a, Student Life

Midterm season: honesty is the best policy

It’s October, also known as “midterm season” on campus. Over the course of the next few weeks, the Student Advocacy Office will be flooded with students who have received letters accusing them of a whole slew of academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures. Protecting your academic integrity is more than just a matter of ‘not plagiarizing.’

In any instance of plagiarism or cheating, students risk receiving a grade of zero. During midterm season, students are over-extended and violations of the Code usually aren’t deliberate. Most of the time, students just aren’t paying attention, or don’t give themselves enough time to complete their work. Here are a few easy ways to prevent this from happening to you.

Individual papers

Before handing in a paper, give yourself enough time to read it through once and make sure you have included all the necessary citations. You can also run your paper through one of the many free online plagiarism checkers, easily found with a quick Google search. Finally, don’t recycle parts of a paper you’ve used in another class; it’s considered “cheating” under the Code, even if you only recycle a few paragraphs from a 10 page paper.

Working with friends

When you want to help a friend, never share your assignment by e-mail or in hard copy—even drafts. Sharing your assignment with someone else and copying someone else’s assignment are both considered plagiarism and carry the same consequences under the Code. Note that although this type of plagiarism isn’t usually intentional or malicious, intent doesn’t matter under the Code. If you want to help a friend, it’s best to do it through discussion, either over the phone or in person. You should also ensure that collaboration is permitted in the context of your assignment by checking with your professor or teaching assistant.

Group work

For group projects or lab reports, remember that you are responsible for the academic integrity of everyone in your group. Even if you can prove that you didn’t write the part of a report that’s flagged for plagiarism or cheating, you could still be held responsible. Make sure that each member of your group is aware of the content of articles 16 and 17 of the Code—the plagiarism and cheating provisions—and the consequences for violating those provisions. Give each group member the opportunity to read over the paper or report in entirety before it’s submitted. Be alert; if you think that someone’s work is inconsistent, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can also do a Google search of any suspect phrases to see if anything comes up.


There are several activities that constitute an offence under the Code in an exam context, including obtaining or attempting to obtain information from another student or unauthorized source during an exam; getting someone to take an exam for you or vice-versa; procuring, distributing, or receiving confidential materials like upcoming exams or lab results. Additionally, be aware that McGill uses Harpp-Hogan software to detect cheating in multiple-choice exams, which is extremely accurate in identifying exams that consistently have the same wrong answers. A Harpp-Hogan report is generally accepted as clear, convincing, and reliable evidence that cheating has occurred. When faced with a choice between getting a grade of zero because of cheating or doing poorly on an exam you haven’t adequately prepared for, the latter is clearly preferable.

Be vigilant about your academic integrity, especially during midterm season. It’s easy to slip up when you’re exhausted and overworked, but taking the time is well worth it when you consider the alternative.

If you have been accused of an offence or if you have any questions about how you can protect your academic integrity this midterm season, feel free to e-mail Student Advocacy at [email protected] or drop by our office in the SSMU Building.

By Kiran Ross, Director of Student Advocacy and University Affairs

Legal Information Clinic at McGill

[email protected]

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