FOR PROSPECTIVE international students planning to attend a U.S. university, having an understanding of academic integrity is important in order to become a successful college student, experts say. Academic integrity refers to the honesty and respect with which students approach their studies.
An example of academic dishonesty is plagiarism, which is the act of passing off someone else’s ideas or work as one’s own. Plagiarism can take various forms, such as cheating by submitting a paper not written by the student, cutting and pasting information and not providing proper citation.
The concept of plagiarism is often foreign to many international students studying in the U.S. and can result in disciplinary actions ranging from failing an assignment or class to being expelled by the university.
“The biggest challenge for international students and academic integrity at an American university are cultural in nature – how plagiarism and copying work are viewed. Our faculty work hard to be understanding of this cultural difference,” says Wade Shaffer, provost/vice president for academic affairs at West Texas A&M University.
Some schools, such as Western Kentucky University and the University of South Carolina, address U.S. standards of academic integrity as early as during international student orientation, experts say.
“We work closely with our international services office to speak at their various international student orientations they host in late August when international students first arrive,” says Kevin Pitt, director of the Office of Student Conduct at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Here are some ways international students can grasp the concept of academic integrity at U.S. universities before and after they enroll.
School websites. Many university websites provide international students with guidance on academic integrity and ways to avoid plagiarism, which can be a good starting place for prospective students.
For example, the University of Chicago’s Office of International Affairs has a webpage titled, “Honest Work and Academic Integrity: Plagiarism,” which gives examples of plagiarized text and how to correctly cite information.
Similarly, California State University—Northridge’s library website has a graphic on its page for international students titled, “Plagiarism: What You Think It Is vs. What It Really Is,” as well as information on how to avoid it, why students should care, what happens when students are caught and more.
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The University of Michigan’s library guide for international students gives examples of different forms of plagiarism and offers tips from international students enrolled at the school. Via its library site, the University of Pittsburgh translates the word “plagiarism” into several different languages, including Chinese, French and Arabic, and explains how to properly cite information that is not a student’s own.
Apart from websites, prospective international students can typically find a university’s academic integrity policy in the school’s catalog or international student handbook. Students can also expect many of their professors to address expectations in class.
“Many faculty cover the topic of academic integrity in their course syllabus, and some provide advice on campus resources where students can get assistance in proper writing,” says William Watkins, vice president for student affairs at California State University—Northridge.
Tutorials, courses and writing labs. Once enrolled at a U.S. university, international students can plan to participate in courses and tutorials focused on academic integrity, some of which may be required, and make use of other resources on campus.
“Educating international students on academic integrity in the U.S. is of highest priority to International Student Services,” says Lauren Smith, director of international student services at the University of South Carolina. Smith says the school has a required online module focused on academic integrity that every incoming international student is required to complete, along with passing a related quiz, in order to register for classes.
Similarly, Stevenson University in Maryland requires all incoming students to take an online academic integrity course and states on its website that “students who fail to complete the course will be unable to register for classes for the next semester.”
At Rutgers, Pitt says, “We offer all incoming students online tutorials on academic integrity. We are working on developing an online module for international students.”
Apart from international student orientation, Western Kentucky University provides follow-up workshops on study skills and cultural adjustment that also revisit the topic of academic integrity, says Bob Skipper, a spokesman for WKU.
In addition, many U.S. universities provide writing labs where students can make an appointment in advance or walk in and ask for help. School staff and student helpers can provide helpful feedback to writers working at all levels of the writing process.