Academic Honesty

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There can be a tremendous amount of pressure on students at a university to get good grades and finish a degree. With the proliferation of websites that peddle research papers to students, and the competitive admissions of many graduate programs, students have more temptations than ever to forget what education really means. The faculty at UW Tacoma takes academic honesty very seriously. It is at the core of our ethics and we expect students to behave accordingly. The following serves as a guideline for both students and faculty. This statement was prepared by the Committee on Academic Conduct of the College of Arts and Sciences at the UW Seattle campus. It amplifies the Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-120). We have modified it to refer to the UW Tacoma processes and resources.


Students at the University of Washington are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic conduct. Most UW students conduct themselves with integrity and are disturbed when they observe others cheating. The information on these pages should help you avoid unintentional misconduct and clarify the consequences of cheating.

Cheating harms the University community in many ways. Honest students are frustrated by the unfairness of cheating that goes undetected and therefore unpunished. Students who cheat skew the grading curve in a class, resulting in lower grades for students who worked hard and did their own work.

Cheaters also cheat themselves of a real education. They rob themselves not only of general knowledge, but also of the experience of learning how to learn, the very experience that makes a bachelor's degree so valuable to employers. The reputation of the University and the worth of a UW degree suffer if employers find graduates lacking the abilities their degrees should guarantee.

Finally, most professions have codes of ethics, standards to which you will be expected to adhere when you are working. At the University, you practice the integrity you must demonstrate later. For all of these reasons, academic misconduct is considered a serious offense at the UW.

What is academic misconduct?

You are guilty of academic misconduct whenever you present as your own work something that you did not do. You are also guilty of academic misconduct if you help someone else to cheat.


One of the most common forms of cheating is plagiarism; using another's words or ideas without proper citation. When students plagiarize, they usually do so in one of the following six ways:

  1. Using another writer's words without proper citation. If you use another writer's words, you must place quotation marks around the quoted material and include a footnote or other indication of the source of the quotation.
  2. Using another writer's ideas without proper citation. When you use another author's ideas, you must indicate with footnotes or other means where this information can be found. Your instructors want to know which ideas and judgments are yours and which you arrived at by consulting other sources. Even if you arrived at the same judgment on your own, you need to acknowledge that the writer you consulted also came up with the idea.
  3. Citing your source but reproducing the exact words of a printed source without quotation marks. This makes it appear that you have paraphrased rather than borrowed the author's exact words.
  4. Borrowing the structure of another author's phrases or sentences without crediting the author from whom it came. This kind of plagiarism usually occurs out of laziness: it is easier to replicate another writer's style than to think about what you have read and then put it in your own words. The following example is from A Writer's Reference by Diana Hacker (New York, 1989, p. 171).
    • Original: If the existence of a signing ape was unsettling for linguists, it was also startling news for animal behaviorists.
    • Unacceptable borrowing of words: An ape who knew sign language unsettled linguists and startled animal behaviorists.
    • Unacceptable borrowing of sentence structure: If the presence of a sign language- using chimp was disturbing for scientists studying language, it was also surprising to scientists studying animal behavior.
    • Acceptable paraphrase: When they learned of an ape's ability to use sign language, both linguists and animal behaviorists were taken by surprise.
  5. Borrowing all or part of another student's paper or using someone else's outline to write your own paper.
  6. Using a paper writing "service" on the web or elsewhere, or having a friend write the paper for you. Regardless of whether you pay a stranger or have a friend do it, it is a breach of academic honesty to hand in work that is not your own or to use parts of another student's paper.

You may think that citing another author's work will lower your grade. In some unusual cases this may be true, if your instructor has indicated that you must write your paper without reading additional material. But in fact, as you progress in your studies, you will be expected to show that you are familiar with important work in your field and can use this work to further your own thinking. Your professors write this kind of paper all the time. The key to avoiding plagiarism is that you show clearly where your own thinking ends and someone else's begins.


Another common form of cheating involves exams. Consulting a cell phone or another electronic device, texting others for answers, copying from someone else's paper, using notes (unless expressly allowed by the instructor), altering an exam for regrading, getting an advance copy of the examination, or hiring a surrogate test-taker are all flagrant violations of University policy.


Educators recognize the value of collaborative learning; students are often encouraged to form study groups and assigned group projects. Group study often results in accelerated learning, but only when each student takes responsibility for mastering all the material before the group.

Group projects require careful division of responsibility and careful coordination to control the quality of the final product. Collective work quickly degenerates when some students see it as a way to get through an assignment with the least amount of effort. Group work calls for a different kind of effort, not less of it. Students make a mistake when they think of the finished product (presentation or paper) as the outcome of the group. When group projects are assigned, the instructor is usually interested in your mastery of group process as well as the subject. Ask the instructor to clarify individual responsibilities and suggest a method of proceeding.

In summary, when a professor says, "Go ahead and work together," don't assume that anything goes. Professors often don't state the limits of collaboration explicitly. It is your responsibility to avoid crossing the line that turns collaboration into cheating. If you are not sure, ask.

What happens in a case of suspected misconduct?

Instructors are advised to discuss the matter with the student and the Dean or Program Director. If after speaking to the student the misconduct is still suspected, the instructor may submit a Student Conduct Incident Report to the Student Engagement Office (either informational purposes or as a request for action). Instructors who believe they have discovered cheating and have not resolved the issue before grades are due will submit a grade of X (the equivalent of an unreported grade) for the course until the academic misconduct charge is resolved. The student will be contacted to participate in an informal hearing with a hearing officer and will have the opportunity to present information and answer questions about the allegations. If the student is found responsible for violating the Student Conduct Code, they may be issued one of the following disciplinary sanctions (note: repeat offenses will result in more serious disciplinary action):

  1. Disciplinary warnings and reprimands: Action may be taken to warn or to reprimand a student for violation of university rules, regulations, procedures, policies, standards of conduct, or orders.
  2. Restitution: An individual student may be required to make restitution for damage or other loss of property and for injury to persons.
  3. Disciplinary probation: A student may be placed on disciplinary probation (meaning formal conditions are imposed on a student's continued attendance) for violation of university rules, regulations, procedures, policies, standards of conduct, or orders. The time period and conditions, if any, for the disciplinary probation shall be specified.
  4. Suspension: A student may be suspended from the university for violation of university rules, regulations, procedures, policies, standards of conduct, or orders. The time period and conditions, if any, for the suspension shall be specified.
  5. Dismissal: A student's enrollment in the university may be terminated for violation of university rules, regulations, procedures, policies, standards of conduct, or orders.

A student may, by written request to the Student Engagement Office (usually at time of graduation), request that the disciplinary record be expunged. This is based on the severity of the violation and the sanction that was imposed and may not be granted for all students.

NOTE: Review the Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-120) for complete details on the student judicial system.


The temptation to cheat can be eliminated by learning good time and stress management skills and sound study habits, by making good use of the academic support resources at the University, and by engaging in educational planning with the help of academic counselors. Certain common patterns in student behavior increase the temptation to cheat: falling behind in course work or leaving large projects until the last minute; working too many hours to keep up with courses; taking too many difficult courses at once; encountering emotional or health problems that distract from studies and interfere with concentration.

Get in the habit of planning your education. Academic Advisors can help you determine your educational goals, plan your classes, keep your quarterly load manageable, and find a reasonable balance between work and school. Advising sessions are confidential and the privacy of your student record is guaranteed by federal law.


You will be expected to live up to the University's standard of academic honesty no matter what temptations you face. The good news is that this standard is not hard to maintain. It only requires that you clarify assignments and procedures with your instructors, that you study diligently, and that you seek help when you need it.