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.