Suggested Policies for Assignments

Explain academic standards for assignments, including discussions of unauthorized collaboration, unauthorized aid, and plagiarism.

For each assignment, explicate standards and intended learning outcomes. You don't have to say "don't cheat on exams," but clear explanations can help establish classroom norms.

Collaboration

Students need explanation on when collaboration is expected, allowed, and encouraged, and where you draw the line between collaboration and copying.

For example, UCSD Professor Michael Anderson uses this "statement of expectations" for his Physics lab assignments:

  • "In 1AL it is expected that you complete your academic assignments on your own and in your own words. The assignments have been developed by the Instructor to facilitate your learning and to provide a method for fairly evaluating your knowledge and abilities (not the knowledge and abilities of others). So, to facilitate learning, you are authorized to discuss pre-lab and post-lab questions with your classmates. However, to ensure fair evaluations, you are NOT authorized to use the answers developed by another, copy the work completed by others in the past or present, or write your academic assignments in collaboration with another person. If the work you submit is determined to be other than your own, you will be reported to the Academic Integrity Office for violating UCSD's Policy on Integrity of Scholarship. If you do not understand these expectations and authorizations, please speak with the Instructor as soon as possible as no academic assignments will be accepted without this signed form."
  • "My signature below confirms that I have completed this assignment with integrity according to the expectations and authorizations stipulated by the Instructor."

Teach students about ethical collaboration by encouraging transparency in group work. If students work with others on an assignment, have them acknowledge the collaborators on the assignment.

Use of Aids

Students will use any and all available resources to complete their academic work, especially if you haven't articulated which resources are acceptable and which would be considered cheating. You may need to answer these questions for your students:

  • Can students use old examinations that are readily available on campus through student organizations, Associated Students' Soft Reserves, and Web sites such as Postyourtest.com?
    • If they can, make these examinations easily accessible to all students in the class.
  • Can students collaborate on an assignment? With each other, parents, friends, tutors, the Internet?
    • Students have many different interpretations of "collaboration." A student who lacks cultural capital in a specific class may, for example, consult with experts through the Internet rather than seek out classmates.
    • If students are allowed to work with tutors, clarify if the student can go to any person who claims to be a "tutor," or only to UCSD/ department-trained tutors.
  • Can students use Wikipedia, CliffsNotes, or SparkNotes when writing papers? Can they use tutors or go to a writing center?
    • Students may not distinguish between legitimate (e.g., a writing center tutor) and illegitimate (e.g., SparkNotes) writing aids. Be sure you clearly declare your beliefs and assumptions about this.
  • Can students use old lab reports or instructor's manuals to complete lab assignments?
    • Every discipline and professor has different rules about this; make yours explicit.
    • If your department has a standard rule, make sure it's clearly defined for students.

Plagiarism

Most plagiarism occurs not because students are intentionally dishonest, but because they lack confidence as writers, they don't have the skills necessary to incorporate secondary source material in papers, or they don't know what constitutes plagiarism and proper citation practices.

Therefore, it's helpful to explicitly state your expectations and standards for paper writing. For example:

  • "For this assignment, you are expected to write the paper by yourself, using your own words and ideas or otherwise attributing them to the writer from whom you borrowed. Please use [MLA, Chicago, APA] standards for proper citation and attribution."
  • "If you are struggling with the writing assignment, you may seek out help only from [here you can list any approved parties; e.g., you, TAs, and/or UCSD writing tutors]."
  • "Although this should not need to be stated, I will for the sake of clarity: Any copying or paraphrasing of another's words or ideas without citation is plagiarism and a violation of the UCSD standards of academic integrity."