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Academic integrity

Students shaking hands

In order to maintain a culture of academic integrity, members of the University of Waterloo community are expected to promote the six core values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage.

The Faculty of Mathematics expects our students, as members of our university community, to adhere to a code of honour in their various activities. 

As a student, academic integrity means making ethical decisions, asking questions, and following instructions - even when faced with difficult situations. These skills are important to help you learn and grow in your post-secondary education, and are equally important for your success and reputation in your future careers. Waterloo Math graduates are going to go out into the world and make a difference, and it is important that our graduates have good decision-making skills and ethical judgement for both their own personal development and to help create a strong civic culture for society.

Students who aren’t aware of the expectations of these six core values or the nuances of academic misconduct may be committing an academic integrity offence unintentionally. Many offences that happen in university happen by accident but regardless of good intentions, the consequences that result from misconduct are significant and never worth the risk. It’s important that you know what to do so that you don’t end up in the same situation.


Plagiarism

Plagiarism is presenting, whether intentionally or not, the ideas or work of others as one’s own. Plagiarism isn’t something that just happens in written work, it also occurs in math and math-based courses. In some cases, students unintentionally commit this offence when submitting written work because they are concerned that they will not properly capture the meaning if they change the author’s words.

In other cases, students copy information word-for-word from their sources with the intention of rewording later, but this can lead to mistakes. It’s important to be able to paraphrase, quote, and cite properly (and effectively) in written work. Plagiarism is also copying a classmate’s work, allowing someone to copy your work, or googling or sourcing answers to assignment questions. Some Googling might be ok, as long as an instructor allows it.

An example of this might be watching a video of another instructor explaining the concept; sometimes hearing something explained in a different way can help you to understand difficult content. There is also an important distinction to be made between seeing and copying someone’s mathematical argument word-for-word, or line-by-line, and understanding an idea and then writing it up on your own. Not only is this an offence, but you’re not learning the content in a way that will help your understanding of future concepts. If you’re not sure if you can use the internet to complete your work, ask! In all cases, students are required to cite any external source used in their work, even for math.


Cheating

Cheating can occur when a student obtains answers from unauthorized aids (such as note-sharing or answer-sharing platforms).

This can happen intentionally (through the use of such platforms) or unintentionally (by joining a student-created group chat where answers to assignments or tests are being circulated; a student may unintentionally ‘check’ their answers against what’s posted or get inspired from what others are saying, but the answers they submit for grades no longer reflect their own work). All students, whether intentional or not, have committed an offence in this case.

At the start of the term it’s always a good idea to ask if there is a late submission policy; losing a few percent of the assignment grade is much better than losing the value of the assignment, and a percentage of your final grade, if a student is found to be cheating.


Unauthorized Collaboration

Unauthorized collaboration is when students collaborate in the completion of an academic assignment, in whole or in part beyond what the instructor has indicated is acceptable.

For example, students working together to complete an independent, take-home final exam would be unauthorized collaboration. If you are not sure if group work is permitted, ask your instructor before collaborating. For assignments where group work is not permitted, students should prepare their final answers alone; they can discuss course concepts, but not read or use each other’s answers.

Getting too much help from tutors or editors is also an example of unauthorized collaboration. In general, tutors and editors should not be changing or completing your work for you – they can make suggestions on how to improve your writing or better understand and engage with course concepts, but all of your work you submit must be your own.


Intellectual Property Violations

Intellectual property copyright violations occur when students share course materials without their instructors’ permission. For example, posting course materials online in a note-sharing platform. If you are considering sharing your instructor’s materials beyond the classroom, including course powerpoints, videos, assignments, or tests, you must ask the instructor for explicit permission first to avoid violating their intellectual property rights.


Tips

  • It’s always a good idea to check with your professors if you are ever in doubt about anything. For example, maybe googling help is ok, maybe it isn’t, it could depend on the instructor. Never assume anything is ok upfront if you are not certain. Avoiding working with others outside of what your professor has deemed to be appropriate
  • When doing quizzes, be sure to avoid sharing answers with classmates through online chat groups.
  • Avoid using answer-sharing or note-sharing websites for assistance with homework, tests, exams, etc.
  • On assignments, avoid unauthorized collaboration by choosing not to copy someone else’s work, or by letting someone else copy your work. Someone who is asking you to allow them to copy is putting you in danger of committing an academic integrity offence. It may be tempting to google the answers if you are struggling, but you may be committing an academic integrity offence. If you are struggling on an assignment, try looking through your textbook or contacting your professor or teaching assistant for help instead.

Discipline

It is recommended that students read Policy 71 - Student Discipline, including the appendixes and frameworks. All academic offences are reported to the Associate Dean (Undergraduate Studies) and are recorded in the student's file. A second academic offence will lead to a more severe penalty, which will normally include a two-term suspension.