If you read any syllabus for any course at any university, you will almost certainly find some sort of statement about academic integrity. However, most students do not actually look up their university’s academic integrity policies, and few professors spend time covering these policies in class.
In principle, academic integrity is the ability and willingness to act ethically as a scholar. Each university has its own academic integrity policy that will state the behaviours that constitute an academic integrity policy violation (e.g., cheating, plagiarism, or improper collaboration) and that will explain what the potential consequences of violating the policy are (e.g., a grade of 0 on the assignment, an F in the course, or expulsion from the university). Students are usually expected to be proactive in familiarizing themselves with their institution’s policy, so they should not wait for someone else to explain the policy to them.
When it comes to writing papers, plagiarism and unfair representation are the primary forms of academic integrity violations that can occur. In essays, academic integrity means that:
- You have researched and written the essay yourself.
- You have included a references page or bibliography listing all the sources you have used.
- You have clearly indicated when you have directly quoted from a source (using quotation marks) and when you have modified a quotation (using square brackets to indicate that you have changed or added something, and ellipses to indicate that you have omitted something).
- You have cited all direct quotations and paraphrases from your research sources (remember, even if you have put an author’s ideas into your own words, you must still cite the source of that information).
- You have not fabricated information or used an author’s ideas out of context.
The reason it is so important to act with integrity as a writer is that as previously mentioned, scholarly writing is a conversation. Scholars research, write, and publish to facilitate academic dialog. If you are not citing your sources appropriately and presenting information truthfully and in good faith, you are not giving other scholars credit for their work, you are not giving your reader an opportunity to fairly evaluate your argument and judge for themselves if they agree or disagree, and you are not allowing others to expand upon your research or to respond to your argument. In other words, you have not written a piece that serves its scholarly function.