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Academic Integrity Tutorial: Learning Activities

Blatant vs Ambiguous Misconduct

A blurb about the ambiguous nature of unintentional misconduct:

Within the field of academic integrity, there are two categories of academic misconduct, each posing an equally serious problem. Blatant misconduct, which is less rampant, is easy to recognize and avoid. Ambiguous misconduct is often committed unintentionally and is mostly attributable to a lack of knowledge, understanding, and/or planning. In fact, there is a complex interaction between ‘intent’ and ‘honest error’1, which makes it difficult to recognize ambiguous misconduct. This presents challenges for both faculty and students, making it necessary to clearly articulate what the rules are and, above all, what the expectations are of students.

Activity 1 - Misconduct Adjudication

The following activity will help you to recognize academic misconduct and the common pitfalls to avoid. With the help of pages 6 and 7 of the "Student Academic Misconduct Regulations", determine how the following cases might be judged. 


Would you say the following scenarios do or do not constitute academic misconduct? If you are unsure, find the answer by referring to the regulations or by clicking the link 'Not Sure'.


Student A wrote an excellent paper in a high school psychology class. They decide to use that paper as an introduction to their first year psychology paper. They do not include a citation because it is their own work.
Misconduct: 7540 votes (77.44%)
Not Misconduct: 1664 votes (17.09%)
Not Sure: 532 votes (5.46%)
Total Votes: 9736

Student B worked collaboratively with a friend on a take-home exam after being told by their friend that they have consent from the instructor to do so.
Misconduct: 4856 votes (50.42%)
Not Misconduct: 4021 votes (41.75%)
Not Sure: 755 votes (7.84%)
Total Votes: 9632

Student C was running out of time and forgot to write down the page number for the quotation they put in their essay. They need to get the assignment in on time, so they make-up the page number believing the prof won't notice or check.
Misconduct: 8793 votes (95.23%)
Not Misconduct: 273 votes (2.96%)
Not Sure: 167 votes (1.81%)
Total Votes: 9233

Student D used images from a website; they claimed they had found no copyright information either on the images or elsewhere on the site.
Misconduct: 7747 votes (84.01%)
Not Misconduct: 883 votes (9.57%)
Not Sure: 592 votes (6.42%)
Total Votes: 9222

Student E required a medical note to be excused from an exam but could not get an appointment with the doctor on the day of the exam. They decide to alter the date on the medical note.
Misconduct: 8848 votes (97.6%)
Not Misconduct: 141 votes (1.56%)
Not Sure: 77 votes (0.85%)
Total Votes: 9066

Student F worked collaboratively on an assignment with several classmates. Pressed for time, they decide to split up parts of the assignment and then put it together later to submit individually.
Misconduct: 7366 votes (80.64%)
Not Misconduct: 1443 votes (15.8%)
Not Sure: 325 votes (3.56%)
Total Votes: 9134

Student G missed a test due to illness. They receive information about the format of the test from a classmate in order to prepare for the makeup test.
Misconduct: 8041 votes (89.1%)
Not Misconduct: 811 votes (8.99%)
No Sure: 173 votes (1.92%)
Total Votes: 9025

Student H rewords a paragraph from their lecture notes without referencing it, thinking their professor will know where it came from.
Misconduct: 8448 votes (94.34%)
Not Misconduct: 348 votes (3.89%)
Not Sure: 159 votes (1.78%)
Total Votes: 8955

Student J’s lab report was damaged, and so they alter their lab data to complete an assignment.
Misconduct: 8706 votes (96.26%)
Not Misconduct: 205 votes (2.27%)
Not Sure: 133 votes (1.47%)
Total Votes: 9044

Activity 2 - Spot Your Inner Dialogue

When it comes to completing your coursework with integrity, your inner dialogue may be challenging. The temptation to rationalize minor acts of misconduct can be compelling, especially when pressed for time. Some thoughts might lead to taking questionable shortcuts which might, in turn, compromise integrity. In the activity below, can you identify the negative thoughts that might compromise academic integrity and the positive thoughts that uphold academic integrity?


Dig a Little Deeper

If you have time: 

Review the Turnitin Plagiarism Spectrum to become even more familiar with the most common pitfalls (practices that could lead to misconduct).

The University of Waterloo offers more scenarios to explore. To hone your academic integrity skills, consider the breach of academic integrity associated with each situation.

The University of Toronto lists common academic misconduct pitfalls. Click on the links to discover the strategies recommended for how to avoid each pitfall.

1. The Expert Panel on Research Integrity, Honesty, Accountability and Trust: Fostering Research integrity in Canada. Ottawa: Council of Canadian Academics, 2010, p46.