Deterrence: By Offence
The most common test/exam offences include:
- Possession of unauthorized aid(s). The most common aids are:
- Electronic devices (cell phones, smartphones, media players such as iPods, electronic dictionary/translators, programmable calculators, etc.).
- Notes relevant to the course, including those written on calculator cases, hat brims, labels of water bottles, erasers, rulers, body parts, etc.
- Pre-written exam booklets.
- Use of unauthorized aid(s).
- Continuing to write after being notified that the test/exam is over.
- Obtaining unauthorized assistance from other students.
- Providing unauthorized assistance to other students.
Note: Given the prevalence of electronic devices, the Faculty has instituted a zero-tolerance policy for the possession of unauthorized aids. All students found in possession of an unauthorized aid during a final exam are sanctioned.
Less frequent but more serious offences include:
- Falsely claiming to have written a test or exam.
Controlling the Test Environment
- Enforce Faculty examinations rules for all tests and quizzes to familiarize students with the rules.
- Require students to hand in their question sheets for all tests/exams to prevent claims of missing pages. This also allows you to review rough work should any suspicions arise about the test/exam.
- Have students sign into every test. This helps prevent impersonation and provides you with a record of who was present.
- Tell students specifically what they are allowed to have at their desks (e.g., T-card, pens, pencils, eraser, etc.) and insist that everything else, including pencil cases, be placed at the side/back/front of the room.
- If you permit students to keep pencil cases or calculator cases at their desks, check them for hidden notes. Sometimes the writing is in ink or pencil that is barely visible.
- Prohibit students from having any electronic devices on their desks or in their pockets. Announce that such devices will be confiscated as unauthorized aids, and sanctions may follow.
- Do not allow students to write in pencil if you are planning to return the test to them.
- Instruct students not to write the answers to multiple choice questions in large letters on their test papers as this may encourage copying.
- Warn students that when they are told to stop writing, they must do so immediately. If they fail to do so, they may face an allegation of academic misconduct.
- Mark each batch of term test booklets with a stamp or your initials to make it more difficult for students to smuggle in pre-written term books. Change the identifying mark and its location on a regular basis.
- Do not leave extra copies of tests, exams, or blank test/exam booklets unattended during exams.
- Have multiple invigilators circulate during the exam. Students are less likely to cheat when they perceive a higher chance of getting caught.
- Ensure that invigilators know what to look for and how to respond if they observe suspicious behaviour.
- Deter impersonation by checking student ID cards and signatures.
- Be vigilant for creative hiding places. Students write on their own skin, under baseball caps, behind water bottle labels, on the bottom of coffee cups, etc.
- Check nearby washrooms before, during, and after the test for notes that may be hidden in garbage cans, toilet paper or seat cover dispensers, toilet tanks, or under sink counters, etc.
Careful Test/Exam Design
- Create two or more versions of multiple tests or examinations by scrambling the order of the questions.
Most students know that plagiarism is an academic offence. This, however, does not always translate into an understanding of what constitutes plagiarism or of how to avoid committing it.
Do not assume that because your course is an upper year course that students do not need to be reminded of this information! Approximately 50% of the plagiarism cases that OSAI resolves involve upper-year students.
Clarify What it is and How to Avoid it
- Explicitly define various forms of plagiarism which include:
- Taking an idea from a source and not acknowledging it with a full citation.
- Failing to use quotation marks when copying material verbatim, even when a citation is provided.
- Changing a few words in a copied sentence or reversing the order of sentence clauses without using quotation marks. This is not paraphrasing!
- Including translated material from a source in another language without acknowledging the source.
- Specify what students need to do to avoid plagiarism:
- Provide a reference (such as a footnote or parenthetical citation) to the source from which the fact, idea, or words were taken.
- Place quotation marks around any text that has been copied word for word.
- Include a complete entry in a bibliography or works cited list.
- Explain why acknowledging sources is necessary, taking into account that students may come from different educational traditions. This
- Strengthens their work by demonstrating that they can engage in a critical dialogue with other scholars.
- Gives credit where credit is due.
- Allows readers to follow up on ideas that are of interest.
- Clarify what constitutes common knowledge in your course and provide examples distinguishing between what would and would not require a reference. Emphasize that just because something is on the internet does not mean that it is common knowledge; internet sources require citations just like any other source.
- Advise students of which citation convention you expect them to use and provide an example, or a link to a resource with detailed instructions such as Standard Documentation Formats.
- Use Turnitin.com, an efficient tool for detecting and deterring plagiarism. For more information about Turnitin.com, please consult Ryan Green or Saira Mall at the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation.
Encourage Good Work Habits
- Suggest that students make an appointment with their college writing centre as soon as they know the assignment deadline. If they leave it to the last minute, they risk not getting an appointment.
- Ensure that students know how to use the library system to find academic materials for their assignments (e.g., academic journals and peer-reviewed materials versus questionable internet sources). Provide links to library resource pages and give examples of appropriate and credible sources.
- Encourage good research and note-taking practices: advise students to indicate immediately when they have copied a passage verbatim by using quotation marks and writing out the source (and page number, if appropriate), or by highlighting the text in a different colour, so that they cant mistake what is copied and what is in their own words.
- Remind students that that giving or selling assignments to other students is not appropriate and may result in an allegation of academic misconduct.
See also: Detecting and Documenting Plagiarism
The use of false or concocted references is a separate offence under the Code, but usually occurs together with plagiarism. Students include false references to:
- Make their work seem more scholarly.
- Hide the use of disreputable internet sources.
- Disguise borrowed or purchased work.
- Make up for inadequate research notes and an inability to remember where they originally found their material.
Tips for Deterring Concocted References
- Remind students to record their sources immediately when they take notes.
- Discuss with students how to find appropriate sources in your field of study. A list of the most relevant journals/books on the subject may help focus your students research efforts. The U of T Libraries Research Portal is a good starting point.
- Recommend that students use a citation management system. RefWorks is free for all U of T students, staff and faculty.
Pre-written and custom-written assignments (most commonly essays) are readily available for purchase from essay-writing services. Students also sell past tests and assignments along with their textbooks as part of a course package on sites like tusbe.com.
The University considers the submission of purchased assignments to be a particularly serious offence.
Clues that an Assignment May Have Been Purchased
- An internet search reveals text from an essay available on an online essay bank.
- The level of writing appears inconsistent with the students abilities.
- The assignment contains references to outdated or unusual sources which are not available through the Universitys library system or online.
- The assignment contains references to lectures from a previous year.
- The assignment is not entirely on topic.
- The student changes his/her proposed research topic at the last minute.
Tips for Deterring the Purchase/Sale of Assignments
- Remind students that the University has a zero tolerance policy for purchased papers and that the Provosts recommended penalty is expulsion from the University.
- Use Turnitin.com. It detects assignments previously submitted in other courses which used Turnitin.com.
- Ask students to submit an electronic version of their assignment as well as a printed copy. This can assist the OSAI investigation.
- Change assignment, essay, and lab report topics from year to year.
- Design assignments specific to the content of your course and require the inclusion of materials discussed in class.
- Require students to give an in class oral presentation on their research or complete an in-class assignment reflecting on and summarizing their writing process.
- Break major writing assignments into components: an outline, a preliminary bibliography, a draft, and a final paper. In addition to making it more complicated to purchase a paper, this strategy has the added benefit of ensuring that students grasp the writing process and address any problems early.
- Require students to complete an in-class writing exercise at the start of the course. Keep this exercise as a writing sample.
What can I do if I suspect an assignment is not the work of the student?
If your instinct tells you that the work submitted is not the work of the student who has submitted it, follow up on it! These instincts are very often correct.
- Invite the student to discuss the paper ASAP.
- Ask the student to summarize the contents of their paper.
- Ask the student to provide rough notes or drafts.
- Call OSAI if you are unsure how to proceed with a case of this nature.
It is an offence for a student to submit an assignment for which credit has already been obtained, or is being obtained, unless s/he has obtained permission from the instructor to whom the assignment is being submitted. This includes work that has been submitted and graded in a course from which the student has withdrawn. Many students are not aware that this is an offence.
- Remind your students that they cannot reuse work, and to do so is an academic offence. It may not occur to them that re-using work defeats the learning process and gives them an unfair academic advantage over other students.
- Clarify that the issue is not one of self-plagiarism. The issue is receiving credit twice for the same work without permission.
- Use Turnitin.com. Turnitin.com can identify papers that have been previously submitted for credit.
See also: Detecting and Documenting Recycled Work
Unauthorized collaboration occurs when students work together on individual assignments and submit work with an unacceptable degree of similarity. This offence is a form of providing/receiving unauthorized aid.
Students may not consider working together on individual assignments as a form of cheating since they often study in groups. Many do not understand the boundary between appropriate collaboration and providing/receiving unauthorized assistance.
The University encourages students to discuss ideas and engage in academic discourse, but it also strives to train students to be independent thinkers. Informing your students about what is and is not permissible in your course, and why, may help prevent inappropriate collaboration.
- Be explicit about your expectations in the assignment description.
- Remind students that failing to adhere to these expectations can be considered an academic offence.
- Ask students to submit a statement confirming that the work is theirs alone, or a list of people with whom they worked.
- Remind students that editing help should be limited to pointing out areas for improvement. An editor should not provide new material or make substantial changes in wording, language, or grammar.
- Consider incorporating structured group work into your course to encourage collaboration in an appropriate form. If you do this,
- Clearly define what is expected from individual members in a group project.
- Ask students to write a brief report outlining their contributions to the group project and the contributions of others in the group.
- Require each individual member to submit his/her research materials and the draft(s) of his/her portion of the project.
- Advise students of potential consequences to an individual and to the group, in the event of an allegation of academic misconduct.
Audience response systems or clickers have become an increasingly popular means of creatively engaging students. Unfortunately, clickers can also create opportunities to gain unfair academic advantage.
The iClicker is the centrally-supported audience response system (contact CTSI for more information) at all three University of Toronto campuses.
iClickers are easy to conceal and trade with others. The most common forms of academic offence using iClickers is impersonation or providing/receiving unauthorized aid where a student responds on behalf of one or more colleagues by using their iClickers.
Tips for Deterring iClicker Offences
- Limit their use to non-graded work (e.g., as a rough measure of student engagement with your course or understanding of the material).
- Clearly state in your course syllabus that responding with another students iClicker, or lending an iClicker to another student for that purpose, is strictly prohibited.
- Clarify that this constitutes impersonation, an academic offence under the Universitys Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters.
- Ask students to keep their iClicker clearly visible on their desks, and have teaching assistants unobtrusively patrol the room. This will enable you to more easily detect students using multiple clickers.
- If practical, compare the number of students in the room with the number of clicker responses registered. If you notice discrepancies ask all students to print and sign their names on a paper sign-in sheet clearly marked with the course name, instructor, and lecture date.
Some students seek to obtain a higher grade on graded assignments by adding material to (or correcting) a graded assignment, then resubmitting it with the claim that their work was incorrectly graded. Other students alter the grades assigned to their work and then claim that the final grade was calculated incorrectly.
OSAI considers these offences to be very serious, regardless of the value of the assignment or the academic advantage that would have been received had the alterations had gone undetected.
Tips for Deterring Resubmission of Altered Tests
- When grading:
- Draw a line through any blank space that remains or circle the answer.
- Mark the end of an answer with a slash mark.
- Do not hand back original Scantron forms.
- Do not allow students to write in pencil on written tests.
- Let students know that you will be photocopying randomly chosen tests/assignments and keeping them on file.
- Require students to provide written reasons for their request for re-evaluation of their work.
- If you suspect that altered work has been submitted for remarking, but have no proof, photocopy the students next assignment and keep it in case the student also submits it for remarking.
OSAI is seeing increasing numbers of students who have submitted fraudulent medical documentation in order to miss assignments/exams. This documentation usually takes the form of U of T Student Medical Certificates, but can also include emergency reports, death certificates, obituaries, etc. In some cases, the entire document is a forgery. In others, an original document has been altered.
OSAI also commonly receives reports from instructors that an unusually high percentage of the class missed a test due to vague medical conditions. While some of these notes are from legitimately ill students, other students may be using them as a form of time management to defer work to a less busy time. Departmental feedback is essential for assessing the nature and extent of these concerns, and we suggest instructors document their concerns and forward them to their chair, who may wish to contact the dean or the faculty registrar.
- Encourage students to take tests when scheduled. Delaying seldom leaves the student better prepared and often results in lower grades.
- Recognize that anxiety is a legitimate problem for many students. Inform them of free campus resources available (e.g., study skills workshops, counselling services, etc.) that can help students cope.
- Warn students that the usual penalty for submitting a note that has been altered or obtained under false pretences is suspension from the University for at least a year.
- Follow the practice of the petitions office which will only accept as medical documentation a U of T Verification of Student Illness or Injury form, and requires that it must indicate that the doctor diagnosed and treated you when you were ill; it cannot just report that you told the doctor after-the-fact that you were ill previously. Include a link to the form in your syllabus.
- Insist on an original U of T Verification of Student Illness or Injury form. Photocopies can conceal alterations. If the student tells you that s/he needs the note for another class, ask for the original, and make a copy for yourself. If the original note looks like it has been altered in any way, keep the original and notify OSAI.
- Keep all medical notes until at least the end of the course.
- Require students to meet with you when submitting notes for missed tests. Instructors who use this strategy have reported a dramatic reduction in the number of absences for tests. If the note is from a walk-in clinic describing a reported vague and acute illness, consider discussing with them the material they should have been studying for the test.
It would never occur to the vast majority of students to tamper with a transcript or degree. The Universitys Tribunal, however, hears several cases of falsified degrees or transcripts every year.
This is considered to be the most serious offence a student can commit and always results in expulsion from the University.
Tips for Deterring Transcript Fraud
If you accept unofficial transcripts from students in support of applications for scholarships, awards, internships, or acceptance into a program of study, verify their accuracy against ROSI.
If at any time you encounter a transcript that appears to be forged or altered, please do not hesitate to contact OSAI for advice.