Part of the academic endeavor is a notion that academics (students, faculty, researchers, staff) must follow high standards of honesty in their academic work. One component of academic honesty is that academics must clearly indicate which work (ideas, writing, etc.) is theirs and which belongs to others.
To many people, the focus of academic honesty is plagiarism and the purpose of academic honesty is integrity. For example, Grinnell's student handbook once included the following statement:
The college expects Grinnell students to demonstrate a high code of personal honor in all their relationships. Further, the college seeks to protect the integrity of the operations in which grades are involved: the granting of degrees, the conferring of honors and privileges, and the certification and transfer of credits to other institutions. Accordingly, students who are dishonest in the preparation of assignments or in examinations may incur the penalty of probation, immediate failure in the course, suspension, or dismissal from the college.
Dishonesty in academic work often involves plagiarism. A student is expect to acknowledge explicitly any expressions, ideas, or observations that are not his or her own. In submitting a report, paper, examination, homework assignment, or computer program, he or she is stating that the form and content of the paper, report, examination, homework assignment, or computer program represents his or her own work, except where clear and specific reference is made to other sources. Even when there may be no conscious effort to deceive, failure to make appropriate acknowledgment may constitute plagiarism. Therefore, students should comply with [appropriate requirements for acknowledging sources]. (Grinnell College 2000-2001 Student Handbook, p. 51)
However, plagiarism is not the only kind of academic dishonesty that can happen; there is much more to academic honesty than just making sure to cite work you've used. In particular, you are expected to provide a true and accurate representation of your work in experimental endeavors (e.g., it is academically dishonest to invent or modify experimental results). It is also academically dishonest to aid another in an academically dishonest act (e.g., to provide aid on a no-aid exam, to write a paper for another student).
There are also more reasons to care about academic honesty than simply
the integrity of operations. First, academic advancement
requires that a trail of ideas be available so that successes and
failures can be traced backward. Second, your own personal integrity
requires that you be academically honest.
Note that most of the faculty (and, we hope, the students) at Grinnell feel the same way. You will note that the new College document, Academic Honesty: The Ethical Use of Sources, Collaboration, and Scholarly Integrity at Grinnell College, provides this much broader view, particularly as compared to the 2000-2001 handbook.
I wrote this document in response to a number of factors. First, I had already been required to write such a document in my previous teaching position. Second, I was unhappy about the focus of Grinnell's academic honesty statement. Third, I had my own experience with academic dishonesty at Grinnell (although it took a few years to get to that stage.)
The new Academic Honesty pamphlet makes this statement slightly less necessary. However, I continue to distribute it because I want to emphasize my concern for these matters, because the pamphlet suggests that faculty members make their policies clear, and because, well, I hate to throw anything away.
I expect you to follow the highest principles of academic honesty. Among other things, this means that any work you turn in should be your own or should have the work of others clearly documented. However, when you explicitly work as part of a group or team, you need not identify the work of each individual (unless I specify otherwise).
You should never
give away answers to homework assignments or
examinations. You may, however, work together in developing answers to
most homework assignments. Except as specified on individual assignments,
each student should develop his or her own final version of the
assignment. On written assignments, each student should write up an
individual version of the assignment and cite the discussion. On
non-group programming assignments, each student should do his or her own
programming, although students may help each other with design and
If you have a question as to whether a particular action may violate academic standards, please discuss it with me (preferably before you undertake that action).
Most of my teaching involves collaborative work. I believe (and have found) that students learn better when they can consult with each other. For example, there are few better ways to learn something than to explain that thing to someone else.
In each assignment I give, I do my best to make it clear whether the assignment is intended to be primarily collaborative or primarily individual.
The advances of the Internet and the World Wide Web have led to
challenges in citation. Some seem to believe that it is acceptable for
a citation to consist of a URL. However, a citation should provide
much more information. Consider what a typical citation to the
printed literature contains: Author, Date, Title of
Article, Publisher, etc. Your Web citations should contain at least as much
detail. That is, you must include not just the URL, but also the
author of the page (using
Anonymous or an institutional author,
if necessary), the title of the page, the publisher (the site), and
The date is particularly important. Unlike printed sources, which have new editions when they change, electronic resources often change unexpectedly. By including the date the page was accessed and modified, you at least provide some indication of when the ideas you were using were available at the specified location.
Here is a sample citation for this page, using one standard form of citations.
Rebelsky, Samuel (2005). Academic Honesty. Grinnell College Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. Available at http://www.cs.grinnell.edu/~rebelsky/Courses/Tutorial/2007F/Handouts/academic-honesty.html (Last modified 21 August 2005; Visited 21 August 2005).
Pre-Grinnell [Samuel A. Rebelsky]
Later, Presumably Pre-Grinnell [Samuel A. Rebelsky]
Saturday, 21 August 1999 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]
Monday, 17 January 2000 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]
Thursday, 24 August 2000 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]
Friday, 12 January 2001 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]
Friday, 19 January 2001 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]
Tuesday, 7 January 2003 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]
Saturday, 23 August 2003 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]
Sunday, 21 August 2005 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]
I usually create these pages
on the fly, which means that I rarely
proofread them and they may contain bad grammar and incorrect details.
It also means that I tend to update them regularly (see the history for
more details). Feel free to contact me with any suggestions for changes.
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Copyright © 2007 Samuel A. Rebelsky. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.Samuel A. Rebelsky, firstname.lastname@example.org