Addressing Incidents of Academic Dishonesty

Faculty should exercise caution when addressing incidents of academic dishonesty, as misunderstandings and false accusations are possible. Taking proactive steps to promote academic integrity can help students become responsible learners. Listed below are some steps faculty should consider when addressing incidents of academic dishonesty.

Prepare to deal with academic dishonesty

Preparing to deal with academic dishonesty includes designing and conducting effective course activities, knowing university policies and resources, keeping good records of student performance and meetings with students and knowing how students can commit academic dishonesty. When faculty are prepared to deal with acts of academic dishonesty effectively, they are more likely to exercise good judgment and treat students fairly.


When faculty are prepared to deal with academic dishonesty effectively, they are more likely to exercise good judgment and treat students fairly.

Know about detection tools and techniques

There are a number of commercially available tools to detect plagiarism; instructors should be familiar with these tools and their limitations. Many of these tools detect only text plagiarized from electronic media and may require fees or subscription costs. Other techniques, such as using Google or other search engines, are easy-to-use and inexpensive methods of finding some types of plagiarism.

Get the facts

If a student is suspected of cheating or plagiarism, the faculty should get all the facts related to the incident. To avoid any possible misunderstanding, the student should meet with the instructor in his or her office (not in a public place) to explain the incident. It is important to take time to listen to the student and treat the student respectfully. Faculty should also make an effort to distinguish between unintentional and intentional incidents, as penalties can differ for such cases.

Check Your Understanding

When a plagiarism detection tool indicates that a particular piece of text has not been plagiarized, does it prove that the student did not plagiarize that text?

No, a plagiarism detection tool can only indicate whether that text exist in the electronic media check by that tool or not; it does not prove whether the student did or did not plagiarize it.

Recognize cultural differences

If a student suspected of academic dishonesty comes from a different culture than the instructor, the faculty should recognize cultural differences that might cause a misunderstanding. For example, if a student suspected of academic dishonesty is from a culture that considers making eye contact to be disrespectful, then the faculty should not assume the student is lying because he or she does not look at the faculty when responding to questions.

Some cultures have a different understanding of intellectual property than the United States. Faculty can take the opportunity to explain these cultural differences to students and help them adapt to the academic culture in United States.

Good Idea

Faculty should get to know students from other cultures and their cultural norms to avoid cultural misunderstandings.

Recognize students' roles in incidents

Faculty should take the time to analyze incidents of academic dishonesty, and determine the roles of students involved, so students who had no involvement in the incidents are not falsely accused or penalized.

For example, if two students submitted identical work for an assignment that was supposed to be completed individually, the faculty member cannot automatically assume both students collaborated on the assignment and cheated. One student may have stolen or copied the other student’s work without his or her knowledge. Instructors can easily identify the culprit by meeting with both students separately and asking them to explain their work.

Know about technologies

Faculty should be familiar with current technologies, including their capabilities and limitations. While it is neither necessary nor possible for faculty to know every piece of technology or every online service where students can purchase papers or answers to questions, instructors should have a general idea of how students can use technologies to commit acts of academic dishonesty.

Maintain copies of documents and records

When an faculty member suspects a student of committing an act of academic dishonesty but is not entirely sure, the faculty should make a copy of the student’s work and look for patterns in the student’s work. It is always a good practice to maintain copies of the suspected student’s work and keep records of meetings with that student.

Consult experts

If an incident of academic dishonesty is not clear cut, instructors should consult their department chairs, the university’s Student Conduct office, or the ombudsperson before taking any action.

Take appropriate action

When the evidence confirms that a student has indeed committed an act of academic dishonesty, the faculty member should take appropriate action, according to departmental and university policies, to fit the incident.

Per NIU policy, faculty have original jurisdiction over matters of academic misconduct. Faculty have an obligation to confront and attempt resolution of academic misconduct incidents. All instances of academic misconduct must be reported to the Student Conduct office, via the academic misconduct incident online report form.

Promote academic integrity

When taking any action to deal with incidents of academic dishonesty, the instructor’s goals should be to treat students respectfully and fairly and to promote academic integrity.

Rule to Remember

When dealing with incidents of academic dishonesty, the instructor's goals should be to treat students respectfully and fairly and promote academic integrity.