CASE STUDIES

If you would like to discuss these case studies with someone from the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, please call 612-624-6073.

Case Study #1:

Todd is a senior and only has three more classes this semester before he graduates. He feels the pressure to uphold his 3.65 GPA, as well as just wanting to finish and get the classes out of the way.

In one of his classes, there is an extra credit assignment to read through a set of given texts from certain articles and books that have been provided by the instructor throughout the semester, and then to compile personal thoughts based on the principles covered. To Todd it seemed like basically doing something he already had done in the class. He figured the instructor just wanted to make sure the students really did read the articles, so Todd wrote his paper using direct quotes and verbatim phrases from the reading without correct citation. It was just extra credit, after all, so if it was not as good as his other work, it couldn’t really hurt his grade.

Is this a form of scholastic dishonesty?

Case Study #2: 

Mia has just moved to the Twin Cities from a non-English speaking county. It is hard to fit in, understand the language, and make friends. She misses her family and it is sometimes difficult for her to concentrate on all her classes.  She is taking a biology class this semester, which turns out to be much harder than she thought it would be. In one of the tests the answers are to be marked by blackening out lettered circles on a separate answer sheet. Mia studied as hard as she could, but it seemed she did not read the topics that most of the questions on the test covered. Near tears, she hands in her test answers and sits down at her desk to await the end of class. To her right, Mark is working on his test. He seems to have no trouble with the class and is carefully marking his own answers. Glancing at his answer sheet, Mia sees that he has marked several answers differently than hers. Mia goes up to the proctor and asks for her test answer sheet back, saying that she just remembered she did not correctly put in her student ID number. She quickly erases and changes some answers to reflect what she saw on Mark’s paper and hands it back in again. Some time later, the instructor informs Mia that the proctor saw her change her answers. She is going to be given an "F" for the test and an "F" for the course.

Mia thinks her actions do not constitute plagiarism or scholastic dishonesty, and that the sanction is too harsh, especially after she describes what she feels are extenuating circumstances.

Is she right?

Case Study #3:

Justin, Alyssa, and Miguel are assigned to work on several group assignments together in a history class this semester. One of their projects involves each of them researching different events on a given time line, and then combining the information together. On a test that covers some of the information gathered by Alyssa, Miguel cannot remember the answers. He reasons that because the three of them had worked on the project together and got a good grade, it shouldn’t be a problem to ask Alyssa for answers. Since they sit near each other in class, Miguel asks Alyssa to tell him the answers. Alyssa does not want to offend her friend, so she moves her arm so Miguel can see her paper. Justin also sits nearby, and sees this.

Is this plagiarism or scholastic dishonesty? Are all three of them at fault? Is Miguel more so than Alyssa? Is Justin obligated to tell the instructor what he saw?

Case Study #4: 

Addison really enjoys the art history class she is taking this semester. She spends a lot of time on her final project—a portfolio of works of art that she selects, writes a brief background about the artist, and then describes what she feels about the piece. She is careful to make sure all her information about the artists is correct, and reads several essays on the artists she has chosen. She agrees with most of what the essayists have to say regarding the pieces. She represents some of their thoughts in her project as her own, reasoning that since it is not fact, and instead intangible opinion, and because she agrees with them, then she is not plagiarizing.

Is she right or wrong?

Case Study #5:

Ryan has to write a paper on some of the causes and symptoms of drug abuse for a public health class. He accesses the internet and finds several chat rooms that feature posted questions, which are answered by doctors. He uses their answers in his paper, citing just "Internet" as the source. He also finds a site that is put together by the mother of a recovering addict, which contains information that she has compiled as a resource for other families in similar circumstances. Ryan also uses this information, and since the author of the site does not indicate the books from which she got the information, he cites "Internet" again as the source.

Is this sufficient? Is this a form or plagiarism or scholastic dishonesty?

Case Study #6:

Jack and Diana are both in business class. Toward the end of the semester the assignment is to do an analysis of a business plan. The paper is due in a couple of days and due to a family emergency, followed by being in bed all weekend with the flu, Jack hasn’t had a chance to work on the paper and is very stressed out. Diana feels badly for Jack and since she has finished her analysis, she offers to loan Jack a copy of her paper so he can look it over to get a sense of how she broke down the assignment and then structured her response, figuring that should help Jack not feel so overwhelmed and make the project manageable. Jack gratefully accepts the offer. Diana sends him her analysis in an e-mail attachment.

At this point, is this scholastic dishonesty? If so, what kind (plagiarism, cheating, etc.) and why?

As Jack reads over Diana’s paper, he agrees with the majority of Diana’s analysis, but there are a few things that he would word a bit differently. Jack reasons that since he agrees with Diana’s concepts, it would make more sense to make a full copy of Diana’s paper and go through it line by line, changing the sentences to sound like him. Occasionally he adds a couple of sentences to expand on a thought. He then creates a coversheet with only his name on it and turns it in.

At this point, is this scholastic dishonesty? If so, what kind and why?

As Prof. Mellencamp reads through the analysis, he is struck by the similarity between Jack and Diana’s papers.  In fact when he compares them, he realizes that they are outlined identically, in sections they are worded identically, and even where the wording varies, the concepts are the same.

If you were Diana, how could you explain your role in what transpired?

Case Study #7 

Kali and Lucy are both international students and in the same science class. Lucy has a strong grasp of the English language is doing well in her classes. Kali’s grasp of the English language is not nearly as strong as Lucy’s. With Lucy’s help, she’s working hard to expand her standard English vocabulary, plus learn all of the science vocabulary. Kali is having a hard time retaining the information, most likely because she isn’t eating or sleeping well.

One day there is an exam in their science lab. Kali is having a hard time understanding what is being asked in the questions and therefore doesn’t know what to put down for the answers. She starts to panic that she’ll fail the lab and the class. The TA notices that Kali and Lucy are talking to each other in their native language and he asks them what they are talking about. Lucy explains that she is only translating the questions for Kali. The TA asks them not to talk and if Kali has questions about the test, then she should bring them to him (the TA). Kali asks him about one of the questions, but the TA can’t explain it without giving away the answer, so Kali goes back to her seat, uncertain what to do. Twice more during the exam, he catches Kali and Lucy talking in Narnian. Again, he tells them to stop talking. The TA knows Lucy is a solid student and thinks it is very possible that Lucy is only translating the question and is not providing Kali with the answers, but he isn’t sure. He decides to report the situation to the professor who teaches this section.

What would you have done if you were in Lucy’s place?  What would you do if you were the professor?

Case Study #8:

Last semester Ben took an ecology class and one of the papers he wrote was about the effects of DDT on bald eagles. This semester he is taking a wildlife biology class and realizes that his paper from last semester would work for one of the assignments for this semester too.

Is it scholastic dishonesty for Ben to turn the same paper in twice?

Case Study #9

Sean and Mimi are in the same program with about 40 other students. It is Mimi’s first year in the program Sean’s second year. This year Mimi has an assistantship in the same office where Sean had an assistantship last year. At some point, Mimi finds several papers that Sean wrote last year on the hard drive of the office computer. She sees that one of the papers matches an assignment coming due soon. The assignment has a lot of detail work that Mimi believes she’ll never use in the real world. Sean’s paper is well written, so Mimi lifts large sections of it and uses them in her paper, which she turns in to the same faculty member who taught the class last year when Sean took the course.

If you were Sean and the faculty member called you in about the similarity in the papers, what would you say?

What would your reaction be to Mimi?

What if faculty member did not notice the text was plagiarized, but one night when you, Mimi, and some other people from your program are out socializing, Mimi told you what she had done. How would you react?

Case Study #10:

You are in a large, lecture-style class. Because of the size of the class, the tests are all bubble sheets.  Due to the chairs being bolted down and students need to sit right next to each other, the faculty member has three variations of the test that are layered so students who are sitting next to each other will not have the same version of the test. As tests are being handed out, you notice that one person doesn’t take the question sheet on the top, but instead pulls one out of the stack and then compares it with the person to his left before passing the stack on to the next person in the row. During the test you notice that the way they are positioning their bodies and answer sheets, these two people are comparing answers as they go along.

What do you do?