For Students

Ethics and Integrity


Academic integrity is the foundation of the University of South Florida’s commitment to the academic honesty and personal integrity of its University community. Academic integrity is grounded in certain fundamental values, which include honesty, respect and fairness. Broadly defined, academic honesty is the completion of all academic endeavors and claims of scholarly knowledge as representative of one’s own efforts. Knowledge and maintenance of the academic standards of honesty and integrity as set forth by the University are the responsibility of the entire academic community, including the instructional faculty, staff and students.


You are almost certainly already familiar with the definition of cheating: 

"Cheating is using or attempting to use materials, information, notes, study aids, or other assistance in any type of examination or evaluation which have not been authorized by the instructor."

- Academic Policies and Procedures, USF Undergraduate Catalog

As you almost certainly already know, you should not cheat. If you do cheat, USF faculty and instructors will report it and apply a penalty that could include suspension and expulsion. 

The Slippery Slope

We know that students don't start with an intention to cheat. However, we see students register for too many courses in one semester, try to work full-time while taking a full academic load, and strive to be perfect for their friends and family. These things can put a good person in a bad situation. If you arrive to a test unprepared and tired, with the feeling that a perfect score is the expectation, the chances of you looking over at a neighbor's paper or using a prohibited online resource grow. All of a sudden, "I would never cheat" becomes "Well, just this once" which turns into repeated instances of cheating. It is important to know that if you cheat at USF, you will be caught and reported. If you are lucky, you might only get a 0 on the assignment or exam. If you're not, you could face a FF in the course, expulsion from your program of study or even from the university. A poor grade on one test is NEVER worth being expelled from USF.

Online Testing Proctoring

You should be aware that many USF instructors will make use of an online proctoring software. This will require the use of a webcam to watch/record you (and the associated audio) while you are taking a test. This software will track your use of the screen, your surroundings, and even where your eyes move before each question - and it will flag those moments when the instructor should check the video feed record to ascertain if cheating is going on. In short, any cheating you engage in here WILL be caught, so you need to know up front to simply avoid cheating online. 

Real USF Examples of Cheating

Below we provide a few real examples of cheating reported at USF along with their final consequences:

  • A student made a cheat sheet and brought it into an exam. He was caught using the cheat sheet by the exam proctor. He received an F in the course.
  • During an online exam, students were only allowed to use the specified, online calculator. However, a student never used the online calculator, yet got highly complex answer correct. Because he was found to be using a prohibited device during the exam he received an FF in the course.
  • A student uploaded exam questions to an online cheating site, received answers to the exams, and then turned them in as her own work. She received an FF in the course.


We define cheating as separate from plagiarism. At its most basic level, plagiarism refers to representing someone else's work as your own. 

Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional and can range from turning in an essay written by someone else who took the class in a previous year to accidentally omitting in-text citations for paraphrased source material. Technically either example is plagiarism. Because USF is a Research-1 Doctoral University, research and publication are important to the mission of the University and students are expected to be exposed to research methods and material across the curriculum. To start, let’s look closely at USF’s definition of plagiarism and the associated policy.

Official Policy Definition

To ensure that all students and faculty are operating from a shared understanding of the required practices related to plagiarism, there is an official USF policy that dictates strict definitions of plagiarism, and all students are responsible for understanding these strict definitions. Here is the relevant section:

"Plagiarism is intentionally or carelessly presenting the work of another as one’s own. It includes submitting an assignment purporting to be the student’s original work which has wholly or in part been created by another person. It also includes the presentation of the work, ideas, representations, or words of another person without customary and proper acknowledgment of sources. Students must consult with their instructors for clarification in any situation in which the need for documentation is an issue, and will have plagiarized in any situation in which their work is not properly documented."

Cultural Differences

USF is honored to host many international students from many different cultures. We recognize that cultures can sometimes define behaviors in different ways. This is often the case with plagiarism. If you are an international student, it is important that you learn and understand what behaviors at USF are considered plagiarism. For example, while some cultures may view the repetition of someone's ideas or words as respect or flattery, at USF that is considered plagiarism unless you explicitly give credit to that person. In some cultures, if something is considered "common knowledge" it does not need a reference or citation. However, at USF, any time you are writing an idea that was not your own, you must provide a citation letting your instructor know who had the original idea. We provide more explicit rules for avoiding plagiarism next.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

  • Every direct quotation must be identified by quotation marks or appropriate indentation and must be properly acknowledged by citation.
  • When material from another source is paraphrased or summarized, even in your own words, that source must be acknowledged by citation.
  • Information gained in reading or research that is not common professional knowledge must be acknowledged by citation.
  • You cannot submit your own work for more than one project. That's plagiarizing yourself, and it is not allowed!
  • When working in a group, make sure you understand the rules for the collaboration. Make sure you know whether your final submission should be your own work and not that of your group members.

Plagiarism Detection Software

You're probably familiar with the concept of plagiarism detection software. Basically, what you upload for a class is scanned and compared to a) everything found on the Internet and b) everyone who submitted work to this particular software platform in the past. At USF, we use, and the essay is simply uploaded through Canvas; the TurnItIn portion is automated from there.

Sections of your submission are flagged for the Instructor's attention if plagiarism is detected, which can include full passages or just snippets of text that is found in its database or across the internet. When matching material is located, the content in the submitted text is highlighted and readers can simply look to see if the material is cited appropriately. 

Notes-Sharing and Test Item Sharing

There are websites and apps that are designed to let students share specific items such as test questions, answer sets, instructor PowerPoints, and personally-written notes. It is against USF policy to share OR receive any proprietary items from these sites (basically, anything except self-created notes is off-limits). USF has recently obtained new software that allows faculty to scan all of these sites looking for any prohibited material. When they find that you have shared or downloaded proprietary information to/from these sites, you will be reported for an academic integrity violation.

Contract Cheating

Contract Cheating is a form of cheating where a student pays someone else to complete their work for them. This can be paying a friend take a test for you or paying a company to write your final paper. This is a clear violation of USF's academic integrity regulation, and it can also be dangerous to you. There have been many cases reported where students are blackmailed by these for-profit companies who now own your personal information. It is important to avoid using any companies that advertise their ability to help you pass your courses for compensation. USF has many resources to make you successful, including the Academic Success Center (with online tutoring options) and the Writing Studio.

FF Grades

There are a range of possible punishments (or sanctions) that faculty can give you for an academic integrity violation. These sanctions follow the severity of the violation. For example, a Level 1 violation, like forgetting a few citations in your work, could result in a small deduction in your assignment grade.

However, for serious violations, instructors may assign an “FF” grade. An “FF” grade is noted on your USF record, counts as an "F" for GPA purposes, and indicates academic dishonesty. It will not appear on the official transcript, but will be present on the unofficial transcript used within USF.

If you receive an “FF” grade in a course, you cannot repeat the course using the Grade Forgiveness Policy. If you try to drop the course, your registration in the course will be reinstated until the issue is resolved. Any final course grade may be changed to an “FF,” “F,” or other grade depending on the instructor’s decision or the ultimate resolution of the Academic Integrity Review Process. This includes any determination of a violation of the Academic Integrity Regulation that is not detected until after you have dropped or completed the course or during/after the Academic Integrity Review Process. 

Right to Appeal

Students have the right to appeal any grade sanction (which includes, but is not limited to, "FF" grades). The process for appeals is spelled out in detail at the official Academic Integrity Policy. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you have 15 academic days (days the university is open for business) to submit your appeal, in writing, to the college dean. It is important to note that you must submit your appeal to the college that owns the course where you had the academic integrity report (you can use Course Inventory to find the correct college). Your written appeal may be an email request and must contain a concise statement of your position including the factual deficiency or the specific Regulation or Policy violated. This statement should include why you feel the determination by the instructor was not correct and must include all documentation available that supports your position. This flowchart outlines the appeals process.


Conversations around academic integrity and plagiarism are important and always evolving. In addition to the information provided here, there are a number of ways to stay current on, and active in, the conversations that span the Academy and the University, as well as your department and discipline. Resources range from your faculty, your department, courses in and beyond your discipline, workshops through the Writing Studio, and professional associations in the field. Additionally, the International Center for Academic Integrity is a useful resource providing information on different academic integrity issues and current best practices. Understanding Fair Use and considering visuals is also important, and Creative Commons is a great way to find open use resources. Finally, Purdue OWL is a widely used resource for learning how to appropriately cite a variety of different types of sources using a variety of formats.

If you have any questions or concerns around an academic integrity issue, you can reach out to the Student Ombuds Office. They are a confidential, informal, and impartial resource for you where discussions are held private. 

Finally, this video provides a good summary on the overall issue of Academic Integrity along with ways to avoid that Slippery Slope and accidental plagiarism.