Excuses and Penalties



Excuses Students Give for Academic Dishonesty

You may think you have a good excuse for academic dishonesty, but you should think again. (see reference 2)

I. "I'm too busy."

An arm with several wristwatches on it. Maybe you think you have too many credits or are working too many hours to be able to complete your assignments. However, it is your responsibility to make sure you have scheduled adequate time to complete all your assignments.

If you discover that you do not have enough time to complete an assignment, it is far better to discuss your situation with your instructor or TA than to commit plagiarism.

The worst that can happen to you in this situation is that you fail the class and have to retake it. While failing a class is embarrassing and retaking it is inconvenient, it is not as bad as being found guilty of academic dishonesty and receiving sanctions (see below).


II. "My work isn't good enough."

Maybe you feel that the quality of your work is so poor that you could never pass the class. Faculty do not expect your work to be 100% perfect. The purpose of any assignment is for you to learn and practice new skills.

If you feel your skills are especially weak, it is far better for you to discuss your concerns with your instructor. He or she may be able to point you to resources that can help you improve your grade.

Remember, it is always better to fail honestly than to be found guilty of academic dishonesty.


III. "Everyone else is doing it. I have to do it too just to keep up."

More than half of all Penn State students admit to cheating at some point in their college career. Students who don't cheat feel like they are put at an unfair disadvantage by students who do cheat. However, there is no evidence to show that students who cheat receive higher grades than those who don't cheat, nor is there any evidence to show they are hired for better jobs. In addition, the consequences of getting caught cheating far outweigh any momentary gains. It's better to fail a particular exam, paper, or assignment than to be found guilty of academic dishonesty and suffer potentially worse consequences.


IV. "I need to cheat in order to have a high G.P.A."

Some students honestly feel that the only way to a high G.P.A. is through cheating, but that simply is not true. Students have achieved high G.P.A.'s without cheating, and, in fact, a Penn State Pulse survey and other studies have shown that students who cheat tend to have lower G.P.A.'s than students who do not cheat.

Ask yourself this: Would you want a doctor who passed his or her courses only because of cheating?


V. "I didn't know it was academic dishonesty."

It is your responsibility as a Penn State student to know what constitutes academic dishonesty. That's what this tutorial is all about.

If you find that you are in a situation where you are not sure if your work could be construed as cheating, ask your instructor or look for examples of what not to do. Some sources of examples are provided earlier in this tutorial and your department or college may have examples related specifically to that field.


VI. "They'll never find out."

Just because your instructors are busy faculty and TA's does not mean they are unaware. Many faculty are aware of online "paper mill" Web sites and have also seen enough other assignments to know if something looks "too familiar" or "doesn't seem right." In addition, educators are developing and using technologies which can look for similar phrases across papers. Penn State is a member of Turnitin.com, a resource that allows faculty to check papers against a vast database of information for occurrences of plagiarism.


VII. "I meant to include citations, but I forgot/ran out of time."

Get into the habit of inserting citations, even in your rough drafts. Using index cards for source information is one way you can keep track of your references; other methods are equally successful. If you don't know which citation to use, put some question marks in the draft and track it down later.

If you need to review citation guidelines, you can access the Penn State Library Citation Styles. There are many citation styles, so you should ask your instructor which one is appropriate for a particular class if he or she has not indicated a citation style for you to use.

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How You Can Avoid Situations that Lead to Academic Dishonesty

  1. Be proactive. If you don't understand an assignment or are unclear about your instructor's expectations, ask early in the semester. Don't wait until the last minute!
  2. Plan ahead. Look at the work load for all of your courses. When are your assignments due? How much work will each take? What can you start on right away? Will you need to learn a new citation style or method of research for any of these assignments?
  3. Know where to find information and resources.

Remember, upholding your personal academic integrity is your responsibility as a member of the University community, so plan ahead and make sure you understand your assignments and where you can go for help.

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Consequences for Academic Integrity Violations at Penn State

There is a University policy known as G-9 which provides direction for responding to academic integrity violations of the University's code of conduct. In addition, each college and campus has designed specific guidelines for responding to allegations and has the authority to impose sanctions on students who violate the academic integrity policy. Faculty members are responsible for conveying the allegation and sanction to the student, who can then choose to accept the charge and sanction or appeal to the College (or campus) academic integrity committee for a review or hearing. The outcome of that review or hearing is final and cannot be appealed. When disciplinary sanctions are recommended, the case will be managed by the Student Affairs' Office of Student Conduct

The outcome of all academic integrity cases is sent to the Office of Judicial Affairs or the Judicial Affairs designee for record-keeping.  When a student is found responsible for a violation, the student's previous academic integrity history will be viewed and a more serious sanction could be assigned as a result of repeated misconduct.

In Fall 2000, Penn State instituted the XF grade, which is a disciplinary sanction assigned to students found responsible for committing extreme acts of academic dishonesty. The XF grade will appear on the student's official transcript and states that the student's grade was assigned specifically because he or she committed an act of academic dishonesty.

In addition to the XF grade, there are a number of other sanctions that could be imposed when a student is found responsible for academic dishonesty, including warnings, letter grade reductions, and/or disciplinary sanctions such as probation or expulsion.

Many colleges and campuses at Penn State have their own policy statements on academic integrity which are based on the University-wide policy, 49-20.


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