Is academic integrity really that important? We asked an expert to find out.

University of Leeds
4 min readNov 29, 2023

What is collusion? What’s the difference between Harvard and MHRA referencing? How do I make sure I’m not plagiarising? Academic integrity can often cause stress and panic around assessment times.

Do not fear, the Academic Integrity Intern is here! In this Q&A session, we speak with Erica Wood, Academic Integrity Intern in the Academic Integrity Network. Erica discusses what academic integrity really is and gives advice to help you ensure that your assessments are watertight.

Erica stands looking back at the camera smiling in her graduation gown.

Can you tell us about yourself and your role at the University?

Hi, my name is Erica Wood and I’m the Campus Graduate Intern for Academic Integrity. I work to create a supportive network of academic integrity across the University, undertaking research to ensure that the University is supporting students and staff to implement good academic practice in their work.

How would you describe academic integrity as a whole? How does the University approach the subject?

Sometimes the topic can be scary as we instantly think of misconduct, but academic integrity is about openness, honesty, and transparency, and applies to both students and staff. It’s not just following rules and avoiding penalties, but involves critical thinking skills, problem solving, and creativity.

Poor academic practices, such as poor note taking, can often lead to academic misconduct and so, the University works to help students set good habits when developing your own ideas by directing to useful resources and support throughout your whole time at university.

What are the key elements of academic integrity? When do we need to think about academic integrity?

We should be thinking about academic integrity all the time. It’s not just about assessments, it’s an attitude towards learning.

Often, mistakes come from bad habits, such as leaving things to the last minute and not organising notes properly, so it’s important to always ask ourselves, ‘what am I doing to support academic integrity?’. We should all take responsibility to ensure that we are thinking critically, asking ourselves what we think about a topic, where our ideas fit in, and if something is a reliable source.

Why should we bother thinking about academic integrity?

It’s only through being honest in your work that you can demonstrate where learning has and hasn’t occurred and therefore be assessed properly. Implementing good academic practice helps us to develop the skills and knowledge that prepare us for life after university. It’s not about catching students out but instead ensures that we reflect our own knowledge and skills accurately.

What is the biggest problem that we see with academic practice amongst Leeds students?

Currently, a big issue is contract cheating — people approaching students offering to write essays for them.

If you’re under a lot of pressure, which is understandable, it can be quite easy to see it as an option. However, if you begin paying money, you become vulnerable to being blackmailed into paying more. It’s a dangerous thing to get tied into as students don’t want to come forward to admit they have cheated. The University has systems in place to detect these schemes although I don’t think students themselves are fully aware of the dangers.

Where can students go to find help with academic practice?

With the introduction of the new academic tutorial and test, students have a resource they can refer to throughout their studies to help with understanding academic integrity during their time at university. It includes interactive tutorials, contextualised to your course, that will talk you through what good academic integrity looks like and how you can implement it in your research and studies.

Students can also always reach out to staff, who are here to support the culture of academic integrity, by asking questions and being honest when you’re confused or struggling with these kinds of problems. Staff would much prefer you asked them these questions than end up with an academic misconduct case.

What is your biggest piece of advice for students to keep good academic practice?

It’s vital that you take the time to make good notes and absorb the information you’ve learned. Make sure you’re always asking yourself, ‘what did I think about this at the time?’, ‘what is my interpretation of this?’ and ‘which are my own words?’ to ensure you know what your idea is and what is someone else’s. Take the time to digest the information you learn so that you can start developing your own interpretations. Time management and organisational skills are key.

If you’d like to learn more about academic integrity at Leeds, have a look at all the resources on the skills@library site. Also, check out this Twitter thread full of all the best blogs on how to improve your academic skills.