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Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about how we address plagiarism & cheating at Dalhousie

Why should academic integrity matter to me?

Academic integrity is a commitment to learning in the academic culture and community of Dalhousie University. It is important to remember the 5 basic academic values that Dalhousie upholds: honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility (Centre for Academic Integrity, 1999). When we abide by these values, all of us can truly grow and learn. And ultimately, isn't that what a university is all about?

It is only by going through the sometimes sweat-inducing process—reviewing the work and ideas of others and developing your own—that you can truly expand your knowledge.

A degree from Dalhousie is a respected credential. The university protects the integrity of its degrees by ensuring each student actually completes the work demonstrating the knowledge represented by that degree. Academic integrity is essential to student learning and to the credibility of each degree. Dalhousie takes academic honesty seriously.

Is cheating a problem at Dal?

All academic dishonesty is cheating and that is an issue at all post-secondary institutions in Canada and around the world. Plagiarism, test cheating, unauthorized collaboration and other academic offences do occur at Dalhousie. Some students may not think cheating is a bad thing to do. However, cheating really is a serious offence, with serious consequences.

What are some other breaches of academic integrity?

Text-messaging answers during exams. Sharing answers as a group— or unauthorized collaboration. Buying papers online. Taking an older sibling’s essay and retyping it. Passing off just one or two really good quotes as your own brilliance. Falsifying a lab report with invented data. Padding your bibliography with sources you didn’t use. If it feels wrong, it probably is. According to Dalhousie's policy on Intellectual Honesty, other serious breaches include falsification of data, "possessing unauthorized materials during exams or tests" and/or "providing false or misleading information during an investigation of a suspected academic offence."

What is plagiarism?

As explained in the university calendar, plagiarism is taking "someone else's ideas or work", i.e. written work, or computer codes, images, lab results, etc. and passing them off as your own. Plagiarism could be unintentional — it’s possible you may have neglected to include quote marks around someone else’s exact work and failed to cite them correctly. (For tips on how to cite properly, see Student Resources.) Or, plagiarism can be quite blatant and deliberate, as when a paper is copied, bought or shared word-for-word from another source and handed in under your name. Either way, it’s stealing. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to plagiarize is “ to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own; to use (another's production) without crediting the source; to commit literary theft; to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.” How we acknowledge the words of others is fairly straight-forward once we know the "rules." Properly acknowledging the ideas of others is part of learning effective academic research and writing practices.

What is Dalhousie's policy on plagiarism?

The Intellectual Honesty section of the University Calendar states "Dalhousie University defines plagiarism as the submission or presentation of the work of another as if it were one's own. Plagiarism is considered a serious academic offence which may lead to the assignment of a failing grade, suspension or expulsion from the University. If a penalty results in a student no longer meeting the requirements of a degree that has been awarded, the University may rescind that degree."

What is self-plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism is when, without authorization, you submit any of your own previous work that may have been submitted or performed by you in the past for any type of academic credit or as part of any employment within the University, such as research activity. Literally, you are stealing from yourself.

I get why plagiarism is wrong but what makes self-plagiarism wrong?

Even if some changes are made to the work that was done in the past, the work that is being submitted for a second time is essentially the same as the work for which credit already has been received. That isn't right or fair. You can build on previous work, but it is dishonest to submit essentially the same work for credit twice. In doing so, you are not adding to your knowledge and you are not contributing to the academic community of Dalhousie.

What is a "student awareness statement"?

Some professors are asking their students to sign student awareness statements, honour codes or pledges as they hand in essays or write tests. By signing, you’re affirming that it’s your original work and that you haven’t handed it in to another class previously. Basically, it’s designed to make you stop and think about academic integrity. Download some examples of previously used student awareness statements [PDF - 124 kB]

I'm a faculty member and I suspect a student of cheating. What should I do?

The Guidelines for Academic Evaluators Regarding Violations of Academic Regulations by Students [PDF - 18 kB] form part of the Senate Constitution. Under these Guidelines, all instructors are required to report suspected academic offences to the Faculty Academic Integrity Officer. It "is inappropriate for an evaluator to undertake personal, unilateral action in relation to alleged violations of any academic regulations. Any attempt by anyone or any body other than the Senate, its Discipline Committee, or the Academic Integrity Officers to deal with an offence is null and void and leaves the student still liable to discipline for that offence."

When an academic offence is suspected, you can use Form A [PDF - 11 kB] to send the information to the Academic Integrity Officer (AIO) in your Faculty including such information as student name, class title, class number and the allegation. All documents to support your case should be attached. While you can inform the student that an academic violation is suspected, you should refrain from discussing the matter in any detail. Because academic violations are taken so seriously at Dalhousie, the job of investigating is the authority of the AIO. The student is officially notified of the investigation by the AIO in a letter and a date, time and place for an in-person meeting is set up.

For a quick overview of the process, download the Discipline Flow Chart [PDF - 123 kB]. For full details, see the page on discipline process & penalties.

I'm a student. What happens if I plagiarize and my prof finds out?

Your prof will report the matter to the Academic Integrity Officer in your Faculty. A meeting will be held to consider the allegation. A student advocate can help you through the process. If the offence is proven, depending on the seriousness of all of the facts and circumstances, you may be asked to redo the assignment. But it's more likely that you'll get a failing grade for the assignment or the class, and possibly, a notation on your transcript. You may even be suspended or expelled.

For a quick overview of the process, download the Discipline Flow Chart [PDF - 123 kB]. For full details, see the page on discipline process & penalties.

Do other cultures care about referencing?

Yes, they do. Why not hear the voices of different cultures on this important matter by viewing one of these 11 videos?