Academic Integrity Policy for Graduate Students

Physics research and the pursuit of academic goals require a trusting environment in which all participants adhere to the ethical principles expressed in the Duke Community Standard. More specifically, each Duke Physics Graduate Student is expected to honor and adhere to the “Standards of Conduct” described in the Regulations section of the Graduate Bulletin.

In the vast majority of cases, living up to these principles is a matter of common sense and open communication. Situations sometimes arise, however, in which the proper extent of collaboration, use of previously written materials, or method of documenting and disseminating research results is not obvious to all concerned. To help students understand what counts as academic misconduct pertaining to coursework, the Physics Department expects instructors to clarify their expectations.

Each course instructor should make it clear in the beginning of the semester what is considered appropriate and what is not regarding students’ collaboration on homework assignments, projects, papers, and gathering information from the Internet or other books. The instructor should also make it clear whether exams, tests, or homework solutions used in previous years can or cannot be used for review in preparation for an exam, test, or homework assignments; also, whether a paper written for another course can or cannot be used for the current course. The instructor should also inform the students of the expected conventions for citing references, which should be made available to students in writing before the first homework is assigned. Students who do not receive explicit instructions should first assume that they are NOT allowed to collaborate with peers or use any materials that may be available from a previous version of the course, and should also ask the instructor for clarification.

Examples of Academic Misconduct

Below are listed a few examples of misconduct. Please note that this list is not exhaustive. If a student is in doubt about whether or not a certain action constitutes an instance of academic misconduct, he/she should consult with the course instructor and/or a departmental officer (ACT, DGS, and/or Chair). Examples of academic misconduct include:

  • plagiarism in completing a course writing assignment, in a take-home exam, in a homework assignment, and in writing a research report or paper;
  • fabrication or manipulation of experimental data in research;
  • spending more time on a take-home exam than was specified by the instructor;
  • using sources other than those permitted during a take-home exam or other assignment;
  • collaborating and/or discussing with any others on a take-home assignment when such collaboration or discussion is not permitted.

We refer students to the following resource concerning plagiarism: "Avoiding Plagiarism".

Academic Conduct Perceived as Improper

If an instructor observes an act that could be plausibly construed as academic misconduct but does not constitute sufficient evidence for a firm conclusion, the instructor will discuss the matter with the student(s) and explain the reasons to avoid such behavior. Repeated engagement in such behaviors could rise to the level of academic misconduct. For this reason, the instructor may keep records of the conversations.

Academic Misconduct Policy

The Physics Department adheres to the following official policy regarding instances of academic misconduct:

When an instructor believes there is evidence suggesting that academic misconduct has likely occurred, he or she will meet with the student and ask for clarification of the student’s actions. The student may choose a faculty member as his or her adviser to attend any meetings. The instructor or the student may also request the DGS and the ACT to be present during the meeting if necessary.

If the meeting results in a clear indication that intentional misconduct did occur, either because the student admits to it or the evidence is clear enough to leave no reasonable doubt, the instructor will discuss the incident with the DGS and the ACT. Based on the discussion, one of the following steps will be taken, according to the severity of the misconduct.

  1. For a first, minor violation of the Duke Community Standard: The instructor will give the student an oral warning and provide a written summary of the details of the case, which will be recorded in the student’s file and transmitted to the student, the DGS and the ACT. The course instructor will discuss the situation with the student and clarify any standards or procedures that may have been misunderstood by the student. The student will also be given the opportunity to write a response for inclusion in the file. The instructor decides whether the student should receive zero credit for the assignment and/or the need to redo and resubmit the assignment.
  2. For a major violation or a second minor violation: In the case of a second violation, or if the instructor, DGS, and ACT determine that a first violation constitutes misconduct serious enough that the integrity of the Physics department is compromised, a written warning will be given to the student promptly by the ACT. The entire physics faculty should be informed of the situation at a faculty meeting and any faculty member may petition the case on behalf of the student. The incident will also be reported to the Dean of the Graduate School by the DGS, and the student may face additional disciplinary action by the Dean of the Graduate School, including possible probation or dismissal from Duke University.
  3. For a second major violation or a third violation of any type: In the event of a third violation or a second major violation, the case will be reported to the Dean of the graduate school by the DGS and the student will likely be recommended for dismissal from the program.

In all cases, the student may appeal a finding of misconduct by following the grievance procedure found in the Regulations section of the Graduate Bulletin.

Student reporting of a witnessed instance of academic misconduct

What should a student do in the event of knowing about or witnessing an incident of academic misconduct? The student is expected to take constructive actions to show his/her commitment to the Duke Community Standard and the Standards of Conduct of the Duke Graduate School.  Specifically, the student should alert the instructor that cheating may be occurring in the course. This alert can be in any form, including anonymous notification, and the reporting student need not be identified. The information provided will allow the faculty member to consider corrective measures, in consultation with the ACT and the DGS, and to address the topic with the class and/or suspected student(s). If they prefer, students may also report a suspected instance of academic misconduct directly to the ACT, DGS, and/or Chair. In this case, the departmental officers will then inform the instructor of the possible violation.

This policy shall be posted on the departmental graduate program webpage and hard copies should be distributed to the new students during orientation week. Also, the ACT will send out this policy to all the graduate students and teaching faculty before the beginning of each semester.

(Last Updated: May 2, 2013)