Integrity at University

Rowena McGregor and Anita Frederiks

Woman writing notes in notebook in front of laptop
Figure 10.1: Accurately recording your information sources will help you to achieve academic integrity. Image by Ivan Samkov used under CC0 licence.


You will encounter the term “academic integrity” frequently while you are a student. This is because academic integrity underpins most university teaching, learning and research activities and every assessment. Understanding and applying academic integrity is essential for success at university. This chapter will begin by explaining academic integrity and academic misconduct. The chapter will then suggest several resources and skills you can develop to support your academic integrity. The chapter will also describe activities that constitute academic misconduct to further clarify the actions that are unacceptable in the university context.

“Academic integrity is…the expectation that teachers, students, researchers and all members of the academic community act with honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility.” (Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, n.d.)


Academic integrity is honest, respectful, and ethical behaviour within the university environment. Examples of academic integrity include being honest by indicating where and how often you use information created by others. You must be respectful of the work of others and communicate their ideas correctly. You must be ethical and not claim the work of others as your own, nor should you submit a list of what others have said on the topic without providing additional critical or intellectual work. If your university allows you to use generative Artificial Intelligence (generative AI), you need to communicate the use of this tool as specified. Helpful behaviours that show integrity include using the referencing style supported by your university, ensuring all the work you submit is your own, and abiding by copyright laws when using and sharing information (TEQSA, n.d.).

What is academic misconduct?

Academic misconduct is deliberate or inadvertent cheating. This includes plagiarism, cheating, collusion and fabricating information (TEQSA, 2019, p. 3). Use of generative AI to write an essay or complete an assignment without appropriate attribution is an emerging form of academic misconduct. The following section explains why some students are tempted to engage in academic misconduct.

Threats to academic integrity

Although we may like to think that some of us are “cheaters” and some of us are simply not, the reality is somewhat different. There are many individual, social, and cultural factors that come together to make a student more likely to cheat. Miles et al.’s (2022) literature review on why students cheat identified the factors listed below (See Table 10.1). Please read them with a critical perspective and ask yourself: How might I be vulnerable to committing academic misconduct?

Table 10.1 Why students cheat
Factors that make students more likely to cheat (Miles et al., 2022) Students might say:
Lack of understanding
  • I didn’t understand how to reference or paraphrase, and I copied some words from an article.
  • I talked about the assignment with my study group and used some of the ideas we came up with in my assignment.
Cultural differences
  • When I went to school it was fine to copy from books and articles but now this is called plagiarism!
  • Essay-writing services are all over my social media – it was so easy to buy an essay.
  • I use generative AI at work – to draft proposals and emails to clients. At uni they call it ‘contract cheating.’
  • I Googled the question and found the answer on a website.
Personal circumstances
  • Work didn’t give me the time off I was promised.
  • My Mum/partner/child fell ill and I had to care for them.
  • Who knew online study would be so time-consuming?
  • I just always have trouble getting things done.
Peer influence
  • I helped my friend by showing him my assignment. He copied parts of it and we both got caught for collusion.
  • I cheated – but I saw other people do it too!
Pressure to succeed
  • My parents/community have sacrificed so much for my education, I don’t want to disappoint them.
  • I have a scholarship from work. If I fail the course, I must pay the scholarship back.
Moral reasoning
  • Sure, I cheated. So what?
  • Cheating was the wrong thing to do, but in the moment, it seemed more important to get something in than hold back the rest of my group.


Woman cheating at exam with paper under desk
Figure 10.2 Threats to your academic integrity include plagiarism, contract and other forms of cheating. Image by RODNAE Productions used under CC0 licence.

Given anyone might be influenced by one or more threats to their academic integrity, it is a great idea to think ahead about how to support your academic integrity. You might like to build your understanding and skills around referencing and paraphrasing, familiarise yourself with the technology that can help you and the policies and practices stipulated by your university regarding the ethical and effective use of that technology. You should also consider how you will manage competing priorities on your time, and the various internal and external pressures you experience. Finally, it is a good idea to think ahead about how you might react to a few common scenarios involving classmates so that should these situations arise, you will be better equipped to respond appropriately.


Paraphrasing is the act of rewriting someone’s words or ideas in your own words. When you use the exact words of another writer, you are ‘quoting directly’ or writing a ‘direct quote.’ An assignment that consists of many direct quotes separated by only a few sentences of your own does not show any evidence of original thinking and may be flagged as plagiarism. However, an accurate paraphrase applied to the topic of the assignment is your original work and demonstrates your learning and your critical thinking. Please see the chapter Writing Assignments for guidance on how to paraphrase. Whether you choose to paraphrase or quote directly, you will need to communicate where you found your ideas. To do this you will need to reference the ideas.

Referencing is the consistent and structured attribution of all ideas, words, images, statistics, and other information to the source. In other words, referencing allows you to clearly and accurately communicate where you found the information that you used in your assignments. There are thousands of referencing styles, most falling within the author-date or numbered referencing families. Check your university website for guidance on the style to use and how to reference in that style. Following is a description of the author-date and numbered referencing style families.

Author-date referencing styles

Author-date referencing styles require the name of the author (or authors) and the year of publication to be provided as an in-text citation whenever you use someone’s words, ideas, images or other work. This means that several sentences within a paragraph may contain one or more in-text citations. The author’s name and date may be written as part of the sentence, for example: Donohue (2017) argued that Parliament was hostile to Indigenous politicians. In-text citations can also be provided in brackets at the end of the sentence, for example: The Parliament was hostile to Indigenous politicians (Donohue, 2017).

Author-date styles also include a reference list, usually on a separate page at the end of the essay, presentation, report or literature review. The reference list contains everything mentioned as an in-text citation – and nothing else. This means you cannot include sources in your reference list other than those you have cited within the text. Each entry in the reference list provides the name of the author(s) or creator(s), the date of publication, the title of the work and where it was produced or made available online. The American Psychological Association (APA) and Harvard styles are commonly used examples of author-date referencing styles.

Numbered referencing styles

Numbered referencing styles require a number in each sentence where someone’s words, ideas, images or other works have been used. The details of the work – names, dates, title and location – are provided in footnotes, or a numbered list at the bottom of every page. Endnotes, or the entire list of references provided at the end of your work are preferred in some numbered referencing styles. The Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC) and Vancouver are two examples of numbered referencing styles.

This was a brief introduction to referencing styles. Please speak to your lecturer or university librarian to determine the specific referencing style you should use, and for guidance on how to use that style in your assessment. You may also like to explore the use of bibliographic and text matching software to help you create your references and check your paraphrasing.

Bibliographic software

Your university may make bibliographic software such as EndNote, Mendeley, RefWorks, Paperly, BibTeX or others available to students to download to their personal computers and devices. Such software can assist you with managing your information sources and referencing. If you would like to use a bibliographic software program, please note that it takes time to learn to use the software effectively. Be aware that until you are fluent in your referencing style, you will not be able to recognise and correct any referencing errors these programs can generate when used incorrectly. Developing your skills by manually creating your references will prepare you to use bibliographic software. Please speak to a librarian for guidance on when it is appropriate to use bibliographic software.


Photo of woman's hands on laptop
Figure 10.3 Text matching software can help you avoid plagiarism. Image by Pixabay used under CC0 licence.

Your university may subscribe to text matching (sometimes called ‘plagiarism detection’) software. Turnitin and iThenticate are examples of software that match text to detect – and help students avoid – plagiarism. These tools search the internet and university assessment repositories to find any text in your assignment that matches to other sources, including websites, scholarly literature, grey literature, and your own or other student assignments. If you have the opportunity to submit a draft assignment to such software before you submit your final assignment, please do so. Use of this software will generate a report and alert you to any text matches. This will allow you to use your referencing and paraphrasing skills to correctly attribute all the ideas in your work and avoid plagiarism. You may need to check with your teaching team for help interpreting the report.


While you may not be familiar with the term “generative AI”, you may have heard of ChatGPT a program published free and online by OpenAI. You may also be aware of commercial products such as GrammarlyGo. These and many more online programs produce essays, reports, and other texts in response to questions or commands (known as prompts). Other generative AI services produce images, videos and multimedia. It is usually unethical to submit an assessment that has been produced by generative AI (see below). However, generative AI can be used ethically to build your academic and writing skills. Potential ethical uses of generative AI include brainstorming topic ideas, proofreading, and generating feedback on your draft assignments.

If you wish to explore generative AI, please consider the following actions. First, check with your teaching team, learning resources and university website for any guidelines and restrictions regarding the use of generative AI for assessment. These resources will help you to work within the policies of your university. Second, find and attend or complete any training provided by your university. This training will alert you to the functions and limitations of the various generative AI tools and equip you to use the tools effectively and within the policies set by your university. In particular you will need to understand how to write effective prompts and how to critically evaluate the responses provided. It is crucial to be aware of information or a citation that the generative AI chatbot may simply make up or “hallucinate” which can occur if the AI has been trained on insufficient information to provide an accurate response (Alkaissi & McFarlane, 2013). Third, be sure to attribute the use of the generative AI according to your university guidelines. These guideline are likely to change as understandings of copyright and generative AI change over time.

“Copyright of content generated by AI is complex. It is a rapidly evolving space with many legal uncertainties. Some people argue that there is no copyright since the output was not produced by a human, whereas others acknowledge that generative AI is illegally using copyright material for training itself, which might make anything it produces a breach of copyright. There will be no clear answer until this is resolved via the courts.”

Nikki Andersen, Open Education Content Librarian

University of Southern Queensland.


Students who commit academic misconduct frequently cite legitimate personal circumstances such as work and family commitments that have led them to making poor decisions. While unexpected events will occur while you are at university, thinking ahead and being proactive will help you to manage these events if – or when – they occur. Time management skills include thinking ahead in this way and are described in the Time Management chapter.

You may also like to let the significant people in your life know the commitment of time and energy that study will require and ask for their support. Some specific examples may include asking in advance for reduced hours or time off work during assessment and practicum periods. You could also talk to your family regarding responsibility for specific household chores during heavy study periods. If you have trouble with negotiating and being appropriately assertive, you might be able to talk to a university counsellor for advice.


Students who commit academic misconduct are sometimes trying to collaborate with or help other students in their course. There are ways you can be supportive of others and work collaboratively while maintaining your academic integrity. Like planning to work with your personal circumstances, ethical collaborations require a little thinking ahead.

If you enjoy studying with other students and find talking about the course content a great way to learn, please do this. Just make sure you don’t discuss your draft or completed assessment items in any detail. If you or other students have questions about assignments and exams, ask the teaching team for clarification. Similarly, if you or another student would like to see a completed assignment ask the teaching team. Unless directed by your teaching team, never approach other students and ask to see their work. Here are some examples of ways you can work with other students in an ethical manner. You may:

  • discuss course content, ideas, and readings
  • make and share study resources such as flash cards
  • limit discussions on assessment tasks to what you are being asked to do and how you might approach completing the tasks
  • ask shared questions to the teaching team

If you are concerned about another student’s behaviour, please discuss this with your teaching team or university counsellors.


As noted earlier, academic misconduct is deliberate or inadvertent cheating. Avoiding academic misconduct is essential if you want to demonstrate honest, respectful and ethical conduct, and will allow you to avoid penalties. Varying between universities, penalties for academic misconduct may include having to rewrite a piece of assessment, failing a course or, in extreme cases, being excluded from your study program and the university. Some examples of academic misconduct – and ways to avoid it – are shared below.


Plagiarism is the accidental or deliberate use of other people’s work without sufficient attribution. In effect, you are claiming someone else’s work as your own. Accidental plagiarism can be avoided by using effective notetaking practices (see the chapter Notetaking). Notetaking will ensure you have details needed to accurately report and attribute the resources you use. Paraphrasing – or rewriting the original ideas in your own words – is also required. Paraphrasing allows you to focus on aspects of an original work that support your arguments and to synthesise from multiple sources of information (APA, 2019). Because paraphrasing is a complex skill (and not simply replacing some of the original words with synonyms), please see the chapter Writing Assignments for more information on this key skill.


Self-plagiarism is re-use of your own work in a subsequent assignment. At first glance this may appear to be an efficient use of your time and effort. However, self-plagiarism does not demonstrate that you have learned anything new or that you have achieved the expected outcomes of your course. You can use the same sources of information, but to avoid self-plagiarism you will need to write a new assignment to address the new topic, question or perspective.


Collusion occurs when a student works with others – students, friends, paid tutors, family members – and then submits that shared work as if it is their own original work (Crook & Nixon, 2018). Collusion may be evident when:

  • many students in a course submit assignments sharing similar content, references and structure
  • the quality of work submitted by a student varies more than what may be expected due to conditions such as “exam nerves”
  • work is submitted with very few citations.
Two woman looking at omputer
Figure 10.4 Working with others can be a productive and enjoyable way to learn. Image by StartupStockPhotos used under CC0 licence.

As noted in the section above on ethical collaborations, working with others and discussing the content of a course or the requirements of an assignment can be productive and enjoyable. However, unless required for a group project, you should avoid sharing your draft or completed assignments. If you need feedback or advice on a draft consult with the academic and professional staff employed by your university to help people with their academic skills, for example, learning advisors, learning support and academic advisors.

Contract Cheating

Contract cheating occurs when a student submits work completed by someone else, sometimes for money. Examples of contract cheating include asking a friend or family member to edit your work, and paying someone else to complete their assessment – to sit their exam, or to write their essay, or to complete the maths questions. Clearly this activity undermines the value of your qualification. If students cheat their way to graduation, and then cannot perform the skills or demonstrate the attributes required by their employers and colleagues, the qualification will soon be judged to be worthless. Another problem with contract cheating is that you become vulnerable to being blackmailed by the same criminals who provided the essay. These criminals have been known to contact the students they helped to cheat and threaten to expose them to the university or to their employer unless they make additional payments (Lancaster, 2016).

If you find yourself considering cheating due to time pressure, there are other options you can consider that demonstrate academic integrity. You may ask if an extension is available or consider if the penalty applied for late submission is acceptable. Communicate with your teaching team as early as possible to discuss your options. The Time Management chapter will be helpful for planning into the future.

Generative AI

Unethical use of generative AI is a form of contract cheating. Be aware that universities have different policies regarding the use of generative AI, and that these policies are subject to change. Be sure to keep up to date with the policies and expectations of your university. Some examples of generative AI use that is contract cheating include:

  • where generative AI use is not allowed, using generative AI to write or create all or part of an assignment
  • where generative AI use is allowed, using generative AI without proper attribution
  • using online algebra calculators to complete maths assignment or exam questions. Some of these online websites/tool provide answers, but you need to pay for working.

Universities often use software and metadata analysis to detect the use of generative AI. Text matching software programs such as Turnitin can be used for this purpose. Please note that suspected cheating via generative AI may not be flagged on the report but sent directly to university staff.

Many argue that the validity of the detection methods is uncertain (Alimardani & Jane, 2023) making it is important to keep records of your work. This includes keeping all draft versions of your assignments, whether or not you use generative AI. If you do use generative AI, record the prompts you used and a copy of the exact text or other content produced by the generative AI.

Fabricating Data

Whether you perform an experiment in a lab, collect data from another setting, or find data in a scholarly or other source, it is important to report this data clearly and accurately. Do not fabricate data to show a fake finding or outcome. Unexpected lab results may be disappointing, but they may provide an interesting opportunity to discuss the limitations of an experiment or how unanticipated conditions may have skewed the results. The discussion section of a report can benefit from the skilful handling of something that may have first appeared to be a disaster. In the case of not finding sufficient data from a scholarly source, the chapter Working with Information will help you to find relevant data.


Academic integrity governs all that you do at university. Academic integrity is made visible by the accurate attribution of ideas, images or other information you use in your work according to the rules of your university’s preferred referencing style. Being diligent with paraphrasing and referencing, and submitting only work that is your own, are key ways to act with academic integrity. It is very important to only submit your own original work for assessment, or to clarify the contributions of others (including generative AI) where relevant. When reading your work, your lecturer should be able to identify the ideas you used to support your thinking and be confident that anything else is your personal contribution.

While there are many risks to academic integrity and many forms of misconduct, the risks can be mitigated by planning ahead and using the policies and support available from your university.

Key points

  • Academic integrity underpins everything you do at university.
  • Academic integrity requires the honest, respectful and ethical use of information.
  • Effective paraphrasing will help you to maintain academic integrity.
  • You can use Generative AI as a learning tool if your university’s policies and resources support and allow this use.
  • Accurate referencing and good record keeping can provide evidence of your academic integrity.
  • Cheating in any form undermines the value of your degree and leaves you vulnerable to academic penalties and blackmail.


Alkaissi, H, & McFarlane, S. I. (2023). Artificial Hallucinations in ChatGPT: Implications in Scientific Writing. Cureus 15(2),

Alimardani, A., & Jane, E. A. (2023). We pitted ChatGPT against tools for detecting AI-written text, and the results are troubling. The Conversation.

American Psychological Association. (2019). Paraphrasing.

Crook, C., & Nixon, E. (2019). The social anatomy of ‘collusion’. British Educational Research Journal, 45(2), 388-406.

Lancaster, T. (October 20, 2016). ‘It’s not a victimless crime’ – the murky business of buying academic essays. The Guardian.

Miles, P. J., Campbell, M., & Ruxton, G. D. (2022). Why students cheat and how understanding this can help reduce the frequency of academic misconduct in higher education: a literature review. Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, 20(2), A150-A159.

OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (September 25 version) [Large Language Model].

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. (2019). Guidance note: Academic integrity.

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. (n.d.). What is academic integrity?


We would like to acknowledge Robyn Tweedale who contributed to the previous version of this chapter. Thank you also to Nikki Andersen for her insight and comment on the complexity of copyrighting content generated by AI.


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Academic Success Copyright © 2021 by Rowena McGregor and Anita Frederiks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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