Carnegie Mellon University

Strategies for Students

The best way for students to respond to issues of academic integrity is to avoid them altogether. All students want to earn A’s and the most successful students identify ways to earn the grades that they want without compromising their integrity. Over the years, students and faculty have recommended the following best practices as strategies to ensure academic success:
The first step to developing a good relationship with your instructors is to know what they expect. After all, you need to know what the standards are before you are able to meet them. Read the syllabus and understand the course policies on citation and collaboration. Make sure that you know what is considered to be cheating, plagiarism, and inappropriate collaboration. If anything is unclear, ask before you act and don’t assume that because one form of collaboration is acceptable in one course, it is automatically acceptable in another. Course policies can vary and it is up to you to know each of your instructors’ expectations.
Keep track of upcoming assignments and exams and manage your study space to ensure efficient and effective learning. Think strategically about how you take notes and read for your classes so that you are processing information and learning as you go rather than waiting until right before an exam to start to think critically about the material. Make the most of your time spent preparing for exams as well as your time taking the exam. When writing research papers, keep track of your sources throughout the process rather than waiting until the end to go back and make a list of sources. The source management function in Microsoft Word as well as tools like Zotero can help you do this. And make an outline before you start to write a paper to stay on task and save time. Bookmark the appropriate citation style guide (APAMLAChicago) for easy access when finalizing your bibliography.
Although good organization saves time, it takes time as well and the most successful students make good use of their time during the day and early evening. Procrastination more often leads to ineffective cramming and loss of sleep than to good performance under pressure. If you begin to work well before due dates and examinations, you are much more likely to learn the material, to be able to get help if you need it, to feel less stressed, to perform better, and to avoid poor decisions on very late nights. If you feel like you need some extra help with managing your time, Academic Development offers workshops on time management as well as individual appointments with academic counselors.
It is important to remember that you are part of an academic community and help is available to assist you in mastering course material and working efficiently. Faculty and teaching assistants (TA’s) can talk with you in office hours or email. The University Libraries offer online research guides that are organized by discipline. Academic counselingpeer tutoring, and supplemental instruction (SI) are all options that will allow you to get the help you need. For international students, the Intercultural Communication Center provides specialized classesworkshops, and seminars for students who are new to the educational system in the U.S. as well students for whom English is a second language.
Although most students who are caught cheating or plagiarizing note that they did not intend to do so, the consequences are the same regardless of what the student intended. If you find yourself unprepared for an exam or with an incomplete assignment minutes before it is due, please remember that there are options other than cheating available to you. Ultimately, it’s better to receive partial credit or no credit on work that is your own rather than be caught cheating or plagiarizing and subsequently penalized on the exam or assignment followed by an academic disciplinary report. Be honest with your instructor about where you stand. You can always ask for an extension. It may not always be possible and it may carry a penalty but it is still a better option than compromising your integrity. If you’re nearing the end of the semester and an extension is not an option, talk with your professor about dropping or withdrawing from the course or taking an incomplete and completing the coursework at a later date.