Proactive Steps to Prevent Academic Dishonesty

Ideally, faculty may prefer students to demonstrate integrity on their own and not have to police students and penalize those who commit academic dishonesty. However, when faculty are knowledgeable about academic integrity issues and are prepared to deal with them effectively, they will encounter fewer cases of academic dishonesty in their courses. Faculty can take a number of proactive steps to prevent students from committing academic dishonesty.

Discuss academic dishonesty with colleagues

Students receive mixed messages about academic dishonesty when they are faced with varying expectations and policies from faculty within the same department. Faculty should periodically hold department-level discussions on academic integrity so that all faculty take proactive steps to prevent academic dishonesty, convey consistent expectations to students and uniformly apply policies when dealing with incidents of academic dishonesty.

Check Your Understanding

What action should be taken when students express concerns about receiving mixed messages from different faculty about academic integrity.

Faculty should hold department-level discussions on academic integrity so that all instructors convey consistent expectations to students and apply policies uniformly.

Understand how students commit acts of academic dishonesty

As explained in the previous section, students can commit acts of academic dishonesty in a number of ways. Faculty should be familiar with these possibilities and take proactive steps in preventing them. Students often may be one step ahead of faculty when it comes to cheating and plagiarism, but faculty should make an effort to find out how students commit acts of academic dishonesty to prepare to deal with it. This information can be obtained through professional development workshops, web resources, journal publications and networking with colleagues.

Know the policies and resources

Faculty should know departmental, college and university policies regarding how to handle cheating and plagiarism, and they should be aware of the resources available for dealing with academic dishonesty. Faculty should also become familiar with Web sites and software available for detecting plagiarism.

Clarify issues and policies in the syllabus

The course syllabus should include clear statements on what is considered academic dishonesty in that particular course and how such cases will be handled. Policies related to teamwork and collaborative activities may vary from course to course, and they should be explained in the syllabus.

During the first class of each semester in each course, faculty should explain the course policies listed in the syllabus and encourage students to ask for clarification if they do not understand the policies related to academic integrity.


Faculty should explain the course policies listed in the course syllabus to students during the first class of the semester.

Know your students

When students feel they are invisible in the classroom and think their instructors do not know them, they may be tempted to cheat or plagiarize. Students will most often be embarrassed to commit acts of academic dishonesty when their instructors know their names and who they are. If faculty take the time to learn students’ names, call them by name inside and outside the classroom, and show an interest in their learning and academic performance, students will be less likely to cheat or plagiarize.

Even in large classes, faculty can make an effort to learn a few names in each class and address students by their names, or they can arrive at class early and get to know students through informal conversations. It is also important for faculty to familiarize themselves with the unique issues related to cultural differences and avoid misunderstanding or stereotyping students from different backgrounds.

Model the behavior expected from students

One effective step for preventing academic dishonesty is for faculty to model academic integrity in all situations. Faculty should include proper citations and acknowledgments in all their instructional and research materials and follow copyright, fair use and intellectual property guidelines. Seeing their faculty demonstrate academic integrity makes a much stronger impression on students than only hearing about policies and procedures.

Engage students proactively

During the first week of each semester, faculty should discuss academic integrity issues in their classes. One way to accomplish this is by dividing the class into small groups to discuss questions and concerns about academic dishonesty. Students should be encouraged to ask for clarification when necessary. Faculty can also engage students in developing an “honor code” for each course. When students are actively involved in developing policies about issues of academic integrity, they may be less likely to commit acts of academic dishonesty.

Rule to Remember

Demonstrating academic integrity in all situations makes a much stronger impression than simply lecturing about it.

Provide resources

Students often have trouble relating the abstract definitions of cheating and plagiarism to their own work. They need concrete examples and specific guidance to help them recognize and avoid cheating and plagiarism. By providing examples of students’ work (without names or identifying information) from previous semesters, instructors can demonstrate how those students did or did not properly paraphrase or cite sources.

It is a good idea to discuss in class good writing strategies, different citation styles, and proper paraphrasing techniques, and provide students a list of online resources on these topics. Listed below are some online resources that students may find useful:

Know your field

If faculty are familiar with the journal publications, conferences, popular textbooks, and Web resources in the areas they teach, they will be able to guide students in using those resources properly for course activities. Familiarity with those resources also makes detecting plagiarism easier.