Academic Integrity: Principles and Practice

According to a systematic review of survey data, almost 2% of scientists have admitted fabricating, falsifying or modifying data at least once (Fanelli, 2009). It is not surprising, therefore, that universities and other research institutions have become more and more concerned about the integrity of the research produced by their staff and students. Similarly, there are concerns about the integrity of the qualifications achieved by students in tertiary education; for example, a newspaper investigation in the UK revealed that 50,000 tertiary students had been caught cheating in the past three years (Ali, 2016).

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Rather than simply taking a punitive approach, many institutions are looking to frame more clearly their expectations of scholars by defining exactly what academic integrity is. AUT is no exception. A report of the AUT Academic Quality Office (2014) stated:

Academic integrity refers to intellectual honesty in academic work or scholarship. It involves honesty in the execution of academic work, in the sourcing and use of information, in the formulation of any answers, ideas or opinions. In particular it means acknowledging the contribution of others and taking responsibility for the originality of one’s own work. (p. 3)

For research students who are engaged in generating original knowledge, it is important to recognise that there are two parts to the final sentence above: the contribution of others and the originality of one’s own work. Clarity and precision is demanded in both areas. But they also support each other: the accurate and comprehensive acknowledgement of the work of others means the extent of one’s own work is also made precisely clear.

The above comments can apply to a number of situations in the thesis journey, such as the collection and analysis of research data. I want to narrow the focus here to engaging with the literature in one’s field. When it comes to writing about the literature, we often reduce the discussion about integrity to the technically correct use of a referencing system. However, what may not be sufficiently appreciated is that there is no simple universal standard to be applied in achieving integrity in this situation. Pennycook (1996) argued that the issue is in fact rather complex, with the practice of ‘textual borrowing’ involving

the role of memory, the nature of language learning, the ownership of texts, the concepts of the author, authority, and authenticity, and the cross-cultural relations that emerge in educational contexts.

In other words, there is a complex interplay of cultural traditions involved which regularly causes problems, especially for students who are new to AUT. How we do things here is not the same as how things are done elsewhere in the world, as many international students from different parts of the world have pointed out to me and as Pennycook (1996) made very clear in his paper. And therefore, given there is no universal standard to be followed, it is essential that students are aware of how to acknowledge the work of others in the manner which meets the expectations of AUT. The expectations and the procedure might well be very different from what students have been asked to do in the past.

The potential for cross-cultural misunderstanding in relation to ‘textual borrowing’ means that the institution has a duty of care towards all students which requires it to make its expectations clear – and to provide the necessary knowledge and skills that will allow students to meet these expectations. And having said that, it is important that I finish by providing useful links for anyone looking to develop their knowledge and skills in this area.

Workshops
Student Learning Centre: Academic integrity and referencing workshop schedules are posted online at http://www.aut.ac.nz/being-a-student/current-undergraduates/academic-information/academic-and-study-support/student-learning/student-learning-centre-seminars-and-workshops

Library: EndNote (referencing software) workshop schedules are posted online at https://library.aut.ac.nz/i-need/workshops

One-to-one support
Student Learning Centre staff can teach you how to use APA and other referencing systems. Email student-learning@aut.ac.nz for an appointment.

Online materials
There are many sources of information on referencing online. As APA is the referencing system generally preferred at AUT, the following sites should be useful:

AUT’s guide is very detailed and strong on areas not well covered in the APA manual, such as the referencing of e-books: http://aut.ac.nz.libguides.com/APA6th

Massey University has a very user-friendly interactive guide: http://owll.massey.ac.nz/referencing/apa-interactive.php

The University of Auckland covers several different systems: http://www.cite.auckland.ac.nz/2.html

References
Ali, A. (2016, January 5). UK universities in ‘plagiarism epidemic’ as almost 50,000 students caught cheating over last 3 years. The Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/uk-universities-in-plagiarism-epidemic-as-almost-50000-students-caught-cheating-over-last-3-years-a6796021.html

AUT Academic Quality Office. (2014). Academic integrity: Guidelines and procedures. Retrieved from https://auti.aut.ac.nz/learningteaching/academicpolicies/Documents/academic-policies,-procedures-and-guidelines.pdf

Fanelli, D. (2009). How many scientists fabricate and falsify research? A systematic review and meta-analysis of survey data. PLoS ONE, 4(5), e5738. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005738

Pennycook, A. (1996). Borrowing others’ words: Text, ownership, memory, and plagiarism. TESOL Quarterly, 30(2), 201-230. doi: 10.2307/3588141

 

 

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About David Parker

David completed a PhD in the physical chemistry of micellar liquid crystals at the University of Leeds, England, and spent some time on further research at Massey University, Palmerston North. Intrigued by the business of writing he trained as an editor and worked in the publishing industry in London and Auckland for 12 years. These two aspects of David’s career finally made sense in his appointment to the role of Postgraduate Learning Advisor at AUT in 2003. David’s role primarily involves teaching and advising postgraduate students, both those involved in coursework programmes and those working on a thesis or dissertation. The major challenges for many students revolve around writing to the high levels expected of postgraduate students, and David is particularly interested in the logical structures of effective written academic work, and the communication of argument and critical analysis. He is available for appointments at both the City campus and the North Shore campus.

One thought on “Academic Integrity: Principles and Practice

  1. This is a really helpful and insightful post David. Thank you for providing us with some useful guidelines and things to think about, plus the support that students can access, particularly at AUT.

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