Academic Integrity and Writing Assignments

By Peter Connor

The beginning of the semester is a great time to address the issue of academic integrity with your students. The murky part, of course, is communicating the message effectively.

Bill Taylor, a professor of Political Science at Oakton Community College in Illinois, did it by writing an open letter to his students, based upon ideas contained in the first draft of "The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity," a project developed at Clemson University's Center for Academic Integrity.

The letter covers a lot of ground, out of which I have created a number of Teaching Tips that you will find indexed under TILT’s Related Tips in the right-hand column.

In the tip below—Section IV of the letter—specific parallels are drawn between the requirements academic integrity imposes on both Taylor, and his students, regarding written assignments. As you can see, they are basically the same.

Section IV: From Bill Taylor’s "A Letter to My Students"

What Academic Integrity Requires of Me in This Area

With regard to written assignments, the principles of academic integrity require that I:

  • devise meaningful assignments that grow out of and further the work done in the classroom,
  • provide you with a clear description of that assignment so that you know what is expected of you and what I’ll be looking for when I grade it,
  • give due and careful consideration to your paper when evaluating it and assigning a grade, and confront you if I suspect that you have plagiarized or in other ways not handed in work that is entirely your own.

What Academic Integrity Requires of You in This Area

With regard to written assignments, the principles of academic integrity require you to:

  • start your research and writing early enough to ensure that you have the time you need to do your best work,
  • hand in a paper which you yourself have done specifically for this course and not borrowed from someone else or recycled from an earlier course,
  • not be satisfied with a paper that is less than your best work,
  • seek only appropriate help from others (such as proof-reading, or discussing your ideas with someone else to gain clarity in your thinking), and
  • give full and proper credit to your sources.

Note: In other sections of his letter (see TILT's Related Tips) Taylor describes the similarity of the responsibilities both he and his students have relative to class preparation and participation, as well as to exams and grading.

Sources:

Taylor, B. (n.d.). Integrity: Academic and Political - A Letter to My Students. In Academic Integrity Articles. Retrieved January 9, 2009, from the Clemson University Center for Academic Integrity Web site: http://www.academicintegrity.org/educational_resources/pdf/Letter_To_My_Students.pdf.

Copyright and Permissions:

This Teaching Tip was adapted from "A Letter to My Students," written by William M. Taylor: Political Science Professor—Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, IL.

NOTE: Taylor has granted permission for his letter to be used in any way that is consistent with promoting academic integrity (n.d., p.1).

Contributors:

Peter Connor - TILT Web Content Writer and Editor