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A Student's Guide to Academic Integrity at the University of Oklahoma

OU's Academic Integrity Code gives students, via the Integrity Council, responsibility for the integrity of their own academic community. Explore the resources available here, and throughout our website, for more information about the policies, procedures, and expectations of students at OU.

Academic integrity means honesty and responsibility in scholarship. Academic assignments exist to help students learn; grades exist to show how fully this goal is attained. Therefore all work and all grades should result from the student's own understanding and effort.

In a world where one scandal emerges after another, a reputation of integrity is priceless. Since the establishment of the University in 1890, OU has worked to build a reputation that students, faculty & staff, the administration, and alumni can be proud of. It is the value of the OU degree that provides OU students the best internships, jobs and graduate school opportunities. It takes only a minute to destroy a reputation of integrity. Students must understand the importance of integrity both personally and professionally.

Since 2011, the Academic Integrity Code has given students major responsibility for the OU community’s academic integrity system. The responsible student organization is the Integrity Council. Its official duties include chairing academic misconduct hearings, conducting investigations for reported acts of academic misconduct, reviewing actual academic misconduct cases and recommending sanctions, and serving as peer educators in integrity training for students who have violated the Academic Integrity Code.

The Office of Academic Integrity Programs (OAIP) supports and advises the Integrity Council. The OAIP is currently located on the third floor of Carnegie, on the North Oval. The main functions of this office are to promote academic integrity on campus, manage the academic misconduct system, and advise the Integrity Council.

Integrity matters to everyone, so OU’s academic integrity system lets anyone - not just professors - report cheating. Anyone with a concern about cheating can file a report through our Maxient report form. Once a possible violation is discovered, a report should ordinarily be filed within 15 class days of discovering the academic misconduct.

For other questions about reporting misconduct, please contact us.

In some cases an instructor may conclude that the security of a test or other class assignment has been seriously compromised, without being able to identify any or all of the specific violations that may have resulted. In those cases, the professor, working with the department, retains the authority and the obligation to cancel the assignment and recalculate the point values of other work, or assign substitute work, or both, provided that such action applies to the entire class.

When such action is appropriate, any reduction in a student’s grade from such cancellation, substitution, or recalculation does not constitute a grade penalty.

Academic misconduct is any act which improperly affects the evaluation of a student’s academic performance or achievement. Misconduct occurs whenever a student’s act or omission would have such an improper effect and when the student either knows or reasonably should know that the act constitutes misconduct. “I didn’t mean to” is never an excuse for academic misconduct. Discussed below are some common examples of misconduct.

Online assignments are subject to exactly the same standards of integrity that apply in regular classroom assignments. Unless specifically permitted by the instructor, it is cheating to copy from others or from outside sources on any online quiz, homework, or test.

Helping someone else cheat, for example by actually doing their work for them, is itself an Academic Integrity Code violation. So is providing someone with a paper or homework, or any other form of help, where you know, or reasonably should know, that the other student will use it to cheat.

Trying to cheat is academic misconduct, even if the attempt is discovered before it is completed. For example, possession of unauthorized notes in an examination is academic misconduct, even if they have not yet been used. Asking others for help in cheating is academic misconduct even if nobody responds and no cheating ultimately occurs.

Unless the professor specifies otherwise, all examinations and other assignments are to be completed by the student alone, without inappropriate assistance of any kind. For tests, that means no help is to be given to or received from other persons; no books, notes, cellphones, iPods, calculators, or other materials or devices of any kind are to be consulted; and if a calculator or other hand-held electronic device is permitted to be used for mathematical calculations, no other information may be programmed into or retrieved from the device. Even when not resulting in an Integrity Code violation, violations of security-related course rules may result in grade penalties as announced by the instructor.

It is an Academic Integrity Code violation to steal or destroy other students' work if the action will foreseeably lead to an academic advantage for oneself. The same is true for gaining unauthorized access to faculty offices, email accounts, or course management services in order to alter grades, access examinations, or otherwise gain improper academic advantage.

Collaboration means working together. Many classes emphasize working with a partner or in groups. Permission from the professor to "work together" on a homework assignment, project, or paper is not permission to violate the rules of integrity by simply getting the answers from someone else or presenting another student's work as your own. Unless the professor specifies otherwise, it is assumed that all work submitted for a grade will be the product of the student's own understanding, and thus expressed in the student's own words, calculations, computer code, etc. When a student's work is identical or very similar to someone else's at points where individual variations in expression would be expected, it is reasonable for the professor to conclude that academic misconduct has occurred.

Interfering with the proper functioning of the Academic Integrity Code is also a violation of the Code. For example, it is a violation to threaten or bribe someone to prevent that person from reporting misconduct or testifying in a hearing. It is also a violation to interfere with an Integrity Council investigation or lie to an investigator or other official. Student Code violations may also apply to such conduct. Once the investigation is over, retaliation against someone for reporting misconduct or participating in an investigation or hearing will ordinarily be addressed through the Student Code.

It is wrong to lie to an instructor in order to get an excused absence, an extension on a due date, a makeup examination, a grade of incomplete, admission to a class or program, etc. Examples of lying to obtain an academic advantage may include:

  • Using TopHat/clickers to falsify attendance records
  • Taking an exam from an unapproved location
  • Submitting false documents
  • Signing in for another student

It is wrong to forge an instructor's signature on drop slips, or anywhere else for academic advantage. 

It is wrong to falsify transcripts and diplomas.

It is wrong to fake data, for example in an assigned lab project, or to fabricate quotations or sources for a paper.

The person who lies to get out of a difficult situation usually feels that there is nothing personal about it. The person who is lied to feels differently. All of these actions destroy the institution's integrity and eat away at the expectation of mutual trust among all members of the academic community.

There is basically no college-level assignment that can be satisfactorily completed by copying. OU's basic assumption about writing is that all written assignments show the student's own understanding in the student's own words. That means all writing assignments, in class or out, drafts or final submissions, are assumed to be composed entirely of words generated (not simply found) by the student, except where words written by someone else are specifically marked as such. Including other people's words in a paper is helpful when done honestly and correctly. When done incorrectly, it is plagiarism.

Plagiarism is the most common form of academic misconduct at OU. Students are encouraged to test their skills in avoiding plagiarism by taking the University Libraries' plagiarism tutorial. Within the academic community and specifically at the University of Oklahoma, the following rules apply:

  1. IT IS PLAGIARISM TO COPY WORDS AND PRESENT THEM AS YOUR OWN WRITING.

    It is the worst form of plagiarism to copy part or all of a paper from the Internet, from a book, or from another source without indicating in any way that the words are someone else's. To avoid this form of plagiarism, the paper must BOTH place the quoted material in quotation marks AND use an acceptable form of citation to indicate where the words come from.

  2. IT IS PLAGIARISM TO COPY WORDS, EVEN IF YOU GIVE THE SOURCE, UNLESS YOU ALSO INDICATE THAT THE COPIED WORDS ARE A DIRECT QUOTATION.

    Simply documenting the source in a footnote or bibliography isn't good enough. Writers must also indicate that the words themselves are quoted from someone else. To avoid this form of plagiarism, put all quoted words in quotation marks or use equivalent punctuation.

  3. IT IS PLAGIARISM TO COPY WORDS AND THEN CHANGE THEM A LITTLE, EVEN IF YOU GIVE THE SOURCE.

    Putting someone else’s ideas into our own words so it is not a direct quotation is called "paraphrasing." Paraphrasing is fine when the writer cites the source and indicates the new expression is actually your own. When it is not -- when the expression remains substantially similar to the source as a whole or in one of its parts -- it is plagiarism. Even if not specifically prohibited by the instructor, "writing" a paper by copying words and then altering them violates OU's basic assumption about writing and may easily result in a charge of academic misconduct. To count as "your own words," a paper must be so significantly different from the resources consulted that a reasonable reader would consider it a new piece of writing. If it is not -- if "your writing" is substantially similar to somebody else's where individual variations would be expected, it is plagiarism.

  4. EVEN IF YOU EXPRESS THEM IN YOUR OWN WORDS, IT IS PLAGIARISM TO PRESENT SOMEONE ELSE'S IDEAS AS YOUR OWN.

    It is plagiarism to present someone else's original arguments, lines of reasoning, or factual discoveries as your own, even if you put the material in your own words. To avoid this form of plagiarism, always cite the source.

  5. THE RULES AGAINST PLAGIARISM APPLY TO ALL ASSIGNMENTS.

    Take-home tests, comprehensive examinations, "review of the literature" sections of theses or dissertations, and all other assignments are subject to these rules. There is basically no college-level assignment that can be satisfactorily completed by copying.

Submitting the same assignment for a second class violates the assumption that every assignment advances a student's learning and growth. Unless the second instructor expressly allows it, submitting an assignment already submitted for another class is a form of academic misconduct. This is also known as self-plagiarism or recycling work.

If a student is considering recycling work, they are encouraged to discuss the matter with their instructor.

Reports of academic misconduct fall into two categories: the admonition and the full violation.

  • An admonition is essentially a warning by the professor that may result only in a grade reduction that does not exceed the value of the assignment in question. There are no University penalties with admonitions. A first offense is not automatically treated as an admonition. Admonitions are for lesser offenses only and are not appropriate for egregious academic misconduct including, but not limited to, cumulative examinations, semester-long assignments, or for graduate-level assignments such as general examinations. Ordinarily no student should receive more than one admonition. If a student has previously received an admonition and a second admonition is reported or if the misconduct is egregious enough to be treated as a full violation, the OAIP has the authority to increase admonitions to full violations per Sec. 3.2 of the Academic Integrity Code. Admonitions are not considered an adjudication of academic misconduct and are not reportable outside of the University. However, in any subsequent academic misconduct proceeding, the admonition will establish the student’s familiarity with academic integrity standards.

  • A full violation can result in both a grade penalty and a University sanction. After being notified of a reported violation, students will be required to meet with the OAIP. In this meeting, the OAIP will explain to the student their rights in the process, go over what they were reported for, answer any questions they may have, and, if the student admits to the reported violation, issue a University sanction. Regardless of what University sanction is issued, all violations become a part of the student’s permanent educational record.

Every student that has been reported for either an admonition or a full violation will be sent a notification by the OAIP via email through their University email addresses.

If a student has been reported for a full violation, the student must contact the OAIP to schedule a face-to-face meeting within 10 class days of receiving notice of the reported violation. Failure to do so will result in a student waiving the rights to an investigation, a hearing, and an appeal, and may also include suspension or expulsion from the University.

Reported students otherwise eligible for graduation do not graduate until the integrity case is resolved. Reports received after graduation are subject to the same procedures provided for currently enrolled students.

Taking responsibility for one’s actions shows maturity and integrity. Accepting responsibility is one factor considered in determining an appropriate sanction. Everyone makes mistakes. It is what we do afterwards that determines who we are.

Students have the right to contest all reports of misconduct, both admonitions and violations. The first step in contesting a report is to request an investigation.

Unless and until there is an adjudication of misconduct, the student will be afforded the presumption of innocence. This includes the right to continue as a student and to take courses for which the involved course is a prerequisite, if the student's performance in that course otherwise permits.

Every student who has been reported has a right to an advisor. Free counsel is provided by SGA General Counsel, located in the Conoco Student Leadership Wing of the Oklahoma Memorial Union.

Every student reported for violating the Academic Integrity code has the right to an investigation led by the Integrity Council. Investigations can also be requested by professors or by the OAIP. The purpose of the investigation is to gather evidence about the reported misconduct.

The investigation process begins when a student denies a report of academic misconduct. Typically, this is because they dispute some facts of the case, but is not appropriate if they contest their intent; for instance, if the professor submitted a report alleging that the student plagiarized a term paper, and the student denies that they plagiarized, they may request an investigation. However, if the student agrees that they plagiarized, but did not mean to do so, then an investigation is usually not appropriate.

What does the process look like?

The investigations process is the responsibility of Integrity Council student investigators. All parties involved in a case (i.e., reporter, alleged violator, any relevant witnesses) are given the opportunity to provide a statement and any evidence they believe to be relevant to the case. The investigators review the facts of the case, all provided statements, and any other available evidence. The investigators may reach out to involved parties to seek clarification or additional information pertaining to the facts of the case.

After evaluating all available information related to a case, the investigators are responsible for determining whether sufficient evidence exists on which a finding of responsibility could be based. If insufficient evidence exists, the investigators will dismiss the case. If sufficient evidence exists, they will recommend the case move forward to a hearing.

At this point, the student is provided with a written investigation report and all evidence associated with their case. The student may choose to accept responsibility and conclude their case, or to move forward with a hearing. 

During the investigation, a student will have a grade of “N” as a temporary neutral grade until the matter is resolved. 

For more detailed procedures on reporting and investigations, please see the Reporting & Investigation Procedures (PDF).

A hearing panel is made up of five members: three students and two faculty members. In every hearing, students are entitled to a presumption of innocence. The burden in the proceeding is not on the student to prove innocense, but on the University to establish responsibility for the alleged violation(s). Responsibility for misconduct must be established by the University using a preponderance of the evidence standard, or the case will be dismissed.

During the hearing, both the panel and the student will ordinarily have the opportunity to question all witnesses involved in the matter. The student will also have the opportunity to make a personal statement regarding the report. At the conclusion of the hearing, the panel shall deliberate and determine by a majority vote whether the student is responsible for the reported act of academic misconduct.

For more detailed procedures on hearings, please see the Hearing Procedures (PDF).

With admonitions, the grade penalty is limited to no credit on the assignment in question. With a full violation, there are two parts to the resulting penalty: the grade penalty and the University penalty (sanction).

The grade penalty is imposed by the instructor. With full violations, the grade penalty can range from a lower grade on the affected work to an F in the course (an F cannot be avoided by withdrawing from the course). In some cases, the professor may require extra work before the course can be completed. 

The sanction is imposed separately from the grade penalty. Sanctions range from a censure (an official reprimand recorded as a note in the student's file), to classes or tutorials on integrity-related topics, to suspension, to expulsion in the case of repeat or especially bad offenses. Suspensions from the University are for an entire semester or other academic term. Suspensions and expulsions are noted on the student's transcript. At the University's discretion, transcript notations can be temporary or permanent.

There are two different remedial classes that can be assigned as University sanctions. One class is specifically geared toward writing and avoiding plagiarism. If a student is required to take this course as a sanction, the course must be completed before the academic misconduct case can be concluded. The other class is focused on understanding integrity at OU and how the principles of integrity extend into our lives. The course is focused on individual growth with the goal of preparing students to succeed in the future. Both classes are offered in lieu of suspension, meaning that if a student agrees to take the class but fails to successfully complete any aspect of the integrity training, the student may be suspended for the subsequent semester. Both classes qualify as a one-credit hour elective, and regular tuition and fees apply.

Even if it is not noted on the transcript, a violation becomes a permanent part of the student's educational record. Students intending to apply to post-graduate programs such as law school or medical school should be particularly aware of disclosure requirements for those programs.

For more information on how academic penaties are assigned, please see How Penalties are Assigned (PDF).

The Appeal and Reconsideration Panel consists of two students and a staff member from a department other than the Provost Office. 

The focus of the panel is to consider appeals of: (1) a finding of responsibility for a report of academic misconduct by a hearing panel; (2) reconsideration of the sanction offered by the OAIP for an acceptance of responsibility; (3) early removal of transcript notation or expungement of the case in its entirety. 

It is not the responsibility of the OAIP to determine the appropriate grade in a misconduct case; this determination is up to the professor, and can be appealed through the ordinary grade appeal process. 

All appeals must be made in writing by the requesting party. Only written appeals will be considered by the Panel; in person statements will not be permitted. Prior to consideration of the request, the appeal form and any supplemental documentation must be submitted to the OAIP no less than 7 days prior to consideration of the appeal.

For more information on how the appeals and reconsiderations panel operates, please see Appeals and Reconsiderations (PDF).


OAIP: Records Request

OAIP record checks may be required when students:
(1) apply to graduate or professional programs
(2) seek to transfer to another institution, or
(3) are subject to federal background checks related to employment or security clearances. 

The Open Records Office will coordinate with the OAIP to provide the proper records.

Is my sanction disclosable?

FERPA Release Form

Students may authorize the release of personal information and educational records by submitting a form of acknowledgement releasing their information.

You must submit a FERPA Release if you would like an advisor or attorney to accompany you throughout the academic integrity process. This form must be completed and submitted to the OAIP by the student.

Submit Form