What Every International Student Should Know About Academic Integrity in the U.S.

What Every International Student Should Know About Academic Integrity in the U.S.

By David White

As a current or future international student, you may have some sense of what it takes to succeed academically in the United States. But have you given much thought to the concept of academic integrity?

In simple terms, academic integrity refers to the honesty and respect with which students approach their studies. For example, paying someone to write an essay on your behalf is an example of very low academic integrity. While each university has different expectations and rules when it comes to academic integrity, you should know that American schools take this matter very seriously.

Defining academic integrity

In the minds of many students, academic integrity seems straightforward and very simple to avoid. After all, if you do not steal other people’s words and ideas, you will be fine—right?

Sort of.

The most obvious form of academic dishonesty is plagiarism, which is where a student claims someone else’s words and/or ideas as his or her own. This is clearly dishonest and could lead to expulsion, but it is not always this simple.

As a student, you will read many texts and peruse multiple resources as you complete your degree. These items serve as the foundation of your learning, and they inform your own work, but sometimes they can seep into your assignments in ways that you might not have intended. For example, you might use a theory to emphasize a point in your work, but to not give credit to the originator of that theory could, in some cases, be considered plagiarism because you have used an idea that was initially put forth by another person.

Forms of academic dishonesty

As you finish each progressive semester, you will develop a better understanding of what is expected of you in terms of citation. This will make it easier to avoid overt acts of plagiarism, and to adhere to your school’s academic integrity policies. Keep in mind that plagiarism also includes the use of objects like videos and photographs that you did not create. As with the written word, you can use these items honestly by citing the source or attributing them to their author. You should also review the copyright or ownership to ensure that nothing else is required for legal use.

It is also worth noting that it is entirely possible to plagiarize yourself. This might sound strange, but it simply means using a single work for multiple assignments. For instance, if you write a paper for an English class, using it to fulfill an assignment in another class could be considered self-plagiarism.

Other examples of academic dishonesty include copying answers from someone else’s test, attempting to use devices like a tablet during exams that prohibit such assistance, and manipulating or fabricating data or information to support your claims. 

Finally, one of the most egregious acts of academic dishonesty is doing someone’s work for them. For example, if a friend seems overwhelmed and asks you to write a paper for him or her, it might seem like you are helping, but this is essentially cheating and you could be suspended or expelled.

How to avoid academic dishonesty

Academic integrity may seem like a minefield, particularly if you have never given it much thought. Fortunately, it need not be intimidating—just remember to cite your sources. If you are quoting text, cite the author according to your major’s citation requirements. If you are using pictures or video, check the copyright, and always cite the source. Finally, if you are not sure what to do or whether an act constitutes plagiarism, ask your professor or advisor. 

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David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world's largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.    

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