Blog post – Academic integrity conversations

Many students who breach academic integrity don't deliberately set out to cheat – misconduct often occurs as a result of poor understanding of academic practice or writing conventions.

Conversations with students and tutors can help prevent both unintentional breaches and more deliberate misconduct, increase instances of detection when cases do occur and help strengthen UQ’s culture of academic integrity.

Conversations with students

One of the many responsibilities of a course coordinator is to ensure their students know how to act with academic integrity in their course. There are various ways this can be done:

  • Talk to students in the first week of class about what is expected of them and how they should act in situations they are likely to encounter with assessment tasks throughout the course. Encourage students to develop their academic skills (e.g. general study skills, writing etc.).
  • Use the Academic Integrity Modules (AIM) as a class resource to promote discussion on how to act with integrity, priority planning, selection and evaluation of sources and dealing with complex ethical situations. Encourage students to complete the AIM if they were not required to do so as a ‘new to UQ’ or ‘new to the program’ student in 2021.
  • Repeat these conversations targeting important elements in the weeks preceding each assessment task. Explain the expectations for the assessment task and how students can best maintain integrity while completing the assessment. 
  • Provide students ample opportunity to ask questions about the assessment task and the marking criteria so they know what to expect.
  • Model academic integrity in class and in resources (e.g. referencing in slides and course materials). Emphasise these examples of integrity to students to demonstrate expected behaviours and help raise student awareness. 
  • Tutors should be encouraged to have similar conversations with students and model appropriate conduct. 

​Conversations about academic integrity are even more important now following the increase of online assessment, the increased pressure students feel and the commercialisation of cheating opportunities.

These conversations with students are best started off positively – acknowledging the lecturer’s role to help students learn and that learning about academic integrity is a part of that process. Forming a link between academic integrity, professional integrity and personal integrity can help students understand that in this formative stage of life, they are making choices that may have a long-term impacts on them. Ask the class to consider why acting with integrity at university is important to them, the University and the broader community. UQ has an Academic integrity pledge and Learn.UQ integrity notice which could be used to promote discussion.

Call out cheating. Name and describe what the key cheating behaviours are: plagiarism, collusion, impersonation and contract cheating. Encourage students to identify different reasons why students might succumb to cheating behaviours and from there, lead a discussion on what steps could be taken to avoid those situations arising. Propose strategies students might undertake to avoid being in the situation where a shortcut temptation looks to be an attractive one. For example, recommend development of academic skills such as planning and preparation1, selecting and evaluating sources2 and assignment writing skills to help develop learner ability and confidence.

Generate a dialogue with the class around the impact cheating can have. What impact is there upon the cheaters (N.B. those students who engage in contract cheating risk extortion now and into their future), non-cheaters, the University and the broader community? This could lead to how seriously UQ takes academic misconduct – inform the class that all academic staff for the course will be actively looking for instances of academic misconduct. Also inform students that the University has prosecuted more than 8200 cases over the last four years, with those caught subjected to consequences such as resubmission of an assessment, failure of the course, suspension, expulsion or a combination of penalties, depending on the severity of the breach.

Conversations with tutors

Encourage tutors to have similar conversations with students and ensure they model academic integrity in their class and resources.

Advise tutors their role is critical to the detection of academic misconduct and urge them to be alert and conscientiously look for evidence of cheating when marking the assessment piece of each and every student. Let them know their discipline knowledge and experience in marking are some of the most effective tools for determining if an assessment piece is suspicious, but UQ also has resources they should refer to for tell-tale signs of contract cheating assignments.

During this conversation, make sure that tutors are aware that their role in identifying suspicious activity does not extend beyond suspecting there may be something amiss. They should not notify or contact the student, just report their suspicions to the course coordinator to validate or repudiate those suspicions.

The importance of academic integrity conversations

Conversations about integrity should illustrate to both students and staff how important acting with integrity is to their academic, personal and professional lives. It should also highlight academic integrity as a core value expected by the University and encourage everyone to reflect on their own values, the actions they will take moving forward and how they can contribute to the robust culture of academic integrity at UQ.

Read more: academic integrityAcademic integrity resources for staff (UQ staff login required)

1 TASKS acronym: Task analysis, Allocation of time, Schedule, Know your preferences and Support from the Academic Integrity Modules (AIM)  (Part A> Module 2> Prioritising to ensure academic integrity) 
2 RIGHT acronym: Relevant to your topic, Irreproachable in that they are accurate and not based on flawed or incorrect information, Good quality (often having undergone a peer review), Help support the purpose of your assignment and Time relevant from the Academic Integrity Modules (AIM) (Part B> Module 2> Selecting sources for academic integrity).

Last updated:
17 January 2022