Academic integrity shapes morals and helps to build students, graduates, and professionals. O'Connell (2016) defined academic integrity as the act of being honest and truthful in one's academic work by doing one's work, upholding policies that regulate dishonesty, and reporting cases of cheating and irregularities. Academic integrity is based on but limited to the following aspects; trust, honesty, fairness, respect, and responsibility (Taylor & Bicak, 2018). These affirm the basis for all teaching, learning, assessment, and research, which shape a student's morality and holds them accountable. Institutions are keen on academic integrity as releasing dishonest and untrustworthy people to employers lowers their education standards and questions their reliability. Besides, such students get to the employment world, and they give unqualified services to their employees and clients. Academic integrity is a fundamental component of the current world as it shaped the provision of goods and services. It further ensures that everyone in the world is honest, truthful, and reliable; it gives every student what they deserve in terms of qualifications and grades.
Most institutions have rules and regulations that cater to the same, and breaking them is considered academic dishonesty. Academic integrity is mostly doing your work, upholding policies set up for the same, and reporting cases of academic fraud. These policies are based on but not limited to the following aspects; trust, honesty, fairness, respect, and responsibility (Taylor & Bicak, 2018). Evaluation is critical in an institution to gauge the students' understanding and their ability to remember and apply the skills imparted in them. It is, therefore, imperative for students to undertake the evaluations that can be in the form of examinations and assignments, honestly to enable the lecturer or instructor to know where they need to emphasize and where the particular concept has been grasped and understood. Teaching, learning, and research can only be effective when moral standards are upheld, and everyone can be held accountable. Academic integrity further enhances one's credibility in their line of work.
Academic integrity involves the presentation of one's original ideas, giving credit to borrowed views and statements, acknowledging the roles of other people in your work, citations, quotations, and paraphrasing adopted statements (O'Connell, 2016). Failure to do the same results into academic dishonesty that is punishable depending on the institution's policies, which may be through; cancellation of the offender's grades, repeating the same course, suspension, or expulsion. Academic dishonesty may be through but not limited to cheating, bribery, fabrications, academic misconduct, and plagiarism, which are aimed at giving the student a particular advantage over the rest and ultimately a good grade.
Aspects of Academic Integrity
According to Taylor & Bicak (2018), academic integrity is based on five factors that include honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility. Honesty is fundamental in academics as it enables one to be true to themselves and their work. Honesty is where someone is honest with their ideas, the origin, the quality, and the sources if their work. Trust, in academic integrity, comes in where one can be trusted with their work and their roles. Honesty makes one trustworthy. If a student submits their original work, if a lecturer or instructor assigns grades without any form of partiality, that incorporates trust. It means that even in the world of employment, they can be trusted and relied on in the long run.
Fairness comes into play where every student gets what they deserve basing on the work they did. When another student gains an academic advantage over someone else due to illegal means, that is unfair to the rest of the people given they put in the effort when the other person didn't. According to Garza Mitchell & Parnther (2018), academic integrity is meant to enhance fairness and equality by leveling the ground for fair competition and impartial results. A student and lecturer that is sincere and honest and trustworthy gains respect by their truthfulness. They are respected because they respected the laid down rules and policies towards honesty and integrity. Lastly, academic integrity is based on responsibility. Responsibility is where a student and lecturer can be held accountable for their work and the roles they had to play in the process of obtaining knowledge. Is the student responsible enough to do their job without cheating? Can the lecturer or instructor be held accountable for the grades awarded to the students and the credibility of the examination procedure?
Cheating is trying to gain an academic advantage over other students through unfair means. This is most common in tests and examinations (O'Connell, 2016). In typical cases, instructors are in charge of overseeing examinations and how they are conducted. Cheating is commonly through copying someone else's work or allowing someone else to replicate the work. This can also be through the use of textbooks to refer and copy answers for a passing grade. Recently, however, students are impersonating each other where a student pays someone else to do the test for him or her (Garza Mitchell & Parnther, 2018). Students even go to the extent of spending money to get their assignments and takeaway texts done for them. Moreover, students use technology, mobile phones, and the internet to access the required information to gain an advantage over other students. Cheating gives a student a grade that he or she does not deserve and provides the lecturer with a feeling of the concept has been well understood, which is often not the case.
Fabrication is where a student invents their information; for example, citing sources that do not exist or citing sources that have not been used in work. This is very common in assignments and work that require references.
Bribery is done through the offering and accepting money, goods, and services in exchange for a passing grade (O'Connell, 2016). It is done through paying lecturers, instructors, and those in charge of cash and, most recently, sexual favors to gain an academic advantage over other students.
Academic misconduct is whereby a student violates rules and regulations in a bid to gain academic advantage or stop the evaluation process (Garza Mitchell & Parnther, 2018). This can be through; obtaining the test before the due date, sharing an analysis or information about an examination before the exam, accessing and changing grades, or tampering with the examination process, stealing keys from the instructor.
Plagiarism is the failure to acknowledge another person's contribution to the work that is being submitted, either knowingly or unknowingly (Garza Mitchell & Parnther, 2018). It is a very common occurrence, especially in universities and colleges, where students are required to undertake research and look into ideas that are inexistent. With this in mind, many institutions allow students to use someone else's work or thoughts in their work, provided they acknowledge that fact. This can be through; quotations where they quote the person's work or words in their work, paraphrasing the original work, citing the paraphrased work and, giving references (O'Connell, 2016). Unintentional or reckless plagiarism occurs when a student unknowingly adds the work or thoughts of another person to their work that may be considered common knowledge. This disrespects the efforts that other people put into the completion of their work. It also questions the understanding and creativity of a student if they cannot prove their understanding.
Factors That Contribute Towards Academic Dishonesty
Cuadrado et al. (2019) noted that academic dishonesty is rampant in many learning institutions. This has been contributed to majorly by high expectations from parents and lecturers. Students feel that if they fail, they have disappointed all those who looked up to them. High expectations are the main reasons why most students use various illegal methods to achieve passing grades. Laziness is also a contributing factor where students are lazy and do not want to do the work given on their own. Sometimes students have not read for their examination and are therefore unable to do them on their own (Cuadrado et al., 2019). The availability of advanced technology has made it very easy to cheat in tests through mobile phones, smartwatches, and the Internet, brains behind everything. The Internet allows a student to access any information at whatever time. Academic dishonesty has also been contributed to by dishonest examiners, instructors, and lecturers who ask for favors and money in exchange for a quality grade. This can be very tempting to a student who is desperate for the same. Done examiners are also not strict, giving leeway for students to use mobile phones and reference materials during an examination (O'Connell, 2016). The need for employment and an income has further accelerated academic dishonesty as students know that with money, they can employ somebody else to be doing their assignments and, in the worst-case scenario, someone to do their tests for them.
Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom, by Thomas Jefferson (Garza Mitchell & Parnther, 2018). The world of academia has recently had to widen the scope of cover under academic dishonesty and lack of integrity (O'Connell, 2016). It has been necessitated by the advancements in technology and the mentality that a student has to do well by whatever means. It has led to increased rates of dishonesty in matters education and, consequently, an unqualified bunch of graduates that is released to the world and take up positions in the employment world. It has resulted in unsuccessful surgeries due to a lack of skills, failures in the business world, just to mention but a few. Most elite students, through their financial influences and capabilities, have bought grades, tests and even had other people to do their exam for them.
It may not be evident for anyone to know what honest work is because various institutions have various policies. However, specific rules have to be met for work to be credible, which include; the work has to have been done by the student. This is because the student has to put down their perspective and present it (Reeves, 2015). This will enable them to implement whatever has been taught to them. Furthermore, it will allow the examiner to gauge their understanding. The work should have appropriate citations and references if they are not original. If a student borrows an idea or statements from someone else with similar work, the student needs to cite the source and put references. This enables the examiner to know the source of the ideas and their credibility. The student should uphold the policies put in place in the process of undertaking and submitting the work. For example, in an exam scenario, the student should follow all the rules and regulations that pertain to the exam for the job, to be honest, and credible (Garza Mitchell & Parnther, 2018). Also, the work should not have been done with illegal assistance from anywhere else. Reliable work in an examination is whereby a student follows all the laid down policies in the undertaking of the test and obtaining results. For results to be honest and credible, checks should have been done by the students and the grades awarded without favoritism and partiality.
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