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Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity and the Penn State University community

When you enrolled in Penn State, you became a member of a prestigious and hardworking university community. As part of this community, you are subject to the same high standards and expectations as your professors, instructors, and teaching assistants. Central to protecting and promoting the University’s standards is the high value we place on academic integrity.

What does this mean for you as a Penn State student?

It’s important to consider yourself as a vital and important participant in the university community. You are a scholar, being educated by scholars, and protecting your reputation as such means diligently practicing the academic respect appropriate to your station.

In the plainest terms, this means acting responsibly, fairly, and honestly in all classes under all circumstances. This includes, for instance:

  • When you’re not as prepared for a test as you’d like to be or when you are, but someone you care about isn’t
  • When you’re tired and working on a paper, and you must go back to locate bibliographic information (and it’s midnight)
  • When a fellow student asks you for an answer during an exam.

Should you participate in any of these activities, or ones like them, you are jeopardizing your academic integrity, and perhaps your grade. Be conscientious. When in doubt, talk over your concerns with your professors. They can assist you in learning how to navigate the rules of responsible academic scholarship. They, too, must practice them daily.

What can you do to protect your academic integrity?

When working in groups:

Working with others on assigned group projects is fine, provided everyone contributes equally and is given credit for his/her fair share of work. Though difficult to enforce, your sense of academic integrity should compel you to “do right” by your group members.

Show up for all meetings and participate, distribute tasks in a manner that is fair, and remember that fair does not always mean perfectly equal. Ideally, you want to make use of each group members’ strengths to create a final product of which the whole group is proud. Serious scholars teach each other, give thoughtful reactions to others’ work, and provide constructive criticism.

When working alone:

The most common risk to your academic integrity when working on a solitary project is plagiarism. When researching, keep scrupulous notes on the materials you're referenced. While it’s natural, and often required, to consult outside sources when working on a writing assignment, any outside material you quote or paraphrase must be appropriately documented. This holds true whether you tried to plagiarize or not. Unintentional plagiarism is still plagiarism.

When in doubt, DOCUMENT

Take the initiative to learn responsible research techniques and avoid unintentional plagiarism. Check out the resources listed on the Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism web site; it's well worth your time.

Another threat to your academic integrity comes in your well-meaning intentions. You may want to help out a struggling friend or panicked neighbor by allowing him or her to copy your work or by giving them a whispered answer during a test. Doing so, however, is cheating, and although the desire to help is understandable, you sacrifice their learning—and your academic integrity—by giving in. Resist the urge to do “favors.”

All the time:

Keep an attitude of respect for yourself and others at all times. When you’re committed to doing your best, you will find that academic integrity becomes an inherent part of your scholarship. You will also benefit from the confidence you build by doing well legitimately and by feeling secure that others are doing well (or not) legitimately.

You will also find that as you practice academic integrity as a matter of course, you earn the respect of students and faculty alike, and will be accepted readily as an important contributor to the Penn State community’s well-being and success.

What are the consequences of failing to protect your academic integrity?

The consequences for violating the College's Academic Integrity standards are more serious than you might think; they typically range from failing the assignment or the course to receiving an XF grade--an indicator that a course was failed due to one or more academic violations--or other disciplinary action. By being proactive about maintaining your academic integrity, you can easily avoid these punitive measures.