Centre for Teaching Excellence

Teach | Academic Integrity


Detecting academic infraction can be difficult and tools marketed for this purpose are often flawed. Pursuing consequences for violations of academic integrity (both remedial and punitive) begins with suspicion, but must be followed up with an investigation and finally a determination.

Warning Signs

Your suspicions may have been triggered by one or more of these warning signs.

Student Work Warning Signs
Citations Citation styles and bibliographic citations are inconsistent, mixed or non-existent.
The references used throughout the paper are dated (e.g., all more than five years old). Suggests that the paper may have been purchased through an essay writing service or is a reused paper.
Writing The paper is clearly written at a level beyond the student’s usual abilities and may include advanced vocabulary, jargon or combined formal and informal language.
The paper contains a mix of Canadian, American, and British spellings (e.g., tire/tyre).
Tables, diagrams, pieces of text or citations are referred to but are not present in the paper.­­­
Parts of the paper are inconsistent with each other, and the writing style changes from section to section.
The topic of the paper is inconsistent with the one assigned, or with course content.
Words have been replaced with odd synonyms or strange phrases.
The style guide used is not the one specified for the course.
Data-based assignments have the same or similar mistakes or unusual answers.
References The bibliography includes obscure journals or books not readily available in the university library.
The bibliography includes journals or websites written in languages the student does not speak.
Access dates for internet sources predates course start date.
The reference list does not match the in-text citations or footnotes.
Student performance Inconsistencies from one submitted assignment to another, for example, the second essay is far superior.
Turnitin Similarity Report The similarity report is not a plagiarism detector. The similarity report should be interpreted by the instructor, e.g., some types of matched text may be acceptable (or explainable) and not cause for suspicion. This may include quotations, references, matching formats (such as essay titles), tables and charts, appendices, common phrases, and paraphrasing.
Low levels of matching, especially 0% (no matching text), may indicate that the text has been manipulated to avoid detection by the text matching software.
Exams Students with very similar or the same answers or mistakes that were sitting close by or next to each other



Investigation Step 1

Step 1:

Gather evidence: It is unlikely that you will find evidence that will eliminate all uncertainty, but it is possible to gather reliable evidence that strongly indicates an academic integrity infraction has occurred. Preferably, the determination should be based on objective/verifiable evidence rather than subjective evidence. But it should be noted that all suspicions of Academic Misconduct require some level of academic judgement about what has occurred. Discipline expertise is an important component of deciding whether academic misconduct may have occurred.

  Potential Evidence of Academic Misconduct
Student’s familiarity with academic integrity Copy of the course syllabus that includes academic integrity expectations
Sign sheet from Library or Writing Centre citation workshop
Screenshot of student’s Academic Integrity Module eLearn badge
Screenshot of student’s APA Practice Tutorial/MLA Practice Tutorial eLearn badge
Screenshot of student’s acceptance of academic integrity pledge on eLearn
Lesson plan for academic integrity discussion conducted during the course
Written submission A copy of the Turnitin Similarity Report if applicable

Screenshots of document properties of any of the following:

·         Author name does not match the student

·         Creation date is unusual or indicates a very short editing time (perhaps even less than 1 minute)

·         Version number (if the submitted document is the first version the student should be able to supply draft and other evidence of previous versions)

·         Document properties are blank or appear to have been wiped

·         Software used to create document is unusual, for example a foreign language version of Word

Inability of the student to produce any research notes for the paper or summarize the main points in the paper when asked.
Multiple IP addresses (logins from different IP addresses including overseas or at unusual times or simultaneous logins from different locations) may indicate a paid service submitting the assessment on the student’s behalf
Extracts showing similarity of structure, references, answers
Exams Sign-in sheets to confirm where students were sitting
Login data indicating overseas IP address (online exam).
Login data indicating proximity to other student/s while completing exam (online exam).
Printed copies or screenshots from “homework” websites such as Chegg, Coursehero.  (Having a subscription to the website provides greater access)


Investigation Part 2

Once the evidence has been gathered, if you suspect a Tier 2 or Tier 3 incident, the instructor must meet with the student to discuss the matter (see S2017-05-01 Academic Integrity Procedure). The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the matter and to consider an appropriate remedy.

During the meeting:

  1. Explain to the student that you’ve noticed some inconsistencies in their paper/exam.
  2. Identify the inconsistencies (see Warning Signs above).
  3. Ask the student to explain the inconsistencies.
  4. Show the student the evidence you’ve gathered (see Potential Evidence of Academic Misconduct above)
  5. If possible, make a determination during the meeting.
    • Refer to and follow the Policy and Procedure for allowed outcomes at each Tier and reporting requirements

Unlike the criminal justice system which must meet a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof, investigations and decision-making at the University are guided by the principles of natural justice. “After all relevant and available evidence has been considered, a decision will be rendered on the balance of probabilities as to whether or not the Misconduct occurred and to what extent the Respondent(s) is responsible for the Misconduct” (Section 6.4, Student Code of Conduct, Capilano University).

Balance of probabilities is the “more likely (or probable) than not” standard. In other words, if the available evidence convinces the instructor to the point that he or she is 50% + 1 certain that a student has committed an offence, the standard of proof has been met.  An admission of guilt is not required to determine that the student has committed an offence.


Situation Evidence Determination
Student submits an excellent paper after several marginal or poor submissions.

Previous papers

The student is unable to explain/discuss concepts in the paper

The student is unable to provide notes, drafts


Plagiarism has occurred

It is not necessary to find a source that the student might have copied or uncover who actually wrote the paper for the student. The standard of proof is met when it can be established that the student did not write the paper on their own.


Two students observed whispering during an exam

Witness account

Exam sign-in sheet


Cheating has occurred

Since talking during the exam is forbidden, it is reasonable to conclude that students talking during the exam are cheating. It is not necessary to show that the students copied answers from each other. It is sufficient to find that their behaviour was such that they were attempting to cheat or comparing answers.


Two students submit assignments that are significantly similar, including spelling errors (instructions indicated that the work was to be completed individually) Both students’ submissions with highlighted similar content.

Plagiarism has occurred

It is highly unlikely that two students would make the same spelling errors.

Source: https://www.ualberta.ca/dean-of-students/media-library/documents/academic-integrity/provingmisconduct.pdf





Capilano University is named after Chief Joe Capilano, an important leader of the Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh) Nation of the Coast Salish people. We respectfully acknowledge that our campuses are located on the unceded sovereign Indigenous Nations of Lil’wat, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm(Musqueam), Shíshálh (Sechelt), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh(Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh).


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