Academic integrity is often associated with plagiarism, but did you know that it includes much more? Academic integrity is an intricate piece through the entire process of completing an assignment or paper — starting with researching your topic and selecting credible sources to including your own original and academic voice and using tutoring services responsibly. 

In this article, we will define academic integrity, outline common motivators for academic misconduct, and share ways to avoid instances of academic dishonesty.

Follow these steps to stay on-track and maintain academic integrity in all your college assignments.

What is Academic Integrity?
Academic integrity is defined as “the ethical use of information, thoughts, and ideas from which we build original thought to contribute to the academic conversation.”

And what does that mean?

Academic integrity includes the ethical search of information when researching your assignment, selecting ethical and credible sources and information to use in your discussion posts or papers, using available academic supports responsibly and ethically, and communicating the information from others while contributing your own original thoughts in an academically ethical manner. 

Why Does Academic Integrity Matter?

Meeting academic integrity expectations is important because it illustrates your own credibility, the credibility of your university, and the credibility of academic research and scholarship. Academic research is held to a high standard and this ensures that the information produced by academic researchers is as close to the truth as we know and understand it. 

Academic researchers (and this includes you as an academic student) are searching for the capital-T “Truth” and this can only happen when academic integrity is maintained throughout the research and writing processes. 

Some Causes of Academic Dishonesty

There are a variety of reasons why someone may not adhere to the school’s policy of academic integrity. We all know that it can be difficult to stay on top of academics with the added stress from life, work, family, social and political issues, and the COVID-19 pandemic. When we become stressed, it impacts our ability to make positive choices.

Particularly in their first few classes at the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC), many students often struggle with time management. Faced with the aforementioned stressors in life, as well as many others not listed, students often put off working on their assignments until the last minute, causing a time crunch. In situations such as these, the Academic Integrity department always recommends reaching out to instructors for a possible extension. Even turning in an original assignment a day late is better than getting a zero for being flagged for academic dishonesty.

In addition, many students are potentially vulnerable to academic dishonesty by not knowing the online scams out there, and not utilizing the resources at their disposal. One recent study suggested that when students observe others using online cheating sites, they are more inclined to do so themselves (Rettinger & Kramer, 2009).

How Can I Ensure My Own Academic Integrity?

To continually develop a lifestyle of academic integrity, follow these eight steps and get more information on how to accomplish each step within the UAGC Academic Integrity Guide.

1. Perform academic research — not a Google search

The purpose of academic research is not to get the “right” answer, but rather to explore different perspectives and learn about a topic. Instead of Googling your assignment prompt, use the UAGC Library to research the topics within the assignment prompt.

Academic integrity requires that you perform academic research (not Google) in order to explore and learn about a topic, and then share what you’ve learned. If you need more background information on a topic, a great place to start is an encyclopedia, which you can access from the Encyclopedias & Dictionaries button on the library homepage.

2. Select credible sources

The sources and evidence you select to use for academic assignments should be of a higher caliber than what you use in your daily life and need to be verifiable, accurate, objective, and authoritative. Academic integrity requires selecting and using sources from highly credible authors with highly credible evidence. 

3. Use credible and relevant evidence 

You’ve found a credible source, and now you need to select relevant, timely, and appropriate evidence from that source. Academic integrity requires rigorous evaluation of the evidence you use.

Using evidence or information that does not directly support your claims, is no longer valid or in use, or presents your reader with biased or inaccurate information takes you off the path of academic integrity.

4. Integrate and cite evidence and sources

Evidence from sources needs to be integrated into your paper and appropriately cited. Academic integrity involves attributing the credit of any theories, ideas, or words to those who contributed to the conversation/topic before you, while using their work as a foundation to build upon. 

5. Provide original academic thought and voice

Including the ideas and research of others is needed for academic writing, but it is not enough to only present what others have said. Academic integrity includes presenting the information from others while also providing your own original and academic thoughts and voice to the conversation. 

6. Avoid all forms of plagiarism 

Direct cheating is an obvious departure from academic integrity, but plagiarism can take many forms and does not always accompany an intent to cheat. Academic integrity requires taking careful steps to avoid all forms of plagiarism — intentional or unintentional. 

While technology casts a wider net in terms of providing valuable access to education, it can also potentially threaten one’s ability to maintain academic integrity. Between the many sites that yield false or unverified search results and those that sell unoriginal work outright, the internet is full of dangerous and deceptive challenges.

7. Use tutoring responsibly

Working with a tutor can help you to increase your knowledge, but it must be done responsibly to maintain your academic integrity. You must produce your own work at all stages and independently meet the expectations of the course. Also, be sure you are working with a UAGC-approved tutor through Canvas. 
Many sites market themselves as “tutoring” sites, when in fact they are buying and selling other students’ work. “Modern contract cheating websites are the fronts for sophisticated, commercial operations that offer individually written assessment items for a fee.” (Rowland et al., 2018).

Learn more about how to avoid scams by reading this article on deceptive online tutoring services.

8. Maintain personal responsibility and continual improvement

Personal responsibility is the view that you are ultimately responsible for your academic choices and the consequences of those choices. 

  • Be aware of academic integrity expectations.
  • Understand how to choose credible and reliable sources.
  • Never rely on others to ensure you have cited appropriately.
  • Know that unintentional plagiarism is still plagiarism. 
  • Use tutoring responsibly, use responsible tutoring sites (UAGC-provided), and never allow your tutor to edit or produce any of your assignments for you or with you. 
  • Independently produce your own work for assignments and do not share your work with others. 
  • Continual improvement is the view that as a student, you are continually learning how to meet academic integrity expectations and striving to exceed them.
  • Ask if you are unsure. Use Turnitin. 
  • Use the resources provided here to help you meet expectations. 
  • Evaluate sources carefully for credibility. 
  • Include your own analysis and academic voice/stance in all academic work. 
  • Check your academic work, looking for potential issues with academic integrity. 
  • Become an independent and lifelong learner. 

The resources and information you need for accomplishing each of the steps to academic integrity can be found in the UAGC Academic Integrity Guide



Rettinger, D. A., & Kramer, Y. (2009). Situational and Personal Causes of Student Cheating. Research in Higher Education, 50(3), 293–313.

Rowland, S., Slade, C., Wong, K.-S., & Whiting, B. (2018). “Just turn to us”: the persuasive features of contract cheating websites. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(4), 652–665.

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