What International Students Should Know About Academic Integrity

For prospective international students planning to attend a U.S. college or university, understanding academic integrity is critical, experts say.

Academic integrity refers to the honesty and respect with which students approach their studies. An example of academic dishonesty is cheating on a test. Another is plagiarism, which is the act of passing off someone else’s ideas or work as your own. Plagiarism can take various forms, such as submitting a paper you didn’t write, or cutting and pasting information without providing proper citation.

While cheating on an exam is commonly understood to be wrong, the concept of plagiarism is often a new one for international students studying in the U.S. But it can result in disciplinary actions ranging from failing an assignment or class to being expelled by the school.

“The biggest challenges 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, a history professor and former provost and vice president for academic affairs at West Texas A&M University.

[READ: How Cheating in College Hurts Students.]

Many schools, such as the University of South Carolina, address plagiarism and other U.S. standards of academic integrity during international student orientation.

Christopher Reid, interim director of the school’s International Student and Scholar Support office, says his office offers two modules for new students, one on academic resources and the other on the school’s honor code.

“We are also offering two in-person orientations in August where staff from the university’s Academic Integrity office will be addressing the topic with new students,” he says.

Here are four things that international students should know regarding academic integrity at U.S. colleges before and after they enroll:

— Use quotes and citations in papers.

— Don’t let ChatGPT write a paper for you.

— Read school websites for guidance.

— Get help from tutorials, courses and writing labs.

Use Quotes and Citations in Papers

Whenever someone else’s words or ideas are included in a paper, students should use quotes and proper citations to avoid plagiarism.

Shaffer says rules and standards have been created over time to ensure that the intellectual work of the original author or creator is given credit.

[Read: What Academic Probation Is and How to Avoid It.]

Each time students use a quote, they must cite the source correctly, which can be different depending on the citation style used. The most common writing styles and formats for citations in college academic work include American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA) and Chicago Style.

Purdue University has one of the most useful guides called the ‘Purdue OWL,’ which stands for Online Writing Lab, which can help teach and model each format and style for citing work,” says Nat Smitobol, premier college admissions counselor for IvyWise, a New York-based education consulting firm.

He also suggests using RefWorks, an online citation manager that can help keep track of and organize your references so that it’s easier to cite them properly in your papers.

Don’t Let ChatGPT Write a Paper for You

ChatGPT is a language processing tool run by artificial intelligence technology. Users can have human-like conversations, get questions answered and get help with tasks like writing emails.

ChatGPT and other forms of AI can be useful when it comes to brainstorming or modeling certain kinds of writing, Smitobol says, “but thoughtful academic assignments will require human critical analysis, with citations and a bibliography.” He says even if a professor accepts referencing AI in an essay, it can’t make up the majority of the paper, “so by requiring students to cite all sources, academia can help preserve critical thinking skills.”

Maureen Derrick, director of student conduct and academic integrity at the University of South Carolina, says ChatGPT “should be used as a tool to enhance and not a quick fix to complete assignments.” She says its misuse may violate university policies, and suspected violations will be handled in the Office of Academic Integrity.

“Some faculty prohibit the use of such programs, and some may incorporate it in their curriculum,” says Zeina Otaky Ramirez, assistant dean of students and director of student conduct and ethical development at California State University, Northridge.Students should never assume what is acceptable in one course, is OK in another. If in doubt, ask.”

Read School Websites for Guidance

Many university websites provide international students with guidance on academic integrity and ways to avoid plagiarism, which can be a good starting place.

[Read: International Students: What to Know When Failing to Make Academic Progress.]

The Office of International Affairs at the University of Chicago has a webpage, “Honest Work and Academic Integrity: Plagiarism,” that gives examples of plagiarized text and how to correctly cite information.

Prospective international students also can typically find a university’s academic integrity policy in the school’s catalog or international student handbook. And they can 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 Cal State Northridge.

Get Help From Tutorials, Courses and Writing Labs

Once enrolled, international students can plan to participate in courses and tutorials focused on academic integrity — some of which may be required — and use other resources on campus.

Stevenson University in Maryland requires all incoming students to take an online academic integrity tutorial. Rutgers University–New Brunswick in New Jersey offers all incoming students online tutorials on academic integrity and is developing an online module for international students. The university’s Office of Student Conduct, in conjunction with the international student services office, has representatives that speak at various international student orientations in late August when international students first arrive.

In addition, many U.S. universities provide writing labs where students can make an appointment or walk in and ask for help. School staff and student helpers can provide helpful feedback to students in any phase of the writing process.

Experts say having a good understanding of academic integrity and using all available resources can help international students start the school year prepared.

“Ultimately, the goal is ensuring that all of our students understand and learn,” Otaky Ramirez says.

More from U.S. News

Can Your College Admissions Offer Be Revoked?

10 Things Your College Professors Won’t Tell You

What Academic Probation Is and How to Avoid it

What International Students Should Know About Academic Integrity originally appeared on usnews.com

Federal News Network Logo

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up