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Academic Integrity: Grappling with Cheating and Plagiarism

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Policies and Information

  • Faculty Guide to the Honor System – This page from the Undergraduate Honor Council provides information on the history and operation of the Vanderbilt Honor System as well as information on faculty responsibilities and sample syllabus statements.
  • In April 2009, Vanderbilt Student Media put together this news article, Vandy Taboos: Cheating Truths . The story features interviews with faculty members John Lachs (Philosophy), Andy Van Schaack (HOD) about how they deal with cheating and plagiarism.


Preventing, Detecting, and Responding to Plagiarism

Episode 3 in the CFT podcast features an interview with Michelle Sulikowski, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry, about how she uses the plagiarism detection service SafeAssign not to “catch” her students but to teach them about proper citation and the nature of academic writing.

Listen to the podcast

  • Ethical or Not? and Plagiarism or Not? Clicker Questions – CFT assistant director Derek Bruff used a series of classroom response system (“clicker”) questions in his fall 2010 first-year writing seminar to help his student learn about plagiarism and academic integrity. Derek asked his students to weigh in on a series of activities, asking whether each should be considered ethical (for some activities) or plagiarism (for others). Using clickers allowed each student to weigh in independently on each question and also to view and react to the group’s opinions. Follow these links to see the questions Derek used and how they played out in the classroom.
  • Suggested Anti-Plagiarism Activities – At a March 2011 CFT conversation on preventing plagiarism, Roger Moore (director of the College of Arts & Science’s Undergraduate Writing Program), shared a few suggested activities designed to teach students about academic writing. See this CFT blog post for a list of those activities.
  • Anti-Plagiarism Strategies for Research Papers – In this essay written for teachers, Robert Harris provides anti-plagiarism strategies of awareness, prevention, and detection as well as links to a few other useful resources. See Harris’ book, The Plagiarism Handbook, for further strategies. This book is available at the Vanderbilt Library; see its ACORN entry for details.
  • Why Do Students Cheat?” – In this CFT blog post, assistant director Derek Bruff identifies four possible reasons students cheat, drawing on recent news articles on cheating in higher education.


Resources to Share with Students

  • Student Handbook: The Honor System – The online version of the student handbook provides information about the Vanderbilt Honor System from the student’s perspective, including definitions and examples of plagiarism. Students are expected to be familiar with this information.
  • Vanderbilt Writing Studio – The Vanderbilt Writing Studio provides a writing consultation service to Vanderbilt undergraduates, and their consultants are trained to address questions of plagiarism. Online resources from the Writing Studio include style and citation guides, handouts, and tips for avoiding plagiarism.
  • Indiana University Plagiarism Tutorial – Andy Van Schaack (HOD), a faculty panelist at the CFT’s March 2011 conversation on preventing plagiarism, mentioned that he requires his students to visit this tutorial and earn a certificate of completion by passing a test about plagiarism available on the site. Passing that test requires students to answer the questions 100% correctly, and Andy has his students turn in the certificates they receive. This not only educates his students about plagiarism, but also provides him with documentation that they are clear on what constitutes plagiarism.

Other Resources

  • Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty by James Lang (Harvard University Press, 2013) considers the research on academic dishonesty, particularly why students cheat, as well as the research on interventions intended to foster academic integrity. Based on this research, Lang proposes a set of teaching strategies that not only reduce students’ motivations to cheat, but also lead to greater student learning. For a shorter version of his argument, see his “On Teaching” essays in the Chronicle of Higher Education: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
  • In Focus: Generation Cheat?” – This January 2011 article from the student newspaper at Northwestern University explores the landscape and history of cheating at Northwestern from multiple perspectives, including the use of SafeAssign. Students, faculty, and staff at Northwestern are quoted in the article (some under the condition of anonymity), and opinions from outside experts are included, as well.
  • Plagiarizing Yourself” – In his October 2010 Chronicle of Higher Education column, English professor James M. Lang of Assumption College, questions the “rule” that students shouldn’t be able to reuse a paper from one course in a subsequent course, a practice some call “self-plagiarism.” See the 50+ comments on the article for additional perspectives on this issue.
  • High-Tech Cheating Abounds and Professors Bear Some Blame” – In this March 2010 article, Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Jeff Young reports on recent research by David E. Pritchard, a physics professor at MIT, indicating that students frequently copy answers to online homework problems in science courses. Instead of looking for matches between student answers and homework solutions posted on the Web, Pritchard measured how long it took students to submit answers to online homework problems.  Anything under a minute for a sufficiently difficult problem was considered cheating.

“[Pritchard] and his research team found about 50 percent more cheating than students reported in anonymous surveys over a period of four semesters. In the first year he did his hunting, about 11 percent of homework problems appeared to be copied.”

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