Academic Honesty Policy


Academic honesty is a core element in the IBO document: Programme Standards and Practices (2014), a document which is key to how IB Programmes must operate in IB World Schools.

ARIS is authorised to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.

An explicit, fundamental aim of the ARIS mission is to draw on the cultural diversity of the school community as a foundation for building universal human values in a complex and rapidly changing global environment, and for preparing its students to be responsible citizens who exhibit honesty and integrity in what they do. It should be our responsibility to inculcate these values of honesty and integrity in our students from an early age and to do our best to ensure that these values last.

This policy document, focused on Academic Honesty, is intended to be concise, and stems from, and is coherent with, the school’s commitment to academic honesty and integrity. Academic honesty is a fundamental tenet of the ARIS philosophy and accordingly is integral to the life-long values which ARIS aims to inculcate in its students, from Primary Years to the Diploma Programme.

A prior assumption is that ARIS students and teachers are honest by nature, proud of that, and wish to remain so. An important educational aim for ARIS teachers, however, is to reinforce that innate honesty and thus enable students to derive satisfaction from their own accomplishments, secure in the knowledge that their accomplishments are indeed their own.

Academic honesty should be seen as a set of values, reinforced by skills that promote personal integrity and good practice in teaching, learning and assessment. Academic honesty is influenced and shaped by a variety of factors including peer pressure, culture, parental expectations, role- modelling and taught skills. Academic dishonesty may stem from similar origins: your classmates are getting away with it, why shouldn't you? Your own culture respects emulation of those recognised as the finest practitioners. Therefore copy the best. If you fail, you fail your family. And so on.

It is argued here that although it is easier to explain to students what constitutes academic dishonesty, with direct reference to examples of plagiarism, collusion and cheating in exams, whenever possible the topic should be treated by teachers in a positive way, stressing the educational benefits which accrue when, for example, academic research is properly conducted, when the temptation to take shortcuts is resisted, and when the borrowing or outright theft of someone else's ideas and presenting them as one's own is seen as reprehensible.

This policy document includes:

  • possible definitions of what constitutes academic dishonesty, malpractice, plagiarism and intellectual property
  • an account of the consequences of academic dishonesty at ARIS and the suggested consequences that will occur if a student is found guilty
  • examples of conventions for citing and acknowledging original authorship
  • guidance on the distinction between legitimate collaboration and unacceptable collusion (different from collaboration) or plagiarism.

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Definition of terms

The IBO regulations, for example, define malpractice as behaviour that results in, or may result in, the student gaining an unfair advantage (relative to other students) in one or more assessment components. Malpractice includes:

  • plagiarism: this is defined as the representation of the ideas or work of another person as the student's own
  • collusion: this is defined as supporting malpractice by another student, as in allowing one’s work to be copied or submitted for assessment by another
  • duplication of work: this is defined as the presentation of the same work for different subjects, assessment components and/or requirements
  • the taking of unauthorised material into an examination room, or disrupting an examination
  • any other behaviour that gains an unfair advantage for a student or that affects the results of another student.

It should be noted that malpractice, unfortunately, is not confined to offences by students.

The intellectual property of others may also be misused. Intellectual property is property that is the result of creativity. It does not exist in tangible, legal form, such as patents, copyrights, trademarks et cetera, but is nevertheless the product of another person's work. Examples include a variety of sources (CD-ROMs, DVDs, photographs, illustrations, art works, music and data) in addition to journals, books and web sites.

Students and teachers must be aware that the requirement to acknowledge sources extends beyond text taken from the Internet, CD-ROMs, books, magazines and journals. The concepts of intellectual property and academic honesty include, for example, the use of footnotes or endnotes to acknowledge the source of an idea if that idea emerged as a result of discussion with, or listening to, a fellow student, a teacher or any other person.

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While ARIS does its utmost to develop in students the highest ethical standards in academic work, there may arise occasions when those standards are breached. The table overleaf is intended to provide examples of breaches of academic honesty, in various contexts, and their recommended consequences. It is not exhaustive. A basic premise is that academic dishonesty is a gross breach of the educational values which ARIS attempts to inculcate; therefore all proven cases of academic dishonesty should be:

  • followed by the stated disciplinary action (consequence)
  • permanently documented in the student's file
  • reported in writing to the parents/guardians.

In spite of what was stated on the first page of this paper, ie that malpractice entails a deliberate attempt to gain academic advantage, it will almost invariably be difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the attempt to gain academic advantage was intentional. Hence, should evidence of intention to deceive be uncovered, or should the intention be admitted by the suspect, it should not be held as key to the proof of malpractice, rather, it should be considered as corroboratory. The ' key to the proof of malpractice' is the documentary or other evidence.

Investigations of suspicions of academic dishonesty should be conducted in a heuristic, rather than an inquisitorial, confrontational or adversarial style. The aim of an investigation should be to discover the truth of the matter, rather than to intimidate or threaten the student suspected. The student should be entitled to have a witness or a trusted teacher present if s/he so chooses. Not, however, a parent, guardian or lawyer whose independence of judgement may be compromised.

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Offence1Context2Suggested Consequence
PlagiarismHomework/class testsDisciplinary action as appropriate, mark of zero awarded and loss of grade. Letter informing parents copied to student file.
 IGCSE AND IB Internal Assessment assignmentsPublic announcement on school noticeboard. Student given ONE day to rewrite the assignment. Letter informing parents copied to student file.
 Extended EssayPublic announcement on school noticeboard. Student given TWO days to rewrite the essay. Letter informing parents copied to student file.
 World LiteratureAs Extended Essay, but ONE day to rewrite the assignment.
 Theory of KnowledgeAs Extended Essay, but ONE day to rewrite the essay.
Collusion Disciplinary action as appropriate, mark of zero awarded and loss of grade. Letter informing parents copied to student file.
Duplication Disciplinary action as appropriate, mark of zero awarded and loss of grade. Letter informing parents copied to student file. ONE day to rewrite the second (duplicated) assignment.
External MalpracticeInternalInstant dismissal
External MalpracticeExternalReport to Cambridge or IBO Examining Board3


  1. Repeated malpractice should result in dismissal.
  2. The 'examples of context' do not depict any differentiation in the gravity of the offence of malpractice. The context in which malpractice has been proven is not necessarily relevant to the gravity of the offence. Other factors, such the extent to which a piece of work has been plagiarised, the extent to which other students may be complicit in the offence, and the number (if any) of previous proven cases on the part of the offending student should be the main determinants of disciplinary measures.
  3. The IBO has detailed and stringently applied procedures for dealing with academic malpractice that extend beyond the scope of this document. All cases are considered by the IBO Final Award Committee. Preventative vigilance is the collective responsibility of IBDP teachers. Notification to the IBO of proven instances of malpractice is the responsibility of the IBDP Coordinator.

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The detection of plagiarism

It is the ARIS student who should be ultimately responsible for ensuring that all work submitted for assessment is authentic, not the teacher or the EE supervisor (though of course they have a major responsibility). The work or ideas of others must be fully and correctly cited and acknowledged. Students should be expected to review their own work before submission for assessment to identify any passages, data, graphs, photographs, computer programmes and so on that still require acknowledgment.

The IBO Policy document ‘Effective Citing and Referencing’, published in August 2014 and available on the OCC, provides useful guidance as to why, when, what and how to cite source materials. Teachers should familiarise students with the content of this document when appropriate.

When reading students' work teachers should be vigilant for obvious changes in the style of writing. Equally significant is a style that seems too mature, too error free and perhaps more characteristic of an experienced academic than a secondary school student. Evidence of copying and pasting may immediately be obvious from inconsistent fonts and/or kerning.

Over the period of the courses in the Primary and Secondary Schools teachers will, or at least should, become very familiar with the style and quality of each student's work in their classes. It is therefore the teachers who are in the best position to identify work that may not be authentic, and if the student knows the teacher is vigilant, s/he may be less tempted to resort to plagiarism in times of stress or crisis. If such stresses or crises occur, the student should be encouraged to seek the solace of the Guidance Counsellor. Malpractice, whether detected or not, will only exacerbate emotional stress.

Although in most cases of plagiarism that come to the attention of the Examining Boards the candidate has copied passages from a web site, there is still frequent plagiarism from books and journals, in addition to the illicit use of photographs, graphs, data and computer programmes from a variety of sources. In many cases it is likely that the teacher is familiar with the books being used by candidates; they may be standard textbooks for the subject, or books that are readily available in the school library. The author of this paper knows of one instance where the teacher himself was the author of the work plagiarised.

The teacher must be alert for familiar passages or fragments of passages loosely assembled, perhaps without grammatical or ideational coherence. If necessary, the teacher should check that such passages have not been copied from elsewhere. In the first instance, a mere chat with the student about the content of the suspect work may reveal that the student has only a superficial understanding of what s/he has written.

The Theory of Knowledge assessment for the May 2015 examination session introduced a requirement that in the course of the students’ preparation of the essay on a Prescribed Title teachers conduct several ‘interactions’ with the student author. This measure is to ensure that the essay has guided by an appropriate level of professional input from the designated teacher and/or class discussions, and not by an internet mentor (a euphemism for someone paid to write the essay on behalf of the student). It could be argued that, had TOK teachers collectively been more vigilant in the prevention of plagiarism, such draconian counter-measures at the strategic level would never have been necessary.

In the IBDP, at least, assessment is an integral element of the curriculum. Academic malpractice at times appears to be driving assessment development regressively, in directions less and less conducive to the optimal teaching and learning context.

With the growth of the Internet and corresponding increase in its use, the abuse of electronic media is now, sadly, prevalent within the academic community. Aside from the immense number of legitimate websites, there are an increasing number of sites that actively encourage students to plagiarise and purchase essays, such as the TOK one mentioned. Little can be done to prevent the emergence of these sites, but the Internet can also be used for detecting academic dishonesty. Several of the more efficient search engines can be used to detect the source of passages that have been plagiarised, although with the exponential growth in the quantity of stored data this is becoming less and less feasible.

There are several websites that offer a useful service in detecting plagiarism from the Internet, for example, to which ARIS may decide to maintain a subscription. Again, however, it must be stressed that software of this kind can easily be circumvented; there is no substitute for the teachers’ vigilance. The discussions among teachers new to this type of software often indicate that the teachers have not themselves internalised the ability to differentiate qualitatively between examples of plagiarised and examples of authentic student work. They are reliant instead on seemingly authoritative, computer-generated indicators of ‘percentage copied’, prettily colour coded; indicators which may be themselves be based on spurious data. It is important that ARIS teachers develop, over time, the ability to identify atypical work.

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Authenticating candidates’ work

It is the responsibility of teachers to support students in the preparation of their work for assessment and to ensure that all student work complies with the requirements of the relevant curriculum guidelines. Therefore, teachers (or supervisors in the case of IB Extended Essays) are in by far the best position to judge whether a candidate’s work is authentic. Ongoing support and guidance will help with the early detection of unintentional plagiarism and will dissuade students from deliberate plagiarism because they know their work is regularly subject to scrutiny. However, what is realistic and what can be achieved within the usual constraints of time and workload must be left to the discretion of teachers and the relevant coordinator.

As previously stated, the candidates are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the final version of any work is authentic. Candidates themselves must bear the consequences if they submit any work for assessment that is not their own, regardless of whether the plagiarism was unintentional or deliberate. The same principle applies to collusion.

If the coordinator and/or a teacher has reason to believe that part or the whole of a candidate’s draft work submitted for discussion prior to final submission might be deemed to be in violation of the principles of academic honesty and constitutes a case of malpractice, they must draw the candidate’s attention to this risk and to her/his duty to respect the policy and requirements of academic honesty.

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Bibliographies, references and citations

All work submitted for assessment must reflect intellectual honesty in research practices and provide the reader with the exact sources of quotations, ideas and points of view through accurate bibliographies and referencing. The IBO Policy document ‘Effective Citing and Referencing’, (mentioned on page 4) is a useful resource for both students and teacher.

Producing accurate citations, referencing and a bibliography is a skill that students should be seeking to perfect. Documenting the research in this way is vital: it allows readers to evaluate the evidence for themselves and it shows the student’s understanding of the importance of the sources used.

Failure to comply with this requirement will be viewed as plagiarism and will, therefore, be treated as a case of malpractice.

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What is a bibliography?

A bibliography is an alphabetical list of every source used. Sources that are not cited in the body of the piece of work, but were important in informing the approach taken, should be cited in the introduction or in an acknowledgment. The bibliography should list only those sources cited. Examiners will not be impressed by a long and stylish list that bears little or no connection with the text of the piece of work. Rather, such a list may remind the examiner of the extent of the resources spurned by the student.

There are a number of different documentation styles available for use when writing research papers at IBDP level; most are appropriate in some academic disciplines but not others. The IB does not mandate use of a particular style, rather that just one be used and presented consistently, and above all, when used as a reference (see below), enables the reader (examiner) to trace the source. If the bibliographical item cannot be accessed on the basis of the information provided, or, if it was transient, contain evidence that it once existed, the information might as well not be there.

The teacher should help students decide on a citation style for the particular piece of work set. It is important to remember that, whatever style is chosen, it must be simple to use and must be applied consistently. When choosing the style, the student needs to have a clear understanding of how it is to be used before embarking on the work. The style should be applied at all stages in the production of the piece of work. This is good practice, not only for producing a high-quality final product, but also for reducing the opportunities and temptation to plagiarise.

Finding information about citation/documentation styles is not difficult. Entering a string, such as 'academic referencing', into an Internet search engine will bring up lots of useful material. Or the student can simply copy the style (not the content) shown in the main textbook used in researching the topic s/he is writing about. That will not be construed as plagiarism!

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What is a reference?

A reference is a way of indicating to the reader, in an orderly and systematic form, where information has been obtained. A reference provides all the information needed to find/trace the source material. References must be included because they acknowledge the sources used, and enable the reader to trace and consult the source work and verify the data that has been presented. If the reference does not enable the reader to trace and consult the source work, then it is useless.

References must be given whenever someone else’s work is quoted or summarized. References can come from many different sources, including books, magazines, journals, newspapers, e-mails, Internet sites and interviews. Internet references should include the title of the extract used as well as the web site address, the date it was accessed and, if possible, its author.

Caution should be exercised with information on web sites that do not give references or that cannot be cross-checked against other sources. The more important a particular point is to the essay, the more the quality of its source needs to be evaluated. And if a particular source is alluded to time and time again, is reliability and authenticity is all the more important. As a TOK student will know, frequency of reference, which is one of the factors which propel a website to prominence in a web search, is just one test of truth.

Any references to interviews (transient) should state the name of the interviewer, the name of the interviewee, the date and the place of the interview.

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What is a citation?

A citation is a shorthand method of making a reference in the body of an essay, which is then linked to the full reference at the end of the essay. A citation provides the reader with accurate references so that s/he can locate the source easily. How sources are cited varies with the particular documentation style that has been chosen. Page numbers should normally be given when referencing printed material: in some styles this will be in the citation, in others in the full reference. Once again, it is important to emphasise that there must be consistency of method when citing sources. This is not important from the point of view of stylistic elegance, but to facilitate traceability of sources by the examiner/moderator.

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Author’s note

Finally, this policy document was written in connection with and compiled from the publications listed below and, in fulfilment of the advice therein, and the corresponding advice given in this paper, acknowledges extensive use of the IBO material.

Academic Honesty: Guidance for Schools (September 2003), IBO

Academic Honesty: Diploma Programme (September 2007), IBO

Extended Essay: Guide (March 2007), IBO

Academic Honesty in the IB Educational Context (August 2014), IBO

Effective Citing and Referencing (August 2014), IBO

Trevor Trumper, Diploma Programme Coordinator
Al-Rayan International School, Ghana