Researching, Writing, and Creating with Integrity
How do we generate new knowledge with integrity?
As members of the academic community, you contribute to ongoing scholarly conversations by producing new knowledge: an insight, a discovery, a correction, or an extension that adds to what scholars in a particular area of study already know, based on the research that has already been done. You come to such new knowledge through conducting your own individual research (using the methods of the discipline) and sharing the results of that research with the scholarly community.
How contributions are shared is shaped by the norms of the discipline and the area of research. A sociologist may produce new knowledge by designing and conducting field work to study a phenomenon, then analyzing the data from that field work and sharing the results in an article published in a research journal. A visual artist might plan and create a digital installation and a literary studies scholar could share an interpretation of a text in an oral presentation at an academic conference. Whatever forms knowledge-making takes, integrity must be at its foundation. This means conducting our inquiries and sharing our findings in ways that meet the community’s expectation of ethical research and knowledge production.
Of course, new knowledge is not completely new: it always builds on the work that has been ongoing in the community, and part of ethical knowledge-production is acknowledging that existing work and noting how your own contribution connects to it. Not only does such acknowledgment give credit to others, it also helps locate new ideas and insights in that ongoing conversation: what theories or traditions or methods is our work aligned with? How do we understand the existing state of knowledge or practice, and how do we see what we have done in relation to it?
Things to reflect on
What are the expectations (for a particular assignment, in a specific course, or in a discipline) about ethical knowledge-production?
What kinds of practices, methods, or even assistance are acceptable, and which are not?
How does learning about and acknowledging existing scholarship or tradition help you develop your own contributions to that scholarly conversation?
What harm can be done, and to whom, by not doing your work with integrity?
What expectations about academic integrity norms of scholarship, more generally, and your discipline, in particular, might be implied, rather than explicit?
Do your assignments reward integrity and support students in doing their work with integrity?
Academic practices and expectations about integrity may be different from those used in professional settings. In some workplaces, for example, it is acceptable to copy and paste from prior texts or to write texts that someone else will present or share, or to hire an editor to revise something you have written. However, at university and in the scholarly community, such practices would be forms of academic misconduct.
Providing explicit guidelines about the disciplinary norms and what those will look like for the students producing knowledge for your assignment. This will help them understand the expectations and how to meet them.
Students often get stuck on the details of citation (e.g., how to format citations, or how to cite popular sources). Make clear what citation style you are requiring, ideally with links to UBC resource guides to support students in adopting that style. STEM Writing Resources for Learning provides a useful comparison and overview of different citation styles used in STEM.
Strategies to redesign assessments to reward integrity include:
- Scaffolding to break down large projects or papers into smaller components.
- Allowing students to design their own topics related to the course.
- Requiring peer-review, with academic integrity as an explicit criteria for peer feedback.
- Including oral requirements, such as presentations, that will require students to respond to questions and comments about the work that they have done.
Producing knowledge with integrity is not without challenges for all members of the UBC teaching and learning community. Here are a few potential challenges to consider and how to overcome them.
Particular forms of knowledge-production
Formats such as oral presentations, blogs, videos, or posters may not seem to align very easily with traditional citation practices. Check the expectations of the discipline about how to cite your sources, and use the same clarity towards your students.
The meaning of originality
Students are often anxious about and confused by assignments that require “original” work. What does “originality” mean in this particular context?
In co-authored or collaborative research, it is important to ensure that all co-authors understand how to do their work with integrity, and agree to uphold those expectations. Have an explicit conversation early on, and with regular check-ins, to be sure everyone is on board. Make sure you understand and if it is not clear, ask how to signal each co-author’s contribution. For example, in some disciplines, the “first author” (the name that is listed first in the citation) is the person who made the most significant contribution.