Tips and Pitfalls
This page contains reminders (tips) that help you do your academic work with honesty and integrity, as well as a list of common concerns (pitfalls) that students often encounter.
The section below focuses on reminders (tips), organized by the most common kinds of work you need to do during your time at Rochester.
All findings of responsibility for violating the academic honesty policy have consequences for you as a student. Reduce your risk of being suspected or found responsible by completing exams with integrity.
Follow these tips:
- Copy and sign the honor pledge on all exams: “I affirm that I will not give or receive any unauthorized help on this exam, and that all work will be my own.”
- Make sure you know and understand any course-specific expectations about authorized versus unauthorized use of materials during exams (such as calculation, open book, open note, etc.) and specific requirements for different kinds of exam (such as in-class versus take-home). Please ask!
- Make sure your instructor has approved using old problem sets or other material from past semesters to prepare for beforeusing it.
- Don't bring a backpack or other unnecessary materials to the exam. If you have a bag, set it far away from you.
- Make sure all your bags are zipped shut and that no loose papers can be seen or slide out from under your desk.
- Set all of your materials on your desk before the exam starts. Don't reach down for pencils, calculators, etc. during the exam.
- Even if the instructor doesn't require it, sit far away from other students.
- If you must sit close to others, try to sit at the front of the classroom near the instructor.
- Don’t talk to anyone other than the instructor or TAs, even about things not related to the exam.
- If possible, do not bring your cell phone into the exam room. If you must have it with you, turn it off and keep it in a closed backpack or other bag. Do not keep it in your pocket, in your hand, on your desk, or anywhere else that is visible to you.
- Follow the instructor’s rules for bathroom breaks. Don’t bring your cell phone or any study materials with you during bathroom breaks (check your pockets for any material you might have accidentally left there).
- Manage time and start studying early. Reviewing material frequently throughout the semester will help you learn.
- Consult your instructors or Tas about the best ways to prepare for each kind of assignment.
You can find resources promoting time management and study skills at The Learning Center. You can also find quizzes about academic honesty.
Papers, Assignments, and Academic Documents
You are responsible for following the academic honesty policy and any additional, related course requirements. Make sure you know what the academic honesty rules are before turning in any assignments (even if the assignments are drafts, ungraded, or for extra credit).
Make sure papers and other writing projects fully and fairly represent your individual contributions, as well as the contributions of others.
Follow these tips:
- Learn about citation from course instructors and from the library's Writing and Citing Guide. Use signal and pathway concepts to help you understand citation.
- Signals (e.g., quotation marks, signal phrases) alert readers each time your assignment contains material that originated elsewhere.
- Pathways (e.g., page numbers, list of work cited) bring readers from each signal to the corresponding information needed to locate that outside material.
- Always fully cite everything that isn’t your own idea, including:
- Internet sources
- Images and diagrams
- Materials that you paraphrased or changed into your own words
- Course documents, discussions, or lectures (unless your instructor states in writing that these will count as common knowledge and don’t require citation)
- Always follow the citation style required for your discipline or for your course requirements: MLA, APA, or something else. If you aren’t sure which style to use, ask your instructor.
- If you thought of an idea yourself and then found that same or similar idea mentioned in another source, read the "If you encounter “your idea” in a source" page about what to do and how to represent the idea fairly in your writing. give
- If you want to give a friend feedback on their paper, or a friend wants you to give feedback on yours, read the WSAP Writing Feedback PDF on what is likely to be permitted in this contact. Be sure to follow any rules your instructor has set for collaboration and peer review.
- You can get help and find resources to develop your academic research and writing skills from River Campus Libraries and the Writing, Speaking, and Argument Program.
- Never forge a signature or falsify information on any document you submit to a university official as part of academic degree program progress during your time at Rochester. Doing so will be a clear violation of honesty policy. This requirement covers (but is not limited to) course attendance sheets, physician’s notes, forms, letters, and applications.
When you work in a group, every group member will be considered to be equally responsible for the final product of that group. Avoid being found responsible for an academic honesty violation due to someone else’s behavior.
Follow these tips:
- Be sure to read your instructors’ rules for how to structure any assigned work as soon as you receive the assignments. Ask instructors for clarification if you aren’t sure how to divide the work fairly or appropriately.
- Once you understand the academic honesty policy and your instructors’ expectations, clearly define the responsibilities of each group member.
- Start early and consider setting multiple deadlines before the project is due. That way, you can help ensure your project stays on track and help motivate all members of the group to complete their work in academically honest ways.
- If you are assigned individual sections of a larger project, do not work with others unless or until your instructor tells you it is OK. If you want to work with someone else, ask first.
- If you are not given guidelines for dividing an assignment, try to put processes in place that allow you to review the work your fellow students produce—and that allow them to review your work.
Remember: You will be held responsible for any academic honesty policy violations or potential violations committed in shared work by others in your group.
Since rules for collaboration can be slightly different for every course and assignment, make sure you know exactly what each instructor permits before you work with other students.
Follow these tips:
- Read your course and assignment materials carefully as soon as you get them. Ask your instructor if you do not see or do not understand their rules for collaboration.
- If you don’t know your instructor’s rules, always work on your own until you can get more specific information from then on how to proceed.
- You can be found responsible for violating the academic honesty policy not just if you receive help from others-but also if you give help to others in ways that are not permitted. Do your due diligence and take reasonable measures to keep your work to yourself; provide others, even your friends, only help you know would be allowed by your instructor.
- Avoid sharing, discussing, or reading answers from exams or any other assignments until the submission window closes (or until the last student turns their work in), including in person, in group chat, in Zoom, and on social media.
Make sure you know not just what technology your instructor permit, but also when, where, and how you are allowed to use it.
Follow these tips:
- Don’t ever share your login information. Sharing your NetID or password violates both the academic honesty policy and the student conduct policy.
- Don’t use online language dictionaries or other translation software unless you are absolutely certain your instructor would permit it.
- Don’t use computer code you didn’t write by yourself unless you are absolutely certain your instructor would permit it.
- Don’t stay logged in to your Blackboard on any unattended devices.
- Avoid using third-party "tutoring” or homework help websites that promise to provide custom answers to assignments, due to the predatory nature of these sites.
- If you find internet or other non-text-based resources relevant to your studies, be sure to clear them as acceptable sources with your instructor before using them-and be sure to fully cite them when you do!
- Don’t share or post course materials without authorization, especially if the materials were created in whole or in part by your instructors or TAs (someone other than you).
The section below focuses on concerns (pitfalls) to avoid, paired with advice about what you can or should do instead.
Educate yourself to understand all rules and expectations up front; be ready to ask instructors for clarification before you turn something in.
- Common concerns:
- I didn’t intend to violate the policy.
- I didn’t know I was violating the policy.
- (I guess) I didn’t fully understand the rules.
- It was close to the assignment deadline-I thought it would be too late to ask the instructor to clarify their expectations.
- I assumed I knew what counted as an academic honesty infraction.
- I assumed what I did was similar enough to what the instructor wanted.
- My friends took this class last year, and they told me the instructor let them share notes and do homework together.
- Learn the rules upfront. Since the Arts, Sciences, and Engineering (AS&E) policy does not take intent or lack of intent into account, you need to know and follow AS&E and any additional course policies.
- Read both the AS&E policy as well as your course and assignment materials. Instructors can set more course-specific rules in addition to the general rules set by AS&E.
- Ask your course instructor if you think something that you are considering doing might be an academic honesty infraction. Ask before you do it.
- Read over your course materials as soon as you get them. That way, you can ask for clarification before assignments are due.
- Ask each of your instructors about their specific rules for collaboration, group projects, and citation, which will always be unique assignment or to the course.
- For general AS&E policy questions, schedule a meeting or email the academic honesty liaison, who can offer confidential guidance and advice about academic honesty concerns.
Only submit work you are confident would be considered academically honest.
Be sure to represent your status at the University accurately; be sure documents or work you submit as part of professional activities (such as applying for a job, internship, or fellowship) do not mislead and are fair, true, and honest also.
- Common concerns:
- I thought drafts don’t count.
- I thought ungraded work doesn’t count.
- I thought proposals don’t count.
- This seemed like unimportant busywork.
- I thought it was just a form.
- I thought sharing work online that started as a class project would be OK; did I really need to ask each of my instructors for their permission?
- Only submit work you are certain others will agree counts as academically honest. Be sure this work represents your own individual contributions fairly (versus contributions from others, or from source material).
- The AS&E honesty policy applies to everything you submit to a University employee as part of your progress toward a degree.
- What you submit can include drafts, ungraded work, proposals for unexecuted projects, course add/drop forms, exit exams, etc.
- It can also include whatever documents you submit for professional opportunities related to your degree progress, such as jobs, internships, or fellowships.
Ask for help if you need it-or even if you think it’s possible that you might eventually need it.
- Common concerns:
- I ran out of time.
- I was really struggling with this material.
- I was studying more hours, but I wasn’t performing better.
- I couldn’t get my team members to work together.
- I didn’t understand citation.
- I couldn’t find and/or organize sources.
- I needed support for my disability.
- I was worried or upset about my family or a loved one.
- I was struggling with mental illness.
- I was sick or injured.
- I was assaulted or harassed.
- I was hungry or homeless.
- I was working too many hours.
- When you need help, ask for it! If you don’t know who to ask, start with a trusted University employee, your advisor, or the academic honesty liaison. Even if the first person you talk to doesn’t specialize in the kind of support you need, they can connect you to the right resources for your concern.
- Review our quiz #1 (policy and process), quiz #2 (scenarios), and quiz #3(honesty in online/hybrid learning)—or see the student resources page for more information about campus resources that are available to help.
Whatever academic struggles you are facing, receiving a finding of responsibility for violating the academic honesty policy will always be your worst option.
- Common concerns:
- I thought I would lose my scholarship, my 4.0 GPA, or my place at the University if I got a bad grade on that assignment.
- I was going to fail anyway; why does it matter?
- I knew I couldn’t do the work unless without taking a shortcut, ‘bending’ some honesty rules, or otherwise violating the academic honesty policy.
- Everyone else around me was cheating or violating the academic honesty policy; I thought I had to do it just to keep up.
- I didn’t think I would (hoped I wouldn’t) get caught.
- I didn’t think cheating was a big deal.
- You always have a choice. Misrepresenting your contributions - doing something that violates the academic honesty policy-is always your worst choice.
- If you violate the academic honesty policy, not only do you face serious academic honesty sanctions, possible visa consequences, and potential loss of opportunities or jobs when you must disclose a violation on applications in the future, but you also don’t learn your course material as well now.
- You always have options besides taking a shortcut or doing something to violate the academic honesty policy. These options include:
- Asking your instructor for more time.
- Turning in a partially completed but totally honest assignment.
- Not turning in the assignment (and taking a zero if you must).
- Dropping or withdrawing from a course to avoid a low grade (before you do something to violate the policy).
- Switching majors.
- Asking your instructor for extra credit or changes to assignment weighting.
- Getting help so you can perform better on the remaining assignments.
Remember—You can review our quiz #1 (policy and process), quiz #2 (scenarios), quiz #3 (honesty in online/hybrid learning), and the student resources page for more information. You can also always contact us or make an appointment with the liaison.
Academic honesty depends on making good, ethical choices, even under difficult circumstances. We are all of us responsible for acting with integrity, and for upholding the culture of fair and honest work we want to see on campus.
Academic honesty depends on you.