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Academic Integrity

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Understanding the concept of academic integrity is essential for students and teachers involved in tertiary education. Since the duty of learners and educators is to promote and search for true knowledge, it is important to display the utmost honesty and fairness in their work. The teacher must inform students about all the protocols they must follow to credit the sources and students are obliged to follow these rules and come up with original ideas as researchers and learners in the field. 

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What is academic integrity and why is it important?

TEQSA (Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency) is an academic agency that is solely responsible for setting the standards and assuring the quality of tertiary education in Australia. Tertiary study includes the pursuit of diplomas, advanced diplomas, associate degrees, bachelor degrees (including honours), graduate certificates, graduate diplomas, masters degrees, doctoral degrees, and higher doctoral degrees. Part of this quality assurance is to keep a check on the academic integrity of individuals in academia. According to this academic agency, academic integrity is defined as, 

‘the expectation that teachers, students, researchers and all members of the academic community act with: honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility.’

This could be a vague definition but it entails all practices that have been established to avoid plagiarism, recycling of older academic work for assignment submission, information fabrication, cheating during assessment, employing ghost writing services for assignment completion, etc. 

It is important to understand and follow these rules and the failure to comply with these regulations is seen as academic misconduct punishable by different penalties that can jeopardise your career.  

As tertiary students, it should be remembered that your primary goal is to complete all the required learning outcomes of your course so that you have no gaps in your knowledge when you start practicing during your job. When dishonest means of completing your assessments are used, you can lose sight of your aims as a professional which is a waste of finances and energy. 

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Understanding and avoiding plagiarism

In order to submit your assignments with complete honesty, tertiary students should check that their assignment should not have any plagiarised content. The word plagiarism includes the following malpractices: 

  • Using someone else’s ideas (written or spoken) word by word and not citing their work 
  • Using supportive work like statistics, facts, lab report results or graphical presentation of data without proper citation 
  • Employing the help of a term paper writing service to submit your assignment 
  • Taking someone’s work and submitting its machine translated version as your own 
  • Reusing an older assignment of a different course done by you with similar context as the current course’s assignment 

So to summarise, plagiarism is receiving applause for someone else’s hard work. It is important to study the works of experts but directly quoting them is not ethical so to avoid this, students should do the following: 

  • Learning to correctly cite and reference sources and when you need to use them
  • If you are quoting, paraphrasing or summarising, it is important to learn proper methods of attributing the material
  • Obey copyright and privacy laws 
  • If the lesson material is too complex for you, ask the teacher and inform them. Students should do the right thing instead of finding shortcuts
  • Get the assignment double checked by the professor to see if it needs any citation that you might have missed 

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Proper citation and referencing techniques

Every discipline has a different citation and referencing technique so a tertiary student should be well-versed in the technique of their subject. Keep in mind that ideally, your paper should not have more than 15% quoted data as your central idea should be the main point of discussion. Here, we will look at the most used citation style- APA format. APA stands for American Psychological Association and this is their guideline for formatting citations: 

  • For in-text citations, you have to quote within the parentheses, the author’s last name, year of publication and page number or paragraph number (if it is an ebook or website) in this sequence. Remember to always report the information in past tense. 

It was found that physical activity can help in reducing anxiety (Taylor et al., 1985, p. 197). 

  • For the same information, the reference entry would be 

C B Taylor, J F Sallis, & R Needle (1985). The relation of physical activity and exercise to mental health. Public Health Rep. 1985 Mar-Apr;100(2):195-202

The methods of citation are very extensive, different for each kind of source of information- website, social media, articles, books, reports, etc. You can find the complete guide here and also discover other styles of formatting. 

These practices ensure that due credit is always given to the researcher and there is no direct borrowing of information from their work. 

Creating an atmosphere of academic integrity in the classroom

A teacher must always use credible sources for their lectures and course material and also inform the students about their duties to maintain their own academic integrity in the different aspects of their tertiary education: 

  • Describe clearly in the beginning of the semester the university’s policies about inauthentic practices and the penalties for them
  • Clearly define what is seen as plagiarism and inform them about the required citation and referencing style 
  • Maintain strict monitoring during exams 
  • Zero acceptance for copied lab results. Include a section of individual reflection in the report if it is group work to see how well they understood the experiment 

Promoting academic integrity through effective communication and collaboration

Most tertiary students stoop to cheating and malpractice when they feel unsure about the lesson material. 

Teachers should also give extra attention to students who are having difficulty with the entire course and maybe set a day during the week for students to visit the Teacher’s Assistant or the professor to discuss the assignments. 

Collaboration is another way to make sure all students exchange their ideas and understand it well through discussion.

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