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Academic Honesty and Integrity
Lesson Overview and Learning Goals

In this session, Academic Honesty and Integrity, we focus on the all too common mistake students make when submitting their first writing assignments in college and university: plagiarism.


We define plagiarism, explore why it is problematic, and share expert tips for avoiding it! We teach students strategies for effectively paraphrasing to communicate complex ideas in one's own words. We will then follow up on the important topic of paraphrasing and plagiarism with a discussion of assigning credit to one's sources. Students will learn the fundamentals of citing and referencing sources and learn how to prepare an annotated bibliography to keep sources organized.

By the end of the session, students will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast between summarizing and paraphrasing

  • Paraphrase an excerpt from a given source (e.g., a magazine article, a textbook, or an article in an academic journal)

  • Differentiate between information that is considered "common knowledge" and that which is necessary to cite and reference​

  • Prepare descriptive and evaluative annotations for select references​

  • Apply a standard referencing guide (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago) to cite and reference a journal article, newspaper article, webpage, and book

This session is particularly useful for students engaged in a research-related assignment such as a term paper or lab report. We love working with students to improve their work (and take some work off of busy teachers' plates!)


Researchers across every discipline of science, be it biology, chemistry, mathematics, or astronomy, share an ambition of publication. That is, to have their work, knowledge, and efforts written to be accessed and read for content. For young people like yourself starting to navigate an academic journey, the pursuit of having authorship of original work may be somewhat relatable! At the very least, you can surely relate to having countless lab reports, essays, and papers assigned in school. Any and every piece of personal writing requires exercise of academic honesty and integrity: a code and ethical policy in academia.

The most well known form of academic dishonesty is cheating. Most people think of cheating as copying answers from a neighbouring student. While this is an example of blatant academic dishonesty, in scientific writing there exists a particular form of dishonesty which is equivalent to copying from somebody else’s answers.

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Before we begin discussion about this form of academic dishonesty, known as plagiarism, we need to mention overall the consequences of breaking the ethical policies in place in academia. At Queen’s University for example, such consequences (which can be found by clicking here) include: 

“an oral or written warning, completion of a educational program or workshop, re-submission of a revised or new piece of work, getting some or all marks deducted (mark of zero) on an assignment, a failing or zero in a course, suspension from the university for a period of time, or the taking away of a degree or degree in progress” 


The consequences of academic dishonesty are near-universal not only in higher academic institutions such as universities in colleges, but in grade schools across the world. Partaking in scientific dishonesty can be a slippery slope, small infractions - which you are more likely to get away with - can snowball into larger, more frequent violations of ethical policies. For this reason, is it crucial to always align with the academic ethical policies of your school or institution.

Who does academic dishonesty hurt?
It is natural and important to ask yourself: “what long-term damage could result from breaches of scientific codes of conduct?”

The most obvious answer is that you hurt yourself. More specifically, your grade suffers. As described in the quote above from the Queen’s University Academic Integrity webpage, it is very likely that you will receive a grade of zero for whatever assignment or assessment you are found guilty of violating policies. The consequences can be even more extreme, however, such as suspension or expulsion.


Academic dishonesty also results in an unfair advantage over your peers, and suggests that you did not learn from the assignment. If the infraction involves using information from a secondary source without providing proper credit, the original author's work becomes devalued.

An indirect consequence of academic dishonesty is the damage to credibility. Imagine if a well renowned scientist, perhaps one researching the impacts of fossil fuels on greenhouse gas production, was found guilty of fabricating data! This would completely ruin the once excellent reputation of this scientist. The scientist may no longer be allowed to work at their university or research institution, they may not be allowed to have their work published, and their career might be in jeopardy.

Scientific dishonesty also hurts the general public! Perhaps the scientist we introduced previously was undertaking very important research to help combat climate change. If this person were required to cease their work due to violations of ethical policies, it would limit the amount of information being synthesized and disseminated about climate change research, which is a very pressing issue in the modern world. 


Moreover, the actions of this single individual may damage reputations of entire institutions! If this scientist were part of a university or research institution, the public and other stakeholders may not be willing to support the work coming from this university or organization.  It is crucial to understand the consequences of academic dishonesty as it serves as a reminder of its seriousness. 


However, any acts of academic dishonesty, be they cheating, fabricating information, or plagiarism (which will be discussed next!), are often easy to avoid. Following sections of this module provide helpful tips and tricks on how to keep your writing honest and original.


Plagiarism is the presentation of somebody else’s work or ideas as if they were one’s own without providing proper citations and references. 


Somebody else’s work may refer to: 

  • Specific works, phrases, or sentences

  • Information and/or ideas

  • Figures (e.g. tables, graphs, images, etc.)

Plagiarism is not always obvious! Oftentimes it is also unintentional. This figure provides a succinct overview of offences that qualify as plagiarism:

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Writing something that is considered common knowledge does not qualify as plagiarism. For example, noting that “dogs are animals,” “red, yellow, and blue are primary colours,” or “the sun has a larger diameter than the earth,” do not need to be referenced. 

However, what is considered common knowledge often contextual, or in other words, your audience may determine what qualifies as plagiarism. What is common knowledge to a certain set of readers may not be for others (think high school students vs. scientists). Common knowledge is often specific to a field of study. For example, in biology, it is common knowledge that “DNA is the molecule that stores genetic information.”


Regardless of what class you are in, what grade you are in, or what level of education you have completed, it can be tricky to identify what is common knowledge and what requires proper citing and referencing. For this reason it is important to be cautious - if you are not sure if a piece of text qualifies as common knowledge, cite it anyway! You will never be penalized for having too many citations and references.

Here are a few tips and tricks to avoid plagiarism:

  • When you are reading a source from which you wish to take information, make detailed notes as to what information you obtained from the source

    • It is often best to save this notetaking after you have read the entire source once; on your second read, you will be able to hone in on exactly what information you want to extract on which you can take focussed notes

    • Any notes you take must be in your own words!

  •  Don't save citing for until after you finish a paragraph or page of writing!

    • Sometimes writing can be slow and arduous, it is very important to cite as you write to ensure every bit of information taken from an external source is properly credited

  • Avoid copying and pasting content into your final document that you wish to submit

  • Avoid sharing assignments with others


Paraphrasing is one of the best ways of relaying somebody else’s information without plagiarising. It is the process of rewriting text from a particular source in your own words. Paraphrasing can be hard to distinguish from summarizing, here are a few notable comparisons and contrasts between the two terms:

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There are four key things to be mindful of when paraphrasing. These four points are conveniently known as
the four Rs:”

  • Reword - replace words and phrases with appropriate synonyms wherever you can.

  • Rearrange - rearrange words within sentences to make new sentences. You can even rearrange the ideas presented within a paragraph.

  • Realize - realize that some words and phrases cannot be changed: names, dates, titles, etc. cannot be replaced, but can be presented differently in your paraphrase.

  • Recheck  - make sure your paraphrase conveys the same meaning as the original text.


The following two paragraphs represent an example of effective paraphrasing. The first paragraph represents an original text, and the second an effective paraphrase. 

Original: At just 8.5 square miles, the Pacific island country of Nauru is one of the smallest countries in the world. The island was once rich in phosphate, but most of the resource has been mined, leaving damage to the environment behind. Nauru has a population of about 10,000 people.

Paraphrase: Nauru is a Pacific island country that is only 8.5 square miles in area. It is one of the smallest countries on the planet and only about 10,000 people live there. Nauru has mined its once plentiful supply of phosphate. This has damaged the environment on the island.

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Citations and References

Paraphrasing is the first step of extracting information from a source, and doing so avoids blatant plagiarism. However, even if you were to read a document full of writing that is well paraphrased from multiple unique sources, you would have no idea from where the original information came! Following any paraphrase, a citation is necessary, which is a call to the original source. Any information directly obtained from a particular source, including phrases and specific ideas, must be referenced. 

When deciding if information should be referenced, ask yourself:

  • Does the information constitute common knowledge?

  • How do you wish to incorporate this information into your assignment? Will it contribute information or content?

  • Does a particular person or organization own the information? Who first introduced the idea or phrase you wish to reference?

  • Has the information been publicly presented (e.g., as part of an oral or written presentation, class or public lecture, published document)?


Proper citation ensures that credit is given to the original author. Citations go hand-in-hand with references, and it is important that the two terms are distinguished:

Citations: an in-text acknowledgement of an original source. Citations exist to show exactly what information came from what source and therefore immediately follow paraphrased or summarized information.

“Access to laptop computers in the classroom may be either beneficial or harmful to students, depending on how they are used. Non-school related laptop use is associated with lower grades and lower perceived academic success, whereas school related laptop use is associated with increased academic satisfaction (Gaudreau, Miranda, & Gareau, 2014).”

References: a formulaic identification of an original source, providing readers with information necessary for them to locate the source. References are usually included at the end of a document (or following a large section of a document, such as thesis chapters). A list of references is known as a bibliography. Each citation must have a corresponding reference, as both refer to the same source.

Gaudreau, P., Miranda, D., & Gareau, A. (2014). Canadian university students in wireless classrooms: What do they do on their laptops and does it really matter? Computers & Education, 70, 245-255.

Why is Citing and Referencing Necessary?

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When writing your citations and references, it is imperative that you practice correct and consistent formatting. Here are a few examples of common mistakes made when creating citations and references (university students make these mistakes too!):

  • Citing a review article instead of primary sources

  • Citing a book in its entirety instead of a book chapter

  • Referencing the same source multiple times 

    • multiple in-text citations for a particular source may be needed, however only one end-of-document reference is required regardless of how many citations exist for a source

  • Copying the citations listed in a review article

  • Citing the wrong source

    • It is important to identify and cite the first person or group to publish a given idea or finding, as well as more recent and relevant publications

When organizing your sources, it is understandable to be overwhelmed with information. When several sources are used to create a piece of written work, the task of correctly citing and referencing can seem daunting. Therefore, you must find an organizational system that works for you, here are some things to be mindful of:

  • How to group sources 

    • This can be done by subject/theme, by publication date, hierarchically (e.g. from more general to more specific), or visually (e.g. use cue-cards, flow-diagrams, or post-it notes) 

  • Reading from physical vs digital copies of sources 

    • Some people absorb information better in physical form where they can read, highlight and takes notes “the old fashion way”

      • However, keep in mind that physically printing and storing many physical sources can be burdensome!

    • Maintaining digital sources has its own benefits and drawbacks

      • Pro: nothing “physical” to keep track of

      • Pro: you can organize your sources in folders

      • Pro: no need to access a printer

      • Con: eye strain from reading from a screen

      • Con: it can be difficult or annoying to highlight and take notes on digital documents, it may feel “inorganic” compared to pen-and-paper

      • Con: digital storage space can get tight! Also it is very important to back-up digital documents


Additionally, in recent decades, reference managers have become more and more common. Softwares such as Mendely, EndNote, and Zotero are commonly used to organize and automatically create citations and references. For assignments at the grade school level where the number of sources is unlikely to exceed 5-10, these softwares are typically not necessary or advised since learning to manually create citation and references is a crucial skill. However, as you progress through high school, university, and beyond, it can become near-impossible to manage references without the aid of a reference manager.

Citation Formatting

One of the most important things to keep in mind when citing and referencing is being consistent in formatting. This is ensured by choosing and maintaining a single style. The style that you choose dictates what information about the source is necessary to show. In other words, some styles may require their citations include information such as the source author and date in addition to a detailed reference at the end of the document, whereas other styles may only require an in-text numeric that corresponds to a more detailed reference. 


So you likely have two main questions regarding citation styles:

What are the different citation/reference styles?
How do I know which style to use?

Below are two of the most common styles, examples of how each are formatted as citations and references, and when they are commonly used. 


1. The APA style:

Citations formatted as (contributors’ lastname, year); ex. (Ahmadi, 2020)
References formatted differently depending on the source (book vs. article vs website), however follow the general format of: 


contributors’ last name. (year). Title of source. specific website/journal/book chapter.

Ex. (book)

Sapolsky, R. M. (2017). Behave: The biology of humans at our best and worst. Penguin Books.


Ex. (website)

Bologna, C. (2019, October 31). Why some people with anxiety love watching horror movies. HuffPost.


The APA style is most commonly used in the disciplines of English, Psychology, and General Sciences.


2. The MLA style:

Citations formatted as (contributors’ last name ‘space’ page number); ex. (Ahmadi 9)

References differently depending on the source (book vs. article vs website), however follow the general format of: 


contributors’ last name. “Title of source.” specific website/journal/book chapter. Last edited date.


Ex. (book)
Card, Claudia. The Atrocity Paradigm: A Theory of Evil. Oxford UP, 2005.


Ex. (website)

Del Castillo, Inigo. "How Not to Kill Your Houseplants, According to Botanists." Apartment Therapy, 29 Jan. 2020,


The MLA style is most commonly used in the Humanities disciplines. 

Note: The examples of citations and/or references in this module are not an exhaustive list; there are many different styles that are used in practice. It is essential that for each original piece of writing, you select an appropriate style and maintain consistency throughout your writing.

Purdue University’s website is an excellent resource for the many citation and reference styles. You are highly encouraged to look at examples from this website to ensure your document follows the regulations for whatever style is most applicable to your piece of writing. Remember, depending on if the original source you are citing is a book chapter, journal article, encyclopedia, website, or anything else, your reference may be formatted differently regardless of what style you are following.


As mentioned previously, a bibliography, or list of references, should be the final part of any research document. Each reference provides detailed access information for a particular source, and must correspond to an in-text citation. 


However, a bibliography can be expanded into an annotated bibliography, in which each reference is followed by a concise description of its content and a critical appraisal. This type of bibliography will only be required if your teacher requests you to make one specifically for an assignment. Furthermore, unless specified, an annotated bibliography is not required for typical research writing, however a standard bibliography must always be present. 


Nonetheless, it is important that you understand what comprises an annotated bibliography. As mentioned previously, an annotated bibliography is a bibliography in which each citation is followed by a concise description of its content and a critical appraisal. 

Each entry should include enough information to inform your reader (and you) about the source’s theme, quality, and relevance.

An annotated reference is comprised of the following features:

  • The full reference (formatted according to assignment guidelines or to whatever style is most appropriate)

  • A brief summary of the source

    • The main idea/theme

    • Basic methodology undertaken by the authors (will be most applicable for journal articles)

    • General conclusions

  • The value and relevance of the source to the assignment

    • Explain how the content of the source will be used in your writing

    • Provide a few strengths and weaknesses 

  • A comparison of the source to others


The annotation for each source should answer the following:

  • How does this source fit into your research?

  • Where and how will this source be cited in your writing?

  • What is the source type (e.g. journal article vs. book vs. webpage, etc.)?

Annotated bibliographies may be descriptive or evaluative:

Descriptive: Provides a brief review of the main theme and arguments, relevant findings or evidence, and conclusions

Evaluative: Description and source strength and usefulness

Here is an example of an annotated reference; several annotated references will makeup an annotated bibliography:



Woo, A. K. M. (2010) Depression and anxiety in pain. Reviews in Pain, 4, 8-12.



This review provided a summary of how mood disorders including anxiety and depression can affect chronic pain and how chronic pain can affect mood. The author discusses current assessment tools used in clinic, including interviews, self-report questionnaires and chart reviews to diagnose mood disorders and how many of these measures are poor or inconsistent predictors of pain. Impact of psychosocial factors like attitude toward pain, family and social relationships, work, and behaviours are discussed in terms of treatment outcomes.

There is no strict or exact format to follow when creating an annotation, but there are some example expectations you should strive for if you are including an annotated bibliography as part of your writing:

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Now is the time to put all your newfound knowledge together! Remember:

  1. Read through the whole passage and ensure you comprehend its meaning

  2. Paraphrase or quote the passage in your report

  3. Cite and reference the passage in order to give credit to the original author 


Anybody, regardless of how much experience they have with research-based writing, can be guilty of plagiarism and thus in violation of academic policies. To avoid such infractions, be sure to paraphrase appropriately and cite your sources!


Ahearne, John F. (2011). Honesty. American Scientist. 99(2): 120. 


The University of Pittsburgh Library System. (2020.). Citation Styles: APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, IEEE. Retrieved from: 

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