How to Start a Conversation about Suspected Academic Misconduct
You Suspect Academic Misconduct, Now What?
It can be hard to have a difficult conversation with someone, especially about something that may involve some form of conflict. This is true for situations where a faculty member may be confronting a student about suspected academic misconduct. Here are some tips to help you start a conversation and have a productive dialogue. Before you begin to navigate the misconduct process or reach out to the student, it may be helpful to ask yourself a few questions:
- What do I believe happened?
- What evidence do I have to support this claim?
- Are there other reasonable explanations?
- Is this behavior outlined in my course expectations or syllabus as unauthorized or not permitted?
If after thinking through these questions, you feel that a student may have engaged in academic misconduct, please follow the appropriate steps outlined here and begin the process of reaching out to the student. This will likely involve emailing the student to set up a time to meet and discuss the situation (see sample email language below). Having a conversation with the student is critical to better understanding what happened and provides them an opportunity to be heard, which is a key component of due process. Here are a few ways to start the conversation and questions to ask the student. These are particularly helpful if you aren’t sure you have enough evidence to pursue a violation and/or have some concerns you’d like to better understand.
Sample Email Language
I have some concerns about your [academic exercise] that I’d like to talk with you about. I am available ____. Do any of these times work for you? It is important that we meet soon to discuss these concerns.
If the student does not respond to your request(s) to meet in a reasonable time frame, please refer the case to Student Accountability & Conflict Resolution via the Academic Integrity Charge Form. See additional information here.
Tips for meeting with a student:
As you prepare for the meeting, think about whether the conversation is best held in-person or virtually. Set up a time that works for both you and the student and allows for enough time for the concerns to be discussed. Be prepared to share what stood out to you or drew your attention to a potential violation, and be ready to share the evidence that supports those concerns. Be prepared to ask questions and listen to the information the student has to share. This can help you in determining if the student has violated policy, and if so, what an appropriate outcome might be.
Sample Language to Start the Meeting
Thanks for meeting with me today. I appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule to have this conversation. The reason I wanted to talk with you is that I have some concerns with your [academic exercise] and I’d like to better understand your perspective.
As you approach the conversation, think about what you need to know to determine if a violation of policy has occurred. Example questions include, but are not limited to:
- Talk to me about how you approached this assignment.
- Tell me about this portion. How did you come to that conclusion/get that solution?
- Can you help me better understand ____?
- What did your preparation look like for this exam?
- Can you explain this paragraph?
- What resources did you use and how did you incorporate them into your work?
- I found it interesting that ______. Can you further expand on this?
- Your paper looks very similar to another student’s work. Did you work with other individuals on this assignment? Can you help me understand why they are so similar if you didn’t work together?
- Your code is identical to something I found on the internet. Can you help me understand why? Did you use this online source?
- Your assignment references concepts and vocabulary we do not cover in this course. Did you use an online translator to complete this assignment?
- Your paper reads differently from your past work. Did you use an online generator to complete this assignment?
By asking further questions, it provides the student the opportunity to share how they completed their academic work and should give you a better understanding of the situation. This is helpful in determining if you would like to move forward with an academic misconduct case.
If you would like to consult about a situation, please contact Student Accountability & Conflict Resolution to set up an appointment.
Note: Portions of this information are adapted from the Office of Student Conduct at North Carolina State University.