Educators, colleges, and university processes all play a key role to help students to both understand the concept of academic integrity and make the choice to act with integrity.

  • The most effective approach to reduce academic misconduct is instructional approaches and assessment design.
  • Detection and consequences for academic misconduct are necessary but not sufficient in building a culture of academic integrity.
  • To affect a significant reduction in instances of academic misconduct, our efforts should be focused on prevention.
  • Academic misconduct often occurs when students are under stress and pressure. The majority of students can be influenced and supported in their academic integrity.

What can you do?

  • This article explains some causes of academic misconduct and introduces a range of strategies for instructors. More ideas for action appear below.


Explain the rules

Why?  Students get a range of messages, instructions about how to follow the rules, and even what the rules are. Because of this, each instructor should be explicit about the rules and interpretations of seriousness of different kinds of academic misconduct errors. Explain the reason for the rules and how these improve learning and/or make the assessment fairer.

  • Use the syllabus templates language and links, but take note there is likely more you should say about your rules.  
  • Highlight the kind of academic misconduct that is more likely to be a concern on your assessments.
  • Avoid an exclusive focus on penalties for academic misconduct. Students do need to know about consequences, but these are much better framed in a message about learning and fairness.
  • Connect (explicitly) the ethical action academic integrity requires to ethical action in settings beyond higher education, for example within professions or communities.

Some students are getting involved in a global trend of “contract cheating” where academic work is outsourced to third party sites. Many researchers regard these sites as taking a predatory approach as they market services to students.

Build student skills

Why?  Students are learning to write and study and perform assessment tasks in the university environment—which includes different disciplinary practices. If there are specific skills you need to students to have – find out if they have them and then either teach them or refer them to services and resources or do both.

  • Teach with cases to help students see the relevance of the academic integrity requirements.
  • Use single modules or individual resources from the academic integrity modules to teach key skills relevant to your course.
  • Explain why different citation practices (for example, referencing protocols) exist and the reason for the ones you may require.
  • Advise students on effective approaches to assignments, labs, projects, and exam preparation.
  • Refer students to seek additional support from Student Learning Services.

Invite questions without judgement

Why?  When students feel they can ask you questions, especially “beginner” questions, without feeling embarrassed, they are more likely to ask those clarifying questions that can tell you what else they need in order to meet expectations. Plus, the better the relationship between student and instructor, the more the most students will make efforts to try to avoid academic misconduct.

Design assessments

Why?  Assessments that students find interesting and relevant to their futures are more intrinsically motivating for their learning. Building in choice and practice with feedback helps with academic integrity, too. For larger assessments, adding interim due dates can help student manage their workload better and avoid procrastination and last-minute pressures.

Follow up on academic misconduct concerns

Why?  When academic misconduct goes undetected or is overlooked, problems include:

  • Students get the wrong message – that what they did was acceptable, or just wasn’t all that serious.
  • Students who maintained their academic integrity become discouraged and demoralized.
  • Campus norms slip toward more academic misconduct.

Early intervention is usually the best strategy. Here are some ideas for talking with students about suspected academic misconduct.

Student support services on campus

Encourage students to talk to an Academic Advisor if they might need advice about their program.

Promote services such as Student Wellness or Access and Equity Services to students as appropriate.