Prevention Strategies

Academic dishonesty may not always occur within the confines of the classroom; it can occur in residence halls, library study areas, laboratories, homes or wherever students study and interact. Therefore, you may not always be able to immediately consult your instructor or teaching assistant when faced with a situation in which your actions could be construed as academic dishonesty. For this reason, you must be able to make decisions on your own when confronted with situations that compromise your academic integrity. In such situations, you should be able to analyze the problem, understand the consequences and choose an appropriate course of action.

Most often, the question of "right or wrong" is fairly straightforward and a decision is easy to make. However, some situations are more problematic and may present you with a dilemma. In such cases, you may need a strategy to make the right decision. Below are Michael Davis's (1995) strategies for dealing with these types of dilemmas.

Give yourself time

When faced with an academic dishonesty dilemma, do not respond immediately, but rather give yourself time to analyze the situation and take the appropriate course of action. Your best option is to begin by consulting your course instructor or faculty advisor, even if you have to respond quickly. You may also consult the university's legal counsel, ombudsperson or other appropriate personnel.

Analyze the situation and identify the facts

Analyze the situation to understand exactly what the questionable activity is all about and who is involved in it. Identify all the facts and information relevant to the activity. These facts could be gleaned from the course syllabus, exam guidelines, computing policies, etc. If it is easier to consult the course instructor or teaching assistant, do so. Usually, once you have identified and understood all of the relevant facts and participants, the dilemma will disappear and the decision will become clear.

Identify options

Once you understand the facts of your situation, you have several options, depending on the nature of the dilemma. These options include refusing to participate in the act that can result in academic dishonesty, finding out appropriate honest strategies to complete the activity, reporting the situation to the instructor or other appropriate personnel (such as legal counsel or ombudsman in the university) and consulting resources available online and other places to clarify the situation.

Analyze the consequences

For each option identified for the dilemma, analyze the consequences. The consequences can be analyzed from several perspectives, such as potential harm to others or to your reputation, the defensibility of the decision should any questions arise and possible penalties.

Make an informed decision

Based on your analysis of the consequences, decide which option to pursue and implement the option. At this point, it may also be helpful to document the reasoning behind your decision-making for future reference.

Review the decision

After implementing your decision, review the outcomes and learn from them to help you process similar situations in the future. Effective handling of academic dishonesty situations requires reflection, critical thinking and ethical decision-making skills. You should learn and discuss strategies for avoiding and dealing with academic dishonesty situations in your classes so that you become comfortable with ethical decision-making and can continue to apply what you learn to other areas of your life.