Understanding Academic Misconduct | St. Clair College

Academic misconduct is a general term which describes academic offences detrimental to the College’s learning environment. These offences diminish the trust that is essential in the teaching and learning process.

The teaching and learning process can be understood as a dialogue between instructor and student that builds on existing knowledge and advances scholarship. If a student falsifies his or her side of this process, learning is compromised and the foundation upon which knowledge is built is put at risk.

While students should be concerned about the penalties that may come from academic misconduct, such as failing the course, the more serious consequence is that they will lack the knowledge and skills necessary in their chosen field of study. In order to gain understanding and advance learning, students must engage in the learning process honestly.

Academic misconduct is otherwise known as “cheating”. Cheating puts honest students at a disadvantage by failing to maintain a fair learning environment. We must all work together to prevent cheating.

Academic misconduct can take various forms:

  • Plagiarism

    • Using direct quotations or sections of paraphrased material without citing appropriate references
    • Cutting and pasting from the Internet without appropriate references
  • Submitting essays, assignments, labs, projects, take-home exams, computer programs, etc., written, in whole or in part, by someone else
  • Cheating on exams
  • Unauthorized collaboration on individual assignments
  • Adding a name to group assignment submission without contributing an appropriate share to the project
  • Allowing someone else to copy your work
  • Impersonating a candidate in an exam or test
  • Altering or providing false medical or academic information

View more information about the penalties of academic misconduct.


Plagiarism means using the work of someone else, in whole or in part, without giving credit. Plagiarism is one of the most common forms of academic misconduct at college. It is important that students educate themselves about what plagiarism is because plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct that can result unintentionally. While a student may not intend to “cheat”, failing to properly follow academic guidelines in written work can result in serious penalties.

Be sure that the coursework that you submit is your own. Although requirements for assignments vary from course to course, the work you are graded on should be your own. If there is any doubt about what is allowable, be sure to seek clarification from your instructor.

Generally, if an assignment requires that you to develop an idea and express it in your own words you should do just that. Quoting other people's work in these types of assignments should be done sparingly.

While quoting someone else's writing is allowable, and in some cases required, rules and conventions must be followed for quoting and citing.

The services of the campus library are available to help you better understand plagiarism and how to avoid it. Free information sessions (45 minutes) are available weekly and students who are required to submit written assignments in their coursework should take advantage of this service. The information sessions will provide you with resources on how to properly reference outside sources used in your work.

Always avoid the following:

  • Copying someone else's writing word-for-word, even if it constitutes only some of your written assignment
  • Paraphrasing someone else's writing too closely, even if it constitutes only some of your written assignment
  • Presenting someone else's idea as your own without properly citing it
  • Allowing someone else to write your assignment or part of it
  • Submitting all or part of an assignment obtained from a commercial paper mill
  • Using electronic databases or the Internet and submitting the product as your own work, even if it constitutes only some of your written work
  • Writing an assignment together with someone else in the course (unless the instructor has expressly allowed collaboration)
  • Submitting the same paper in more than one course without the permission of the instructors

View resources on how to avoid plagiarism.

Unauthorized Collaboration

Unauthorized collaboration means working with others on assignments that will be submitted for a grade without the specific permission of the instructor. Students MAY NOT collaborate without instructor authorization.

Unauthorized collaboration misrepresents joint work as the work of the individual. It leads to an unfair advantage over students who follow the rules and do their own work. Additionally, those who do not complete their work independently may not be aware of gaps in their own knowledge and skills and they do not learn all they can or should from their assignments.

Unauthorized collaboration includes:

  • Working out answers to homework assignments with others
  • Working on take-home work with others
  • "Checking" homework answers with others
  • Having someone else help write or re-write a paper

The rules regarding collaboration vary from course to course and assignment to assignment. Instructors may permit collaboration on some assignments and not others in the same course. Instructors have different teaching methods and goals. Some teaching methods focus on important lessons learned from working individually. These assignments are designed to develop a student’s own individual skills, knowledge and confidence. It also provides a more accurate evaluation of the individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. Other teaching methods are designed to develop students’ abilities to solve problems together through collaboration. This provides teamwork experience: learning is achieved by sharing strategies and exchanging information. The rules of whether collaboration is authorized on a given assignment will depend on the learning goals and teaching method used. Collaboration is not permitted unless the instructor has specifically authorized it. If you are unclear about the requirements of an assignment, seek clarification from your instructor.

If an instructor assigns a group project or allows collaboration on an assignment, students may not exceed the limits set by the instructor. Even if your instructor authorizes collaborative work, copying someone else’s work or allowing them to copy yours is considered academic misconduct.

These rules do not mean that students may not study together or in groups to help each other in better understanding course material. The rules apply to assignments that will be submitted for grading. Forming study groups, for example, to prepare for an in-class test that has not been pre-issued does not constitute unauthorized collaboration.