from Students about Scholastic Dishonesty

Q: My instructor returned my paper and wrote "plagiarized" on it. What does that mean?
A: While there are many definitions of plagiarism out there, it is generally agreed that when you present the ideas, words, and work of someone else as your own, you have plagiarized. Plagiarism, which is only one form of scholastic dishonesty, has always been a serious offense in academic communities. The ease of access to information on the Web has increased both the frequency and concern regarding plagiarism. Your instructor in assigning coursework wants to be able to evaluate your understanding of the course material. Any information, data, or expressions coming from someone else or another source must be properly cited by you. If there is any doubt in your mind regarding what needs to be cited, it is your responsibility to seek clarification from the instructor.

If you are interested in learning more about how to cite sources and avoid plagiarism, there are on-line tutorials on the U of M libraries website:

You can also visit the Center for Writing for additional assistance:

Q: My instructor gave me "0" points on an assignment and wrote that I had to meet with him/her – what can I expect?
A:  Whenever faculty suspect or detect scholastic dishonesty, including plagiarism, in a student’s coursework, they are to meet with the student to determine if dishonesty has occurred.  Your instructor will most likely ask you about the assignment in question and will discuss with you why s/he believes that dishonesty occurred.  Depending on the outcome of the instructor’s findings, s/he will assign a penalty, up to and including an “F” for the assignment or course.  In addition s/he will be reporting the incident to the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity (OSCAI).  If you have any questions about scholastic dishonesty for a particular course, consult your syllabus and your instructor.

Q: What does it mean that I will be reported?
A: A student reported for scholastic dishonesty will receive a letter from OSCAI restating the grade penalty or sanction that the instructor has decided for the assignment or exam, and informing the student of options for further review if s/he wishes to dispute the instructor’s actions. If the student does not agree with the instructor’s actions, the student can call OSCAI at 612-624-6073, as it states in the letter, and set up an appointment to discuss any concerns. Please note that due to privacy restrictions the OSCAI staff will only discuss general procedural matters by telephone.

If you move, please update your address through the University’s One-Stop site to receive timely correspondence. Information relating to the matter will be kept on file in the OSCAI and your college office. Should there be a future violation of the Student Conduct Code (Code) by you, information about this offense will likely be taken into consideration in sanctioning. A repeated instance of scholastic dishonesty could result in the termination of your student status at the University.

Q: It sounds like cheating is taken seriously at the University. How can I avoid problems or mistakes?
A: Most often, scholastic dishonesty occurs because a student either does not know how to do something (such as cite a source) or runs into a time crunch in writing a paper or studying for an exam and makes a wrong choice.  Sometimes, scholastic dishonesty occurs because a student didn’t understand class expectations, such as when to turn in individual versus group work.  Here are a few suggestions to avoid scholastic dishonesty:

  1. Read your syllabus for every class.  Your syllabus will include information about course expectations, including scholastic dishonesty.
  2. Plan ahead.  Leave yourself plenty of time to study for exams and write papers.  This will allow you to ask questions of your instructor if they come up and will help to avoid that “desperate” feeling that can sometimes lead to scholastic dishonesty.
  3. Understand citation and the difference between plagiarism and paraphrasing.  The U of M has some wonderful resources to help you with this.  The U of M libraries has tutorials that can help you to cite your sources and to learn more about plagiarism:  Also, the Center for Writing can help you with the writing process: .
  4. Ask your instructor.   If you have questions about an assignment, ask your instructor instead of guessing.
  5. Talk to your instructor. If something comes up that prevents you from turning in a paper on time, talk to your instructor about this. If the instructor cannot make an exception for you, it is better to get a zero on the assignment for failure to turn it in than from scholastic dishonesty by copying another’s paper or cutting and pasting from the internet.

Q: I’m often assigned group work in class. How do I make sure I don’t get accused of cheating with anyone on our assignments?
Group assignments are a frequent and popular form of teaching and learning. Probably the greatest risk will be to not know for sure when you are expected to turn in independent work in a course that has otherwise involved a good deal of encouraged collaboration with other students. Faculty should be providing clear instructions about whether a particular assignment is to be your own work or group work. If you are at all uncertain whether individual work is being asked for, take the initiative to talk with your instructor to gain clarification. It’s good to connect with your instructor on a one-to-one basis and it may prove beneficial to everyone in the class. Of course if you have reason to believe that someone in your assigned group is or will be cheating in some way on a group project, you should contact the instructor or call OSCAI to avoid a possible accusation against you later.