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Course and assignment design

Core course design considerations

Dalhousie’s Academic Integrity Working Group has identified two core considerations to diminish student cheating. 

  1. Designing courses (and assignments) that reduce pressures and other situations that encourage student cheating. 
  2. Designing assessments that are more resistant to overt cheating, unauthorized collaboration, or other forms of integrity violations. 

Academic Integrity Toolkit for Course Instructors

The Academic Integrity Working Group has compiled an Academic Integrity Toolkit for Course Instructors with alternative design ideas for courses, with the aim of diminishing student academic integrity offences. The tools and suggestions in the toolkit have been curated from conversations with faculty across many disciplines at Dalhousie and from the published work being done across the globe at institutions of higher education. You can use the information provided in the toolkit as a starting point and adapt it for your specific course.

Assignment design tips

Following are some tips on designing assignments to reduce plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

  • Review elements of the research paper including outlining, footnotes, and bibliographic format.
  • Provide citation standards and include an example.
  • Discuss the importance of academic integrity and citing sources.
  • Make sure students know how to find legitimate material using databases and academic journals.
  • Arrange for a librarian to conduct a class session on library resources.
  • Ensure there is appropriate material available for research topics.
  • Provide class time for research in the library and assign specific tasks to be completed.
  • Explain what skills students gain by doing the assignment.

  • Use a new set of topics for each new class.
  • Use very current topics.
  • Place useful items on reserve in the library.
  • Keep a writing portfolio of each student's past written assignments for comparison.
  • At beginning of each term have students write one page in class to get evidence of their writing level for future comparison.
  • Plan to have several short papers during the semester.
  • Do not allow students to change topics at the last minute.

  • Use unambiguous wording.
  • Assign narrowly focused topics.
  • Be specific about your expectations — including length, type of sources, currency, style, and scope.

  • Periodically check specific parts of the paper or have specific parts due throughout the term. Suggested checkpoints include:
    • Title or statement of focus
    • Thesis statement
    • Preliminary summary
    • Outline
    • Note cards
    • First draft
    • Draft of bibliography
  • Structure the assignment as a series of steps — abstract, bibliography, draft, etc.
  • Require the bibliography a week before the paper is due to check for anomalies.

  • Have students defend their ideas via a question period.
  • Have students present their papers orally in class.
  • Ask for examples of the students' own personal experiences relating to the topic.
  • Ask students to include a response to ideas developed in class discussions.
  • Have each student obtain written feedback from at least two other students.
  • Have students summarize or abstract main points of paper after it is handed in.
  • Have students write about the research process.
  • Have students write one or more drafts in class.

  • Ask for copies of cited or footnoted articles.
  • Require a certain type of source material (journal) as well as a recent publication date.
  • Have students create a person-noting page acknowledging all persons who provided any type of assistance on their project.
  • Require one or more specific sources that must be integrated.
  • Require an annotated bibliography with one or two sentences describing each item.
  • Require an integrity statement attached to the term paper.
  • Use downloadable papers to demonstrate examples of poor writing.

  • Ask for three possible openings to a paper.
  • Ask for a multimedia presentation rather than a straight term paper.
  • Ask for a web page rather than a term paper.
  • Require comparison of two viewpoints or documents on the same issue.
  • Ask for a diary based on a historical event.
  • Have students adopt the point of view of a historical character.
  • Interview leading figures of the time.
  • Develop a flowchart of a historical movement.