Academic Integrity | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Accessibility links

Academic Integrity

At USC, you are a member of an academic community that values academic integrity. It's vital you act with honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility in all your academic activities.

Academic integrity underpins all our academic activities, so you need to understand what academic integrity means and why it’s important.

The Academic Integrity module is designed to help you develop your understanding of academic integrity. It shows what academic integrity looks like, and it offers advice about how to study successfully within USC's culture of academic integrity. The module is compulsory most new students and highly recommended for all continuing students. If you are required to complete the module, you won't be able to access your final grades or unofficial transcript until it is successfully completed. Find out more at pre-study modules.

You'll need to log in to Canvas and complete this task, as well as the Respect at USC module, or risk having your grades withheld.

What is academic integrity?

The term academic integrity means taking an ethical, honest and responsible approach to study and research. As a USC student, you are expected to act ethically, with integrity, when you complete and submit your assessment tasks. In practice, this means you act:

  • ethically when you acknowledge the people (or organisations) whose work you use in your assignments. By citing their ideas, their words, their work, you not only show where information comes from – you show that you’ve read widely and engaged with the literature relevant to your topic.
  • honestly when you submit assignments that are authentic, original and the result of your own research and writing. By doing this, you approach each assignment as an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding and develop your academic skills.
  • responsibly when you take ownership of your own work – when you don’t copy the work of other people or share your assignments with other students. By doing this, you contribute to USC's culture of academic integrity.

To clarify your understanding of academic integrity, you might find it helpful to hear how other students describe it.

Here is what some students say:

'Academic integrity means always doing the best you can. No shortcuts.'

'It means giving people credit for their work.'

'It means following the rules – even if you know you won’t get caught.'

'It means being honest and fair to the other people who are trying their best – how would you feel if someone who cheated got the same mark as you when you worked hard?'

'It means respecting others and their hard work.'

'It means the importance of authenticity in your assignments'

(‘What does academic integrity mean to you?’ 2013)

Another way to approach academic integrity is to ensure you don’t engage in any activity considered to be academic misconduct.

What is academic misconduct?

Academic misconduct can take many forms. The USC Student Conduct – Governing Policy observes that 'academic misconduct includes, but is not limited to:

plagiarism, including using another’s expression or ideas without appropriate acknowledgement; or submitting previously assessed work, which is known as ‘self-plagiarism’…

cheating, including in examinations or by accessing restricted assessment materials; or submitting work undertaken by someone else and claiming it as one’s own work;

academic fraud, including falsification or fabrication of data or work; or in any other way participating in activities which are intended to give the student an unfair or dishonest advantage in their learning activities, assessment or research; and

contract cheating, including the outsourcing of assessments to a third party, whether that is a commercial provider, tutorial site, current or former student, family member or acquaintance; including the unauthorised use of file-sharing sites, and organising another person to take an examination (What is contract cheating and methods to reduce it (accessed 11 January 2021) Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency).’ (University of Sunshine Coast, 2021)

collusion, involves “any unauthorised collaboration in preparation or presentation of work, including knowingly allowing personal work to be copied by others” (Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, 2021)

USC has safeguards in place to identify when students commit academic misconduct. For written assignments submitted via Blackboard, the safeguard is called SafeAssign. SafeAssign is a text matching tool that checks your work and identifies any possible cases of plagiarism or collusion. If any part of your assignment matches part of another student's work, or even one of your past assignments, it will be detected by SafeAssign.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism occurs when students use – without acknowledgement – the work of other people. Plagiarism is a form of intellectual theft in which ideas, words, information or images are taken without attribution.

Plagiarism involves presenting the thoughts, words, phrases or works of another as one's own, by:

  • copying or paraphrasing material from any source without due acknowledgement
  • using another's expression or ideas without appropriate recognition or due acknowledgement
    (e.g. by failure to use an academic referencing system)

Plagiarism includes self-plagiarism which involves submitting assessment work that has been assessed previously and counted towards completion of another course.

Plagiarism may occur in a number of ways, so one of the best ways to avoid plagiarism is to know what it looks like. An illustrative demonstration of the common types of plagiarism is outlined in the Turnitin website.

What is collusion?

Collusion occurs when two or more people produce work for which one person will claim ownership. At university, collusion happens if you give or receive help in completing any form of individual assessment such as assignments and exams.

Collusion involves jointly undertaking the whole or part of work that is to be presented for assessment in the knowledge that each student will claim that the work is wholly their own work.

Collusion includes encouraging and assisting a student in committing, or in attempting to commit academic misconduct by, for example:

  • enabling the student to copy answers produced during an examination
  • providing the student with a copy of work which was completed by themself or
    another student on the same or a similar assessment task
  • making available assessment items (for example essays, assignment answers,
    presentations) for use by others, whether for sale or otherwise

What about group work?

Collaborating with other students is encouraged at university as a good strategy to enhance student learning. However, for individual assessment tasks, if you work too closely with other students, such as sharing your written work, you may be guilty of collusion. In group assessments, you are expected to work together, but check the assessment instructions for what is expected of each group member. Generally, an equal contribution by each group member is required.

How do I avoid collusion?

Awareness is the first step. Some strategies to avoid collusion are:

  • take your own notes when working in a study group
  • do not ask to look at another student's assignment
  • set some ground rules when working with others
  • check with your course coordinator about how much collaboration is allowed
What is cheating?

Cheating is acting dishonestly to gain an unfair advantage. At university, cheating may occur in exams, lab tests and other forms of assessment. Cheating includes: 

During an examination: 

  • taking unauthorised materials into an examination
  • communicating with other students undertaking the examination 
  • reading or copying the answers of another student undertaking the same examination
  • failing to start or stop writing at the appropriate times, as directed by the examination supervisor or invigilator

Contract cheating:

Engaging another party, whether paid or unpaid, to produce an assessment piece. Contract cheating could involve a student purchasing an assessment item online, engaging an online company to write a custom assessment piece, or asking a friend or family member to produce an assessment piece.

How do I avoid cheating?

The best way to avoid cheating is to be honest in all your academic activities. Sometimes cheating occurs unintentionally by:

  • helping someone write their assignment (collusion)
  • failing to acknowledge sources you have used in an assessment (plagiarism)

Learn more about plagiarism and collusion to avoid cheating in assessments.

What is fraud?

Fraud includes:

Falsification or fabrication of data

Altering data, or creating spurious data, obtained from experiments, interviews, surveys, or similar activities.


Participating in actions that are intended to give a student an unfair or dishonest advantage in learning activities and assessment, including but not limited to, purchasing, commissioning or exchanging assessment items.

Accessing restricted assessment-related material

Acquiring, attempting to acquire, possessing, or distributing (either physically, electronically or orally) restricted assessment-related material or information, such as examination questions or an examination question paper, without the prior authorisation of the relevant Course Coordinator.


Falsely representing another student in an examination or other assessment activity (e.g. undertaking an examination or a work placement for another student), or making arrangements for another person to falsely represent himself or herself as someone else for the purpose of undertaking an examination or other assessment activity.


Failure to comply with legal requirements or University policies and procedures, e.g. breaching code on ethical treatment of animals, surveying people without approved ethics clearance, etc.

How do I avoid fraud?

By acting ethically, honestly and responsibly in all your academic activities.

What are the consequences of academic misconduct?

The consequences of academic misconduct are serious and range from loss of marks to expulsion from the university.

Possible consequences include:

  • resubmitting an assessment task (the mark awarded will not exceed 50 percent or a passing grade)
  • undertaking a substitute assessment task (the mark awarded will not exceed 50 percent or a passing grade)
  • a mark of zero for the assessment task (which may or may not result in a failing grade for the course)
  • a failing grade for the course
  • withdrawal from the course by the University
  • suspension from the University for one semester or one calendar year
  • expulsion from the University

More information about academic misconduct can be found in the Student Conduct - Governing Policy.

Check you understanding

Academic misconduct quiz

Which of the following examples represent academic misconduct?

  1. Asking someone to write your assignment or even part of it
  2. Using the same paragraph in more than one piece of assessment
  3. Allowing another student to use material from your assignment
  4. Using your own words to paraphrase a source but not providing a reference
  5. Using someone else’s words, with a reference, but without quotation marks around the exact words being quoted

Answer: All of them

  1. Asking someone to write your assignment or even part of it
    This is contract cheating. It is never okay to let someone do your assignments for you.
  2. Using the same paragraph in more than one piece of assessment
    This is called self-plagiarism. Each assignment you write is different and must be original.
  3. Allowing another student to use material from your assignment
    You should never share your work with other students.
  4. Using your own words to paraphrase a source but not providing a reference
    When you paraphrase, you still need to give a citation. Without it, the ideas and information will appear to be your own rather than originating from the source.
  5. Using someone else’s words, with a reference, but without quotation marks around the exact words being quoted 
    It’s important to place quotation marks around the exact words, phrases or sentences being quoted.
Acting with academic integrity

Acting with academic integrity helps you to get the most out of your studies. As you research and write your assignments, aim to develop, sharpen and refine your academic skills. Here are some tips to help you act with academic integrity:

  • Take accurate notes so you distinguish your own ideas and thoughts from any quotes and paraphrases that you record.
  • Know how to paraphrase, using your own words to express the ideas and information of others. Understand that paraphrasing involves more than substituting one or two words, or shifting phrases around: it involves creating a new sentence that differs from the original sentences in style and structure but conveys the same meaning. Remember that you need to provide a citation even when you use your own words to paraphrase a source.
  • Place quotation marks around the exact words or phrases that you quote. Remember to add a page number for quotations.
  • Plan ahead to ensure you produce your best work on time. Leaving an assignment to the last minute and rushing your writing can contribute to incorrect referencing and instances of plagiarism.
  • Be proactive; ask for advice if you are unclear about referencing and academic integrity.

If you would like to learn more about academic integrity, you can talk to a Learning Adviser.


University of the Sunshine Coast 2021, Student Misconduct - Procedures, viewed 27 April 2021

USC C-SALT 2017, Assignments: referencing, plagiarism and draft SafeAssign, online video, viewed 3 February 2020

‘What does academic integrity mean to you?’ 2013, The New Yorker, 13 August, viewed 3 February 2020

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, What is contract cheating and methods to reduce it, viewed 11 January 2021 

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, Guidance Note: Academic Integrity, viewed 16 April 2021

Are you acting with Academic Integrity