Academic integrity

Learn more about academic integrity and how to avoid plagiarism.

Academic integrity requires commitment to the values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility. 

It's expected that students, faculty members and staff at UVic, as members of an intellectual community, will adhere to these ethical values in all activities related to learning, teaching, research and service.

It can be challenging to navigate all the rules in academia. When do you quote? What’s common knowledge? Is it okay to have a friend look over your paper?

It’s normal to be confused about what’s okay and what isn’t.

One of the best sources of information is your instructor or TA. They can help you understand and follow the complex rules of academic integrity. 

The Centre for Academic Communication (CAC) can also help you understand academic expectations at UVic.

Definitions

Academic integrity is intellectual honesty and responsibility for academic work that you submit or work on with others. It involves commitment to the values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility. As a student, you are expected to adhere to these ethical values.

Why is this important?

  • The university has a responsibility to ensure that students graduate with the skills needed for successful participation in the community or workforce. Inaccurate representation of disciplinary knowledge, academic skills, and professional competence could potentially be harmful to others’ well-being and could compromise the university’s reputation, as well as your own.

  • Students expect to have a high quality learning experience. You need to feel that your hard work is being recognized and fairly evaluated, and that other students do not have an unfair advantage through cheating on exams, essays, or projects.

  • A key goal of UVic’s Strategic Plan is promoting civic engagement and global citizenship amongst its students. Upholding values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility – core values of academic integrity – are essential in helping students learn how to make a difference in civic life and to develop awareness of the rights and responsibilities of world citizens.

What are the various forms of plagiarism and academic dishonesty?

It’s difficult to name every single way to be academically dishonest, but here are a few:

  • Hiring an editor for your written assignments without your instructor's approval. Different departments have different ideas on this, so it's best to ask your instructor.

  • Sending a file you know is corrupt to have more time to hand in an assignment.

  • Buying a paper on the Internet.

  • Having someone else write your paper or parts of it.

  • Using someone else’s writing as your own, even just parts of it.

  • Patch-writing: using pieces of different articles and joining the pieces with some of your own words.

  • Using someone else’s idea as your own without citing it.

  • Intellectual dishonesty, like cheating on a test or sharing your answers.

  • Having someone extensively revise your paper without prior permission from your instructor.

  • Failing to properly cite ideas or excerpts from the work of others.

  • Failing to indicate a paraphrase of someone else’s words.

  • Copying answers and/or ideas from a classmate.

  • Self-plagiarism: using something—or even parts of something—that you wrote for one course in another course.

Policies and Consequences

The UVic calendar has a policy on plagiarism, but departments decide on their own specific policies. Check with your department regarding specific policies and procedures.

The ombudsperson, , has created a great explanation of the UVic policies and procedures through real student examples. The following is an excerpt:

Consequences

"All of the following penalties are accompanied by a letter of reprimand which stays with the student’s file for five years after the final decision of the violation has been made. Please see the UVic Calendar for more detailed information. After following the policies and procedures of your department and in the UVic policy, generally speaking, the penalties may be:

  • A grade of zero for the assignment;
  • A grade of F for the course;
  • Rejection of parts or the whole of a graduate student’s thesis."

Your rights and responsibilities

From the ombudsperon's tips on plagiarism and academic integrity:

  • “Cheating and plagiarizing are serious academic offenses. Instructors and academic units have the responsibility to ensure that standards of academic honesty are met. Depending on the severity of the case, penalties include a warning, a failing grade, a record on the student’s transcript, or a suspension.

  • Plagiarism sometimes occurs due to ignorance or confusion, but it is the responsibility of the student to know the rules. Different disciplines may have different norms. Students who are unsure about the standards for citations or for referencing their sources must seek that information from their instructors.

  • Students are entitled to a fair process when they are accused of plagiarism or cheating. This includes notification of the offense, which must be fully documented by the instructor, and a reasonable opportunity to be heard.”

Dealing with an accusation of plagiarism

FAQs

How to avoid plagiarism

How can I avoid plagiarism?

Here is an excellent resource written by the University of Toronto's Margaret Procter.

When should I paraphrase?

Always think of the argument that you are making first. If the information you need is worded in a way that is going to make your writing less clear, paraphrasing is a good way to convey an author’s point without distracting from yours. Just remember: (1) you have to cite your source, even when paraphrasing; (2) you have to be sure that you are representing the information accurately.

How do I paraphrase correctly?

The most important things are to make sure that you are presenting the author’s opinion accurately, and to be very clear about what information is the author’s and what is your own opinion.

When should I summarize?

Summarizing an author’s argument is a great way to create context for an argument that you are making. In general, summaries are useful as an introduction to an author’s thinking; if the article is very important to your argument, you can use a summary to show why it is important. However, when you are at the point in your paper where you are actually talking about the article (for example, if you are disagreeing with the author), it is usually best to quote or paraphrase.

How do I summarize?

When you summarize, you are basically trying to convey the most important point in an article. A good way to do this is to read the entire article and try to put its main point in a single sentence of your own words. Then, double-check by going back to the article and making sure that the author’s thesis statement agrees with what you have written.

When should I quote?

If you are talking about a specific point that an author has made, it is usually appropriate to use a quotation.

How do I quote?

In general, it is a good idea to put a quotation in the middle of a paragraph, with one sentence leading into it (providing context for the quotation) and another leading out (clarifying why the quotation is relevant to the argument that you are making).

How can I find out how to document my sources?

First, consult with your instructor so that you are clear about their expectations. For further further clarifications, you can consult the style guides on the library website or ask a reference librarian.

What are some suggestions for avoiding accidental plagiarism?

You’ve already taken an important first step by coming here! The most important thing, though, is to keep well-organized notes: if you copy something from an article or book (whether it is an idea or a quotation), always write the source next to it in your notes. Most accidental plagiarism happens because students forget where they got something from.

Resources

UVic's policy on academic integrity

A short video on academic integrity, produced by the Learning and Teaching Centre

The UVic library has citation help, a variety of style guides online, and tips about plagirism.