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Academic Integrity Toolkit

The tools you need to help you succeed in university study

Introduction to the Toolkit

Academic integrity refers to the values that underpin everything you do in your university studies. The purpose of academic study for both students and tutors is not just to develop and build new knowledge but to do it in ways that maximise accuracy and fairness across the academic community. In order to achieve this, you need to understand, develop and practise particular academic skills, including:

  • correct referencing
  • good academic writing
  • independent thinking and active reading practices
  • the ability to find and evaluate sources
  • efficient notemaking and record-keeping.

This guide aims to give you access to the tools you will need to succeed at university by studying with academic integrity.

Engaging students with teaching on correct referencing practices is a regular concern for academic tutors. Much time has been expended by tutors on producing excellent guidance, only to find submitted assignments full of referencing errors and poor academic practice, often edging into unintentional plagiarism. It is even more frustrating to spend considerable time correcting errors, only to find them reappearing in later work.

The teaching and learning materials in this guide were produced as part of a University-funded project at the University of Reading titled What did I do wrong?, which aimed to uncover student attitudes towards referencing and collate best practice interventions. Student opinions were sought through open-ended questionnaires, small focus groups, and individual interviews. In addition, anecdotal evidence was gathered from tutors, study advisers, librarians, and other members of staff who had direct contact with students on referencing and related issues. A number of key concerns were identified, including:

- The need for a single authoritative source of information about the requirements for referencing at the University. A plethora of differing guidance is driving students to 'just Google it' on the grounds that Google is easier to search and (they felt) no less likely to give the correct guidance.
- A failure to engage with teaching on referencing because of the emphasis on avoiding plagiarism. The perception by students is that, as they don't intend to plagiarise, they don't need to engage with the guidance. At the same time, this emphasis made some students so anxious that they either refused to include citations in their work at all, or had an over-reliance on direct quotes because of a fear of close paraphrasing.
- A tendency by students to understand 'referencing' as only concerned with the correct formatting of citations. Focus on this leads to over-anxiety about micro-details ("where does the full stop go?") and a lack of understanding of the role references play in academic writing.

The materials in this guide were designed to respond to these and other concerns by providing:

  • A single source of guidance for all students which also offers each page as a handout in Microsoft Word to enable tutors to adapt guidance to their discipline/module.
  • Key points on some topics are also offered as PowerPoint slides to make it easy to build guidance into teaching.
  • A focus on academic integrity as an aspirational trait for university study, offering a positive alternative motivation to avoiding plagiarism.
  • The situating of referencing as an essential and interconnecting factor in an overarching conception of university study, including its relation to academic writing, active reading, good notemaking, critical thinking and information literacy.
  • An engaging range of formats for guidance, including webpages, paper handouts, exercises and activities (with suggested answers where appropriate), presentation slides and brief video tutorials.

Using the Academic Integrity Toolkit

You can, of course, simply refer students to the guide as a whole, to browse or to find specific guidance. However, our research indicated that students were more likely to engage with teaching materials when they had more specific and targeted recommendations from their tutors. So you might:

  • ask individual or groups of students to look at a particular handout, page or box either in preparation for assignments or as feed-forward on submitted assignments
  • reuse the boxes by embedding them in dedicated LibGuides for your own subject or module
  • include the PowerPoint slides as part of lectures on assignment preparation
  • use the exercises in class or as transition or independent study activities, with peer marking to get a discussion going
  • show the brief video tutorials in class, or embed them in VLE courses and ask students to watch them before class
  • ask students to write their questions about referencing on post-its and submit them anonymously, then use these to compile a list of FAQs with links to the relevant guidance

Relevant teaching and learning materials for each topic are linked in the Resources box on each page, which can be found under the side navigation menu .

Alternately, if you prefer to browse, all of the materials are listed and linked by format in a single place on the Teaching and learning materials page.

We welcome feedback on the materials.

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Academic integrity at the University of Reading

The University advises all students to study with the principles of academic integrity in mind, in order to avoid the possibility of unintentional academic misconduct.

About us

The materials in this guide were produced by members of Study Advice, the Library and the International Study and Language Institute at the University of Reading. Between us we have many years of experience working directly with students to support their development of academic, communication and information literacy skills.

We drew on these and on existing good practice in other departments at the University, along with research with students and both academic and support staff, to inform the development of these teaching and learning materials. Consequently some of them may refer specifically to practice and resources at the University of Reading, but the principles will still be the same wherever you are studying.