By Dr. Ron Jones
Academic integrity embodies the fundamental core values of fairness, honesty, trust, respect, and responsibility, and from a student’s perspective equates to not cheating, lying, or stealing. Academic integrity is the cornerstone of truth, high ethics, and academic quality to promote credible intellectual inquiry and knowledge sharing. Within the realm of online doctoral programs, students enjoy flexibility regarding work-life-school balance, yet sadly the temptation and opportunity to engage in academic dishonesty rises because of anonymity, isolation, and separation from the traditional classroom. Yielding to such temptation only degrades the true academic and professional worth of a degree, while producing no good long-term benefit for the student. Furthermore, the existing body of knowledge does not expand when doctoral students complete a dissertation through dishonest means.
Academic programs that do not adhere to and enforce strict integrity standards provide a disservice to students, confer hollow degrees, and poison the learning environment. Reputable universities enforce strict academic integrity standards. Why? University leaders that demand high standards recognize the value of an earned degree from their institution. To maintain coveted regional accreditations, schools must enforce strict integrity standards. The value of the institution’s reputation is of greater worth than churning out degrees of lowered or little academic value. Regardless of the reason, strive to be associated with a school that upholds high standards. The earned degree will be of greater marketplace value as well as being of academic, personal, and professional worth.
Plagiarism is a common form of academic dishonesty, regardless if the unethical and possibly illegal (copyright violation) act is intentional or not. Stealing is an illegal act. Plagiarism might be formally defined as representing another author’s work (intellectual property) as one’s own, yet the simple definition is theft. Paraphrasing, putting the ideas and theories of another into one’s own words, or rearrangement of phrases or inserting synonyms of the original author’s words does not allow one to avoid committing plagiarism. Avoiding plagiarism consists of properly acknowledging the source of paraphrased or quoted material each and every time. One should make careful documentation of the sources used and review the final manuscript to ensure each quote or paraphrase received proper acknowledgement through the prescribed writing format (in-text citations, footnotes, reference page entries, etc.).
A talent possessed by most online students is the ability to use the Internet. Although a fabulous source of scholarly data and information, the Internet also is a marketplace for academic fraud and dishonesty. A dishonest doctoral student with sufficient funds can hire others to complete entire sections of the dissertation. An academic dean of an online university commented that the number one enemy of academic integrity regarding doctoral writing is the abundance of fraud-selling websites.
The use of the Internet or seeking the advice and assistance of others does not need to violate the principle of academic integrity. Writing a dissertation is seldom a lone activity, completed without the need for doctoral editors and mentors. Seek out reputable experts to assist in the completion of your study. Holding an unearned doctorate is not the goal of engaging in doctoral research. Complete the dissertation with a clear conscious, knowing the work is of the utmost integrity.