University of Minnesota

Academic Integrity

Identifying the Problem:

Occasionally, as a paper or test is being graded, something may appear odd or suspicious or in some other way cause you to wonder if the student engaged in an act of cheating or plagiarizing. This can feel demoralizing, especially for someone whose life work is in the pursuit of academic excellence. It may seem daunting to verify and address the situation. However, the University has a centralized agency, the Office for Student Academic Integrity (OSCAI), as well as other resources, to assist in these matters so they can be addressed with minimal difficulty and allow faculty members to stay focused on their teaching and research.

Instances of Suspected Plagiarism:i

If you suspect plagiarism, make a copy of the paper or test and mark the suspicious elements. Indications that a paper may be plagiarized include:

  • Change in style or tone from the student's other written work.
  • Unusual citation styles or formatting.
  • Last minute changes in topic.
  • Unusual word choice, including overly technical terminology.
  • Typographical errors from scanning or cutting and pasting a paper. (e.g., the "%" sign in place of an apostrophe.)
  • Presence of a URL printed on the paper. Alternatively, dark lines that indicate URL was covered up and the paper was then
  • References to illustrations or tables that are not included.
  • Reference to a course or assignment that is not accurate.

Additional ways to verify plagiarism include:

  • Ask the student. (Below is information on how to organize a meeting with a student under "how to respond".)
  • "Google" within quote marks a phrase that seems out of place. (If you are uncertain how to do this, OSCAI can clarify.)
  • Browse paper mill websites.ii (Do not spend excessive time searching for the identical item, as there are multiple mills with different papers on each. A solid case can be organized without a "smoking gun.")
  • With the name removed, for privacy and to avoid possible bias, ask a colleague to review the paper against samples of the student's work.
  • Check out the Center for Writing and their resources. Their web address is:

  • Use an on-line prevention/detection program such as The University has a contract with If you are a faculty member who wishes to use this program, contact OSCAI for the password information and procedures. To take a look at the website of go to:

Other types of cheating:

In cases where two assignments are overly similar, make a copy of both and mark those elements. Signs that an assignment has been copied include:

  • Certain wrong answers match between two assignments.
  • When labels given to diagrams, etc. are identical, but not common to the class.
  • A student with a "test B" has answers for the multiple-choice test that match test "A." The students sat next to each other during the test. You or a TA observed odd behavior, such as sitting at an odd angle, repeated glancing at a particular spot, rustling papers, whispering, etc., or another student reports such behavior.

It can also be helpful in cheating cases to ask a colleague to review the tests against each other as well as some tests you are not questioning, with all names removed, to see if they observe the similarities.

How to Respond:

  • Once you have concluded that scholastic dishonesty has most likely occurred, inform the student of the need to see you. You should have in mind a suitable penalty or outcome based on your stated expectations and standards for the class or assignment.
    Present the student with the information and evidence that has formed the basis of your conclusion.
  • Provide the student with an opportunity to respond. Taking the student's response into account, indicate to him or her what action you will be taking and that the matter will be reported to the OSCAI. Use the OSCAI report form found at and send to OSCAI, 211 Appleby Hall, 128 Pleasant St. SE, Mpls. MN 55455 Mail Code: 3505 or email to
  • If end of the semester time constraints do not permit such a session, contact the student in writing, their University email account being a good option, outlining the problem and the actions that will follow. Provide a deadline by which they may contact you to discuss the matter before you submit the grade and your report. You should make and retain copies of questionable exams and assignments to assist in reporting.
  • Send your report with all pertinent documents, including a copy of the syllabus to OSCAI.
    Once your report is received, the OSCAI will send the student a letter confirming the report of misconduct and the penalty assigned. The letter, copied to you, and both you and the student's collegiate student affairs office, will outline additional resolution options and record keeping practice.iii

University Resources:

  1. Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity
    • Suggestions for reducing plagiarism and cheating.
    • Sounding board for sorting out if a matter is inexperience with citation, sloppy workmanship, and/or plagiarism.
    • Support in addressing misconduct.
    • Consideration of charges and sanctioning under the Student Conduct Code.
  2. Center for Teaching and Learning Services
  3. Center for Academic Integrity

  4. The Student Conflict Resolution Center
    211 Eddy Hall
    Phone: 612-624-7272

    The Student Conflict Resolution Center offers informal and formal conflict resolution services to resolve students' campus-based problems and concerns.

i Christine Whittington, Maine Academic & Research Initiative for Electronic Resources (MARINER), University of Maine System Libraries (2000).
ii Christine Whittington, Maine Academic & Research Initiative for Electronic Resources (MARINER), University of Maine System Libraries (2000).
iii Modified from the "Frequently Asked Question from Faculty" section of the OSCAI website, (2004)

Twin Cities Campus: