FAQ for Instructors


What are common types of academic dishonesty?

Academic dishonesty can take many forms and can vary from discipline to discipline. A science course with labs might see instances of falsifying data, whereas courses that involve significant writing assignments might suffer from cut and paste from the web or plagiarism such as improper citation or excessive paraphrasing. Instructors who use complex, time consuming assignments in their courses might see evidence of collaboration when individual work was expected or collaboration which borders on plagiarism. As well, cheating on tests might occur.

What can I do in my classroom to promote academic integrity?

In addition to a brief statement about academic integrity in the syllabus that references the Student Conduct Code and consequences for cheating, take the time to discuss its importance to you and your discipline in the first class session. If your expectations change from assignment to assignment (some assignments involve collaboration and some should be completed individually, for example), include explicit written instructions for each assignment. Even if your expectations are the same for all assignments in your class, you might remind students of your expectations with each assignment.

It is typically not sufficient to assume your students will know what constitutes academic dishonesty in your class, so it is up to you to inform them. Providing clear guidelines throughout the semester can prevent confusion and confrontation later.

What are appropriate penalties for academic dishonesty?

Deciding what penalty should be imposed for academic dishonesty rests with you, the instructor for the course. You may talk with other members of your discipline to find out which penalties they impose. You can also talk with senior colleagues outside your discipline, your division chair, or seek resources from the Faculty Center for Learning and Teaching.

The penalties for academic dishonesty can range from a zero score on a particular question to an F or N grade for the entire course. With such a wide range of possibilities, it is important to think of potential penalties before meeting with the class for the first class session. If you can provide clearly defined penalties in your syllabus, that can help you deal with situations which may arise.

Sometimes a student commits academic dishonesty through a misunderstanding rather than a desire to better his/her grade. Although still a violation, if this seems to be the case, a relatively minor grade penalty (zero on a particular question or assignment) may be in order, coupled with a discussion with the student about the academic dishonesty they have committed, so it won’t occur again. More serious infractions (cheating on tests or quizzes, or plagiarism in writing assignments) may require harsher penalties. Again, it is up to you as the instructor to decide on an appropriate penalty even in these more difficult cases. You might weigh the seriousness of the infraction with the effect on the student’s final grade of getting zero on the assignment. If this doesn’t seem to be sufficient penalty, an F for the course may be appropriate. Keep in mind—academic dishonesty is serious business, and an F in the course may well be an appropriate penalty for serious infractions. If this seems like an appropriate penalty and you are a less experienced faculty member, you may want to discuss the situation (without naming names) with your peers.

What if I suspect a student of cheating? What proof do I need? What do I do next?

You need clear proof that a student has cheated. Confiscate any papers that are in question or, if the cheating has occurred during a test, any materials not allowed during the test. If the cheating is in the form of plagiarism, obtain a copy of the document which was plagiarized.

Once you have evidence of cheating, you will probably want to consider what an appropriate penalty would be prior to meeting with the student (although the penalty may change based on your conversation with the student).

How should I approach a student whom I suspect of cheating?

Speak to the student outside of class, away from other students. Give them a chance to explain their actions, and see if they agree with you that what they have done is cheating. Try your best to keep the situation nonconfrontational, and be ready to explain to the student the penalty you are going to impose. Be professional. Since the student may contest your claim, or may not accept your penalty, be prepared to inform the student about the procedure for resolving disagreements regarding academic dishonesty (discussed later in this FAQ).

Accusing someone of cheating can be stressful, on yourself as well as the student. Remember that it is possible the student is not aware that their actions constituted academic dishonesty, and he/she might feel upset upon hearing your accusation. Although “ignorance of the law” is not a defence, this would certainly be a teachable moment and may impact the type of penalty you impose.

It is important to give the student a chance to talk, explain, and offer his/her opinion of the situation. In all cases, it is hoped that a satisfactory resolution to the situation can be reached between the instructor and student, and at this stage this should be your primary goal.

A student admits to cheating and agrees with the penalty I have imposed. Do I still have to report this?

Yes, you should still file a report with the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs (there is a form you can use on the Academic Integrity webpage). Reporting offenses which have been resolved between faculty and students is important to help identify students who are repeat offenders, which is a violation of the Student Conduct code at the University of Minnesota. Identifying repeat offenders is not just to punish a student for being a repeat offender, but also to identify a student who may need assistance to succeed at Morris.

What if a student contests my claim that they have cheated or does not agree with the penalty I would like to impose?

In this case you must file a report with the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, who will then begin the process to mediate the dispute through the Committee on Academic Integrity. Encourage the student to read Morris’s Academic Integrity Policy so they will be informed throughout the process.

If it comes to this, be professional and discuss with the student the next step in the process of mediation. Ensure that the student knows that both you and he/she can submit to the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs a separate report on the disagreement (see the Academic Integrity Policy subsection 2.2 for the details of what should go into the report), and the Committee on Academic Integrity will ensure that copies of all reports submitted are available to all parties involved.

I use TAs in my classes. What do they need to know about academic dishonesty?

If you use TAs to proctor exams, you should discuss with the TA before the exam what they should do if they detect instances of academic dishonesty during the exam. The TA is allowed to confiscate any material relevant to the dishonesty which has occurred (any improper aids, or exams of students giving or receiving aid). They should report the dishonesty to the course instructor and give the instructor any confiscated materials. If your TA has not confiscated evidence, but feels there was some cheating during the test, you can still examine the tests themselves for evidence of illegal collaboration or dishonesty.

If your TA is grading assignments for your class, he/she should bring any concerns (with evidence) about academic dishonesty to you.

In any situation of academic dishonesty reported by a TA, it is the instructor’s responsibility to determine an appropriate penalty and deal with the student(s) involved.