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Faculty of Graduate Studies

Academic Honesty

 

What is "academic honesty" and why it is important?

York University's Senate Policy on Academic Honesty is an expression of the academic conduct appropriate to and expected of students studying and researching in Academe. These expectations, particularly with respect to plagiarism, are grounded in a principle and practice that forms the basis of the academic enterprise—namely, that the work one submits for evaluation is the product of one's own original ideas, and that any material that belongs to someone else, because he or she first produced and/or presented it, must be properly referenced and cited. If there is no way for a reader to tell which words and ideas are those of the author and which are those of others, then the work demonstrates plagiarism. It loses its integrity as a document of original scholarship and is academically dishonest.

How to avoid academic dishonesty

York’s Academic Integrity Tutorial is designed to test and inform students about academic integrity expectations and what to keep in mind in order to avoid academic dishonesty. At York University, a foundational expectation is that students are aware of and respect the principle of proper representation in one's work, including how to avoid plagiarizing the work of others. Relative to the existence of misrepresentation in work that has been submitted for evaluation (which includes drafts) as one's own, intention does not matter. Simply put:

  • If work containing misrepresentation is submitted for evaluation, then one is responsible for the misrepresentation, regardless of intent.

There are a number of citation styles that describe in detail how to reference and cite the work of others properly in one's own work. Graduate students are responsible to ensure that they are aware of and properly follow an appropriate citation style. Uncertainty about which citation style should be followed can be cleared up by consulting with one’s course director or program director.

The York University Libraries Graduate Student Library Guide provides a number of useful resources, including links to the guides for the most popularly used citation styles, access to RefWorks (which is a web-based bibliographic management/citation manager tool), and links to research and writing guides. The York University Libraries also offers a Guide for International Students which is intended to help international and exchange students find information about resources and services available at the Libraries.

Whom to talk to about options and support

Academic honesty, particularly plagiarism, concerns the existence of misrepresentation in work submitted as one's own. It does not address intention or cause. Although intention does not matter in relation to the existence of misrepresentation in work that has been submitted as one's own, it does relate to the honesty and integrity of one's character. The intentions behind one's conduct are implicated, for honesty is an activity, a choice. Graduate students are often faced with pressures—from competing timelines to personal issues to feeling or being unprepared to perform at the expected level—which may lead one to choose to act in a way that is academically dishonest. It is important to know that there are a number of choices one can make rather than a dishonest one, and that there are people who you can speak with about making these choices.

  • The Graduate Students' Association (325 Student Centre, 416-736-5865, info@yugsa.ca) can provide support, including information and confidential advice about coursework extension and leave options available to graduate students.
  • Even if the deadline for submission of an assignment or piece of work is at hand, talk to the professor about an extension. Explain your situation honestly and fully. There is no shame in asking for assistance.
  • Graduate Program Directors are there to provide students with advice, guidance and support, and can be of particular assistance if conversations with individual course directors or supervisors have not been fruitful. If an extension of an assignment or piece of work will not provide the necessary relief, one option is to speak with the program director about a leave of absence. There a number of different kinds of leaves, as outlined in the Registration section of the FGS Academic Regulations, which can be found here
  • Counselling & Disability Services (CDS) provides a range of services, from personal counseling to support (including requests for academic accommodation) for students with disabilities. More information about CDS can be found here
  • The Writing Department offers group workshops that focus on major elements of effective academic writing. More information about the workshops can be found here.
  • As mentioned above, the York University Libraries offers a range of resources related and relevant to academic honesty.

What is the process if there is a suspected breach of academic honesty?

The Faculty of Graduate Studies Procedural Guidelines provide a detailed description of the investigation and hearing process. The FGS Procedural Guidelines are consistent with those specified in the Senate Policy on Academic Honesty. For ease of reference, the numbering used in the Procedural Guidelines is consistent with the numbering used in the Senate Policy.

Students suspected of a breach of academic honesty will be invited to attend an exploratory meeting, which is normally chaired by the Graduate Program Director. The exploratory meeting is intended "[…] to determine whether or not there are reasonable and probable grounds to proceed with a charge of breach of academic honesty" ("Senate Policy on Academic Honesty." York University Secretariat. York University, n.d. Web. 9 Apr, 2012.). Although the meeting is intended to be exploratory in nature, it is a formal stage in the investigation/hearing process and should be treated seriously. At the exploratory meeting students will be presented with the evidence that led to the complaint and will be expected to respond to the suspected breach of academic honesty. Given the significance of the exploratory meeting in the investigation/hearing process, students may be accompanied by someone who can offer support and comfort, as well as act as a witness to the meeting.

As it is a formal stage of the investigation/hearing process, the expectation is that the exploratory meeting will result in one of the following four outcomes, which will be reported by the Chair of the exploratory meeting (normally the Graduate Program Director) to the Faculty of Graduate Studies Appeals & Academic Honesty Committee. Except in cases where the student and program reach agreement that no breach of academic honesty occurred, a confidential record of the investigation/hearing will be kept in the Office of the Dean, Graduate Studies. The Graduate Students' Association (325 Student Centre, 416-736-5865, info@yugsa.ca) can provide confidential advice and support to students who would like to speak to a third party prior to the exploratory meeting.

The four exploratory meeting outcomes are:

  • A student admits to a breach of academic honesty and reaches agreement with the program with respect to recommended penalty. The Faculty of Graduate Studies Appeals & Academic Honesty Committee will either accept the recommended penalty, or arrange for a formal hearing in cases where they are not convinced that the agreed–to penalty is appropriate or the breach is a second or subsequent incident by the student.
  • A student admits to a breach of academic honesty but does not reach agreement with the program with respect to recommended penalty. The Faculty of Graduate Studies Appeals & Academic Honesty Committee will arrange for a formal hearing.
  • A student does not admit to a breach of academic honesty but the program concludes that sufficient grounds exist to proceed with a formal charge. The Faculty of Graduate Studies Appeals & Academic Honesty Committee will arrange for a formal hearing.
  • A student and program reach agreement that no breach of academic honesty occurred.

The exploratory meeting reporting forms can be found here.

Although the expectation is that the exploratory meeting will result in one of four outcomes described above, students should not feel coerced to agree to something which they do not believe. At the same time, however, it is important to keep in mind that a breach of academic honesty, particularly plagiarism, concerns the existence of misrepresentation in work submitted as one's own and does not address intention or cause.

In cases where a formal hearing is the outcome of the exploratory meeting, the evidence provided to the Faculty of Graduate Studies Appeals & Academic Honesty Committee will include the exploratory meeting report submitted by the meeting Chair. If a student has not accepted responsibility and admitted to the breach of academic honesty, the role of the committee first will be to determine whether or not there was a breach of academic honesty. If a student has accepted responsibility and admitted to the breach of academic honesty, the role of the committee will be to determine the appropriate penalty.

Students will be invited to attend the formal hearing, and may be accompanied by someone who can offer support and comfort. The Graduate Students' Association (325 Student Centre, 416-736-5865, info@yugsa.ca) can provide confidential advice and support to students who would like to speak to a third party prior to the formal hearing.

Any penalty recommended at or agreed to at the exploratory meeting is subject to review and approval by the Faculty of Graduate Studies Appeals & Academic Honesty Committee. In its review of jointly recommended penalties, as well as consideration of penalties following a finding of academic misconduct at a formal hearing, the Senate Policy directs the committee to consider a number of factors, including the extent of the violation, the student's academic background, and any extenuating circumstances that may help explain the breach including the extent to which these circumstances should inform the penalty. Determination by the committee of the "appropriateness" of penalty will include consideration of both the unique circumstances of each case and consistency with respect to the range of penalties given for similar types of breaches.

For further information about the investigation/hearing process, please contact:

Sarah Hildebrandt, Academic Affairs Officer
Office of the Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies
fgsaao@yorku.ca
416-736-2100, ext. 66958

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