Dealing with Academic Dishonesty

As a community of scholars and an Honors university, UMBC takes issues of Academic Integrity very seriously. The University recommends that all instructors include the following policy in their syllabi:

“Academic integrity is an important value at UMBC. By enrolling in this course, each student assumes the responsibilities of an active participant in UMBC’s scholarly community in which everyone’s academic work and behavior are held to the highest standards of honesty. Cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and helping others to commit these acts are all forms of academic dishonesty, and they are wrong. Academic misconduct could result in disciplinary action that may include, but is not limited to, suspension or dismissal.”

Academic Integrity | Why Do Students Cheat? | Using SafeAssign

Academic Integrity

In its Undergraduate Student Academic Conduct Policy, the University includes definitions and examples illustrating the meanings of cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic misconduct, plagiarism and dishonesty. A similar policy also exists for graduate students.

In all cases of verified Academic Misconduct – whether the faculty member is giving a written warning or seeking to impose an Institutional Penalty – faculty members are required to submit a report to the Academic Misconduct Reporting Database.

More specific information on procedures and policies can be found on the Academic Integrity faculty web page. Instructors can also direct students to this website for resources on Academic Misconduct and guidelines for avoiding it.

If you are a faculty member who has a specific question about an academic integrity issue in your classroom, please contact the Academic Conduct Committee Co-Chair at

Why Do Students Cheat?

Research tells us that the two main reasons that students engage in Academic Misconduct are:

  1. They are unaware of what constitutes cheating.
  2. They are under the gun and want a good grade.

Faculty can help students avoid Academic Misconduct:

  1. Be specific about what constitutes cheating – Share with your students the definitions of cheating, plagiarism and so on, or direct them to the Undergraduate Student Academic Conduct Policy where these definitions can be found.
  2. Design tiered assignments – Requiring students to hand in drafts or preliminary documents for feedback will ensure that they will have already put some work into the assignment before the 11th hour.
  3. Explain why Academic Misconduct is harmful to them as students and people, and why you as a scholar and an educator take it seriously.
  4. Incorporate some flexibility into your grading policy – Everyone has a bad week every now and then. If a student is allowed to re-do a poor assignment or ask for one extension per term, s/he may be less tempted to cheat to get it done.
  5. Make a semester calendar with due dates and encourage students to plan their semester accordingly.

Using SafeAssign

SafeAssign is a plagiarism-detection tool (similar to Turnitin) which is supported by DoIT and available through your Blackboard course site. A tutorial on how to use SafeAssign is provided by Blackboard through the DoIT website.

See also this DoIT page for more information:

  • How do I create a SafeAssignment in Blackboard?

DoIT also provides resources on SafeAssign for students:


For more strategies on deterring plagiarism see:

  • Robert Harris, “Anti-Plagiarism Strategies for Research Papers.”
  • Diane Pecorari, Teaching to Avoid Plagiarism: How to promote good source use. Berkshire, England: Open University Press, 2013. Available at the FDC.
  • Barbara Gross Davis, “Preventing Academic Dishonesty,” (Chapter 34 in Tools for Teaching, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993). Available at the FDC.
  • Amy Baldwin, “Practical Plagiarism Prevention” (The Teaching Professor, May 2001, Vol. 15, no. 5). Available at the FDC. 
  • Students may be directed to the UMBC library resources page, Citing Sources.

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