Faculty Development & Learning Assessment

Academic Integrity and Honor Code at HSU

--02/24/2011

Academic integrity is one of the cornerstones of every university experience. HSU’s motto “Light and Truth” reveals the level of importance our institution places on honesty in all academic endeavors. We may like to think that every university student has already learned the merits of academic honesty before they have arrived at HSU, and has applied them without exception during their career.

However, it may come as a surprise to some that out of the 5402 HSU student paper submissions to our “originality monitoring” software (Turnitin), during the period from March 13, 2002 to February 24, 2010, 1570 papers revealed 25% or more unoriginal material (~30% of the total papers). Over 8% of the 5402 HSU student papers submitted had over 75% unoriginal material! (1) Granted, a significant portion of the 1570 may be the result of unintentional plagiarism.
Many professors express a belief that it is not their responsibility to teach students how to write well. That high quality, discipline specific writing will somehow be a skill set that students bring with them to the class. However, successful completion of English 100 does guarantee adequate preparation for all the writing needs a student will need in every discipline. (2)
So you might ask, “As an instructor, what can I do to help encourage academic integrity, and minimize unintentional (and intentional) plagiarism?”
1. By clearly defining your expectations in regards to discipline specific citation styles (APA, MLA, etc.) and by providing examples of appropriate citation practices, you may be able to help to minimize inadvertent unoriginal content in student papers. Additionally, you may wish to review and share with your students, the information pertaining to “Reference Management Programs” which was submitted by our reference Librarian, Martha Johanson. (3) (http://www.humboldt.edu/celt/tips/reference_management_programs/)

2. HSU’s originality monitoring website, Turnitin is worthy of your consideration. The service is of no cost to you or your department, and it is relatively simple to establish an account and set up your course assignments. Please contact Riley Quarles (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) for account instructions.

It is very important to mention here, that the most successful implementations of the Turnitin service follow a model of iterative submissions, which nurture the writing process, rather than a model of enforcement, which from some student’s perspective may create a “police state” mentality within the learning environment.

3. You may also wish to consider encouraging your students to construct their own Honor Code. Some universities embrace student participation in an honor code, which is developed and monitored by the students themselves. (4) They even have annual ceremonies to celebrate the virtuousness of honor.

Here is an example of a completely voluntary code:

“I give my word that I will be honest and honorable in all my dealings in this course. I pledge that I will not cheat in any form and that I will not assist or allow others to cheat. On my honor, I pledge to my instructor and to my classmates that I can be trusted in all that I say and do in this course and that I will not betray the trust that others in this course place in me.” (5)

4. At the very least, please consider a frank and utterly non-accusatory discussion at the beginning of each semester, in each of your courses, that will likely help guide our students towards the commendable Humboldt motto, of “Light and Truth.”

Tip References

1. Turnitin Originality Monitoring. “The Turnitin originality report shows the paper’s text highlighted with any text that matches sources found in the Turnitin databases containing vast amounts of web content, previously submitted papers, and subscription-based journals and publications. So does Turnitin detect plagiarism? No – Turnitin offers a tool that helps educators (and their students) make informed evaluations of student work rapidly and move on to the important task of discerning what their students need in the way of instruction, correction or judicial action.” Turnitin Software website blog http://blog.turnitin.com/
Please contact Riley Quarles (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) for account instructions.
2. Writing Across the Curriculum, http://wac.colostate.edu/intro/
3. Reference Management Programs, Martha Johanson. (http://www.humboldt.edu/celt/tips/reference_management_programs/)
4. Academic Honor Codes, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honor_code
5. University of North Carolina, Wilmington, English 321, Honor Code, http://people.uncw.edu/veit/ENG321/honor_code/index.htm
6. Academic Honesty at Humboldt, http://www.humboldt.edu/~campbell/cheat.htm