with completing last minute work. Using these skills helps students make decisions proactively and may reduce the risk of academic misconduct.

Overall, academic integrity requires student participation and support. The final skill, Promoting Academic Integrity, proposes strategies students can use to succeed in college and lead by example. This skill reviews the benefits of integrating positive and proactive practice in a student’s everyday life to live the fundamental values of academic integrity. These include taking responsibility for active learning, establishing trust with teachers and classmates, using resources to protect your academic work, and getting involved with opportunities to model academic integrity as an institutional standard.

Suggested Reading
  • Macfarlane, B., Zhang, J., & Pun, A. (2014). Academic integrity: A review of the literature. Studies in Higher Education, 39(2), 339–358.
  • Lipson, C. (2019). Doing honest work in college: How to prepare citations, avoid plagiarism, and achieve real academic success. University of Chicago Press.
  • Eaton, S. E. (2021). Plagiarism in higher education: Tackling tough topics in academic integrity. ABC-CLIO.
  • Citation Chart:
  • https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/using_research/documents/20191212CitationChart.pdf
  • We need to chat about Academic Integrity and Contract Cheating Dr. Amanda White https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM0NYkgk_PE&t=150s
  • Thibodeaux, J., Deutsch, A., Kitsantas, A., & Winsler, A. (2017). First-year college students’ time use: Relations with self-regulation and GPA. Journal of Advanced Academics, 28(1), 5–27.
Page citation: Parnther, C. (2022). Academic integrity and referencing. SAGE Skills: Student Success. https://sk.sagepub.com/skills/student-success/academic-integrity-referencing