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Prevention

Course Outlines & Syllabi

One of the ways to foster Academic Integrity at Ryerson is through course design, notably, in the syllabus. Academic Integrity can be profiled with related academic behaviours reinforced. The intellectual and educational culture of Ryerson University can be strengthened when Academic Integrity is positioned prominently by faculty/instructors and TAs/GAs.

A statement on academic integrity must be visible in every syllabus in every course and, if using, Brightspace D2L. Ryerson Senate Office has created a Guide to Course Outline and Suggested Template. This document has suggested wording regarding academic integrity and Policy 60: Academic Integrity. You will want to explain your departmental policy on academic misconduct.

If Turnitin.com is to be used in a course, the following wording is required:  “Students who do not want their work submitted to this plagiarism detection service must, by the end of the second week of class, consult with the instructor to make alternate arrangements.” For more information on Turnitin, please see “Turnitin” section on this website.

If Group Work is part of your course, students should be informed of specific guidelines for cooperative projects or assignments. Refer to the Policy 60: Academic Integrity about group misconduct. Check out this Efficient Group Writing Guide from Student Learning Support.

Assignments, Essays & Term Papers

The following suggestions may help prevent academic misconduct on assignments and, hopefully, inspire you to think of other strategies that promote academic integrity in your courses.

Focus on Academic Integrity in Class and on Assignments
  • Include a statement on your assignments that explains what the academic integrity expectations are and provide a link to Ryerson’s Academic Integrity Web Site and Policy 60: Academic Integrity.  Notify your students of the preventative measures you will be taking e.g. that you will be using Turnitin.
  • Do not assume that your students know what plagiarism is. Keep in mind that your students may have come from an environment where “cutting and pasting” was permitted or tolerated, and that students returning to school after a long absence, or those from other academic institutions may need extra assistance in understanding our expectations of academic integrity.
  • Discuss what you do as an educator and researcher and what academic integrity means to you.  Consider writing a letter to your students about academic integrity, as Professor Bill Taylor did at Oakton Community College. Permission has been granted by the author to adapt "A Letter to my Students" to increase awareness and promote academic integrity in your courses.
  • Clearly define plagiarism and provide examples of proper and improper citing. RULA’s Preparing a Bibliography page on its website provides examples. Be sure to post links to these resources on your D2L page or hand out printed copies of the stylesheet you expect students to use.
  • Talk to your students about the existence of paper mills, file sharing sites and essay writing services – letting them know that you are aware of them – and that papers purchased/shared through these services can constitute academic misconduct.
  • Demonstrate good practice in your lectures and presentations. Cite all sources used in the bibliographic style you want your students to use for their assignments.
  • If you are using Turnitin.com in the course, follow the policies for faculty. Make students aware of the Turnitin.com information page for students.
  • Ensure that your students know that they can obtain help from, RULA and the Student Learning Centre should they need assistance with researching their paper, essay writing, citing sources, or learning about time management, as well as answering questions they may have about academic integrity.

Designing and Structuring the Assignment

How you design and explain your assignments on paper and in class can improve academic integrity.

Tips for Enhancing Academic Integrity in Assignments


How you present the assignment to your students will determine how they treat it and how much effort they will put into it.

  • If students view a research assignment as “busywork”, they may dislike the assignment and tasks associated with it, and may feel inclined to cheat. Before distributing the assignment, decide what goals you want to accomplish, determine factors that may affect achievement of these goals, and assess whether the goals have been clearly stated in the assignment.

Make assignments unique and use specific, narrow topics.

  • Use new topics for each class and ensure that they are current (i.e. they require the use of newer resources) to deter the use of paper mills or the recycling of papers.

Set a series of due dates for the various steps of the research paper, for example, outline, rough draft, annotated bibliography, final paper.

  • While this process may create work for you, it does make it more difficult for students to plagiarize and also provides you with the opportunity to monitor the papers for trouble and provide feedback on each section submitted. You may also consider marking each section separately as part of the final grade of the paper.

Consider having students submit a "research diary," reflection piece or "metalearning" essay for each section.

  • For example, including all information resources consulted, what was learned from doing that section of the assignment, and the difficulties that were encountered.

Define the terms you use on the assignment.

  • If students do not understand the assignment they will probably have trouble completing it. (What is meant by ThesisThemeAbstract? Peer reviewedRefereed journalScholarly journalPrimary source/secondary sourceCitationStyle guide?)
  • Consider the different ways people learn and always present your assignments both in writing and orally.

Use the Ryerson University Library & Archives (RULA)

Utilize the RULA resources at your fingertips. From not assuming your students know how to use the library to booking a research skill session; they can help you and your students understand how to prevent academic misconduct.

Many RULA services to Assist to Ensure Academic Integrity

Test the assignment before distributing it

  • Are you able to find relevant material for it through the library? Use your Subject Librarian to help design, test and provide feedback on the assignment. Your subject librarian will also determine if adequate resources are available and tell you about new electronic and hard copy resources that will help your students complete the assignment. Your Subject Librarian may also be able to provide valuable feedback once the assignment is over. (Don’t forget to ask your students, as well.)

Avoid topics that require your students to use the same sources

  • If possible, avoid topics that require all your students to use the same sources. However, if specific books or journals are essential for the completion of the assignment, ensure equal access to these resources by placing them on Reserve in the Library.

Don't assume students know how to use the library

  • Students will not necessarily know how information is organized at a university library or how to search databases.  Also, with so much information being available, the skill of evaluating this information needs to also be learned. Check out RULA.

Schedule a Library Research Skills session

  • Schedule a Library Research Skills Workshops with your Subject Librarian that coincides with the distribution of the assignment. Library sessions are much more effective if the students learn research skills and how to find and evaluate appropriate resources if they do so at the time of need. Plan to attend the session with your students so that you can work with the librarian in providing guidance to your students and answering their questions.

Encourage your students to use a referencing system

  • Encourage your students to use a reference system.  There are many web-based bibliographic citation managers that allows you to collect, save and organize bibliographic citations from books, journals, websites and other sources found during the research process. It also allows you to create correctly formatted bibliographies from over 200 style guides. Please see: Ryerson referencing systems.

Be specific about the use of the internet for research

  • Be very specific about the use of the Internet for research and state any restrictions you have on its resources. Distinguish between the types of information available through the Web (e.g. non-scholarly information available through search engines, vs. peer-reviewed articles on the Library’s website). Your Subject Librarian can provide a workshop on evaluating Internet resources.

Stress that any information obtained through the internet must always be cited

  • Students may not understand what constitutes acceptable use of Internet resources. Stress that any information obtained through the Internet (e.g. Google, full-text journal articles through the library, etc.) must always be cited. Provide examples on how to do this.

Marking the Assignment

For examples that may signal academic misconduct on an assignment, go to the Detecting Plagiarism section.

Group Work (Lab, Studio and Group Work)

Collaborative learning is an educational method that is frequently used at Ryerson and can offer many benefits to the student.  Students are encouraged to form study groups; assignments are frequently group projects; and classroom activities often involve group work.  However, as a learning method, it can have pitfalls associated with it if not used wisely. For excellent group work guidelines, please see the Efficient Group Writing Guide from Ryerson Student Learning Support.

Also, do not assume that students know how to work in a group.  You need to prepare them by exploring expected behaviours and how to do conflict resolution.

Class Environments

The following suggestions are to assist in incorporating academic integrity learning into your classroom activities and evaluation methods:

  • Discuss academic integrity with your class during lecture time at the beginning of the term, stressing the importance of academic honesty. Clarify your expectations with your students, explain what constitutes unacceptable behaviour within group work. Refer to the Policy 60: Academic Integrity and make the penalties clear. State that a student plagiarizing or cheating on the portion of their assignment can put all members of their group at risk of being charged with misconduct.
  • Provide students with clear guidelines on what is permissible within group work and include this information in your course syllabus and on assignments.
  • If possible, keep the group size small (four). Larger groups require a great deal of skill to be successful.
  • Be visible and interactive and provide feedback. Work with the students in offering encouragement, clarifying misunderstandings, promoting interactive skills and instruction on what common group behaviours exist.
  • Assign group members to groups to avoid the same people always working together.
Laboratory & Studio Environments

The following suggestions may help prevent academic misconduct in lab reports and assignments:

Ensure that your teaching assistants and graduate assistants are ready and willing to work with you in promoting academic integrity in the lab environment. Confirm that they are fully aware of Policy 60: Academic Integrity and the guidelines in your course/program.

Encourage your TAs/GAs to be vigilant in laboratory sessions. "[Encourage them] to move from station to station questioning students about their results and that they impress upon students that individual work is essential.” Students who know their TA/GA is aware of their data and progress are less likely to feel that they can “fool” the TA/GA with a dishonest write-up.

Be very clear about the level of acceptable collaboration in the labs. Include this information on course outlines and in instructions for assignments and lab reports. Also state that reports from previous semesters or years cannot be reused without permission.

If possible, modify your lab exercises every year or every semester. Create more lab exercises than needed for a year or semester (e.g. have 20 for a 12 lab course) and rotate them. Even small changes from year to year will show students that results from previous years are not useful.

The assignments and labs given to multiple sections should be as different as possible to ensure that students don’t use each other's submissions.

Give students ample time during the lab to write a report or summary. To help prevent unwanted collaboration, give students enough time during the lab to write a report or summary.

Have answer sheets that are filled in by the student. These sheets can be in the format of a formal report or may simply require answers to questions.

Prevent students from feeling that they have to “cook”, fudge or copy data. Avoid penalizing students for not having a correct end product or result.

Have students give more attention to the “process” of the experiment rather than the end results.

Have students explain their results and describe what went wrong and what they would do differently next time.

Provide students with the correct results and have them write a report on these results.

Offer a lab make-up period so that they can redo the experiment.

Consider replacing, or supplementing written lab reports with these ideas:

Require oral presentations to the instructor or the whole class and require students to answer questions during or after the presentation to determine the depth of knowledge.

Try incorporating a “metalearning” exercise into the oral presentation by asking the following questions: “What problems did you encounter and how did you solve them?” “How do you feel these problems affected your results?” “Were the results what you expected? Why or why not?” “What is the most important thing you learned from doing this experiment?” “What would you do in the future to increase or improve your data?” “What conclusions can you draw from your data?”

Replace lab reports with questions that have to be answered in preparation for the lab.

Replace traditional lab reports with questions or problems based on the lab that students have to answer before leaving the lab.

Introduce term projects that have a strong individual component, which involve considerable library research. Assignments that promote a problem solving situation that reflects what happens in an academic or industrial research setting.

For upper level students, ask them to come up with a problem to solve using any of the instrumentation techniques they learned in class or elsewhere. If the chosen procedure does not work, have them develop another one.

Exams & Tests

Senate Policy 60: Academic Integrity refers to specific misconduct categories that may bring a student under suspicion before, during and after an examination or test, and the penalties/consequences that may be assigned.

Senate Policy 135: Examination Policy is the general policy on issues related the examination process, student conduct and invigilation responsibilities.

Senate Policy 61: Student Code of Non-Academic Misconduct is the policy that addresses non-academic misconduct, its consequences and remedies.

Please ensure that all students and invigilators are aware of what constitutes academic and non-academic misconduct and the consequences involved.

For a useful resource on Creating Multiple Choice and Short Answer Exam Questions, see: Faculty Best Practices: Creating Multiple Choice & Short Answer Exam Questions

Additional Resources

For great ideas on how to build on your skills as faculty, instructors, GAs or TAs and for ideas to build more dynamic courses, please see the Ryerson Teaching and Learning Office.


 

Sources

  • Del Carlo, D.I., & Bodner, G.M. (2003). Students’ Perceptions of Academic Dishonesty in the Chemistry Classroom Laboratory. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(1), 47-64.