As the new school term approaches at the end of this month, many students, parents, and other family members of students are confused about academic honesty and dishonesty in an increasingly digital, distance, and/or online learning environment. Most are aware that the classic forms of “cheating” are wrong. Behaviors such as getting somebody else to do your academic work for you, copying answers from another student, and copying text out of a book or from a website and submitting it as your own work have always been, and always will be, in violation of the academic code of conduct for any reputable school. Other behaviors, some that were not possible until very recently, may remain unclear.
Using content generated when you type questions or key words into an AI generator as the content of your paper or other homework assignment.
When you are assigned to write based on your own experiences, thoughts, or observations, using this type of content makes your work dishonest. You did not experience, think, or observe these things. The bot generated the content based on a prompt. If the assignment is to produce researched material, using AI generated content is still dishonest, because you are claiming to have done research and writing that you yourself did not complete. You simply prompted a bot to do it for you.
Copying sections of online journal articles and pasting them into your research paper.
Any content copied from one person’s document into yours must be properly formatted and cited to show that the content belongs to somebody else, and you have just borrowed that content to use in your paper. The simplest way to ensure you have done this is to use quotes, in-text citations, and a full reference citation. The exact formatting and details you will need for your citations will depend on the type of formatting you are asked to use in your class. Check your syllabus or ask your teacher which style your work must be formatted in, then take the time to research and write down the correct pattern. Use that pattern anytime you take any text from someone else. Simply copying and pasting the material without full and correct citation is a form of plagiarism. This holds true even if you mention the article, or add a note about it at the bottom of the page.
Copying links alone onto the bottom of your paper to serve as references.
Those who create content for YouTube often promise to “link it down below” when they want to back up what they say. YouTube content creators can do this because their videos most often contain a disclaimer that the content is for entertainment. Academic work cannot contain this type of disclaimer, and links alone do not count as documented research. The details that you see listed on patterns or instructions for writing your reference citations in class are all the details necessary to trace your research. Articles can be deleted from websites. Whole websites can be taken down. The link to that article may change. Including details such as the author’s name, the year of publication, the title of the article, the journal it was published in, volume and issue numbers, and page numbers along with information about the website it was accessed on is not meant to burden a student, but to protect them in the event that their research might be called into question.
Having an online tutor correct your mistakes, write your revisions, or dictate content for you to type into your paper.
Online tutors are there to answer general questions about the topic of your paper, answer general writing questions, review your work and offer suggestions as to where you may want to make revisions and edits, and help you comprehend assignment directions that may not be clear to you. They are not there to do all or part of the work for you. Approaching a tutor with orders to “make the necessary revisions” or “tell me what I need to put in this paper,” or anything else that would allow you to merely type what the person is saying, rephrase another person’s words slightly, or sit back and do nothing but watch your work improve without you, is cheating.
Taking advantage of the fact that all or part of the work of the class takes place online to make excuses and ask for extensions or other special treatment.
Inventing or exaggerating situations your teacher cannot observe in order to gain special treatment in class is far from new. We have all heard of students using “The dog ate my homework” and “A relative has died” in an attempt to gain extra time to do an assignment that the person really just didn’t take the time to complete. Today, “I had problems with my computer” has replaced the line about the dog, as even in offline classes, work is often completed and submitted online. Invented family and friend group emergencies have grown even more popular, as the ability to send the lie via chat message, text, or email has eliminated the need to look the teacher in the face when you tell it. It is still wrong. If you have a genuine emergency, you need to be aware of and make arrangements according to the late work and/or leave policy of your class and your school. If you have genuine technological problems, it is your responsibility to make alternate arrangements. Any form of lying or exaggerating in order to avoid responsibility for deadlines is dishonest, no matter how harmless it may feel.
The emergence and rapid growth of AI technology, the increasing reliance on the internet as a place of learning and doing academic work, and the isolation these things may bring, can make academic honesty much less straightforward than it has been in the past. But it remains a serious issue. Students who choose to cheat, or whose parents teach or encourage them to cheat, may face consequences ranging from a zero on the assignment to expulsion from school.