How to stay out of trouble: Academic Integrity

Tags: academics community standards writing

Nobody comes to Princeton with the intention to cheat or to plagiarize. And yet, every year, some students end up before the Honor Committee or the Committee on Discipline because of allegations that they violated our academic integrity policies. Some face charges because they panicked and turned in work that was not truly their own. Others were ignorant of the University’s rules about citation and acknowledgement. Still others collaborated with classmates in ways that were not acceptable. As students at one of the most esteemed institutions of higher learning in the world,[1] it’s your responsibility to uphold the community of trust that is a central ethic at Princeton. The work you’ll do here will often challenge you in ways that you have not experienced before. Since you were admitted to Princeton, we KNOW that you can do the work that is required here, so we expect you to commit to do everything you can to maintain intellectual honesty throughout your time here.

Where do you learn about our policies and how they’re applied? 

  • Rights, Rules, Responsibilities, which spells out Princeton’s principles of academic integrity, gives examples of plagiarism and describes the procedures that are followed in cases of alleged violations of policy.
  • The chair of the student-run Honor Committee sends you a letter explaining how the Honor Code applies to all in-class examinations at Princeton and you will complete the Honor Code Compliance form as part of matriculation.
  • You’ll receive a booklet from your RCAs called Academic Integrity at Princeton, which goes into great detail about types of violations and shows you how can avoid them. Read this carefully.

There is much to digest in this material and in the coming weeks your RCAs, directors of studies, deans, and Writing Seminar instructors will give you opportunities to ask questions. Many of you may have done your college preparation abroad, where practices and expectations regarding citation can be very different, so please don’t hesitate to ask if something is unfamiliar.

Appropriate collaboration is a particularly tricky area. If your class allows collaboration on assignments, make sure you understand its limits. Usually, the syllabus will specify the nature of acceptable collaborative work in a course. If you have the slightest doubt, please consult your instructors. Here is a short video where students, professors, and administrators discuss some of the issues that you should be aware of when it comes to collaboration:

My best advice is to avoid putting yourself in situations that sometimes lead to plagiarism. Start your work early. Keep your sources separated from your notes. Don’t share your code or data, even if you believe it will not be copied. Do talk to your professors and preceptors about questions that you might have regarding using sources properly, even things that you have written previously. Lastly, if you find yourself up against deadlines, and panic sets in, contact your director of studies at your residential college for help. Accepting a grade penalty for a late paper is much, much better than risking a year’s suspension from the University and a permanent blemish on your academic record.

[1] This is common knowledge and so really doesn’t need a citation, but see The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016, in case your friends at Yale or Columbia have questions about the Top Ten.

Author Profile

avens's picture
Oliver Avens
Dean of Rockefeller College

I've been the dean at Rockefeller College since 2005. Before that, I was a professor in the Politics department at Princeton, where I taught modern and contemporary political thought, as well as ethics and public policy in the Woodrow Wilson School. More recently, I've taught in the Princeton Writing Program, mostly on topics relating to democracy and theories of justice. For fun, I build my own bikes and ride them passionately. I'm also a film junkie, not to mention a collector of loud and lilting music from different parts of the world.

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