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Adjusting to Canadian academics

Tips for international and exchange students

Welcome, international and exchange students! We are happy to have you here. International and exchange students contribute valuable perspectives and skills to Queen’s University. As you settle in here, you may need to adjust to an unfamiliar academic environment. Here are some tips to help you succeed.

TimeClass structureAssessmentSkillsHabitsRelationshipsLooking for more support?

Time: What should I know about the workload?

  • The 12-week semester goes by quickly, so it is important to keep up, especially when later class materials build on what you learn earlier in the semester.
  • Expect frequent assignments and readings, starting in the first week of classes, in addition to essays and midterm and final exams.
  • Some assignments are worth more grades than others; distribute your work time appropriately among multiple priorities. For example, you might spend only three or four hours on something worth 5% of your final mark, but perhaps 20 hours on something worth 20%.
  • Many professors have specific expectations about meeting deadlines; be aware of these.
  • Look through the sessional dates to get a sense of the important dates in the semester.
  • Use the course syllabus to create a course plan.

On average, expect to spend about 8-10 hours on each course every week, including time spent in class or labs and on homework. Here are some time management tools and ways to stay motivated.

Class Structure: What will my classes look like?

  • There are four main kinds of courses that you might take: lectures, tutorials, seminars, and labs. Each has a different structure and purpose, but they all require regular attendance.
  • Class sizes may be bigger or smaller than you are used to. Some lectures may have as many as 500 students while an upper-year seminar may have as few as six.
  • You may have tutorials or labs, usually led by a teaching assistant (TA), which complement your understanding of the lecture material through marked activities, discussions, and readings.
  • Understand how online systems will be used in each class and get familiar with them as soon as possible. For example, learn how OnQ works.
  • Read each course’s syllabus for important information about communicating with your prof or TA, due dates and grading structure, expectations and learning objectives, etc.

SASS offers tips for success in online courses.

Assessment: How will my prof grade my work?

  • Assignments may take many different forms: essays, presentations, science labs, group work, case studies, reports, problem sets, and creative products.
  • You may also be marked for the quality of your participation in class: i.e., regular attendance, asking relevant questions, offering ideas, etc.
  • If you are unsure how to approach assignments, talk to your prof, visit SASS, or use our assignment planner.
  • In addition to assignments, you are likely to have tests and midterm and final exams.
  • The course syllabus or course website should tell you how much each assignment or exam is worth, and describe the professor’s expectations of your work.

Try our Grade Calculator to determine your mark in a class.

Skills: What are the academic skills I might be expected to use?

  • You may be expected to do a large amount of reading in some courses. Click here for some reading and note-taking tips.
  • Writing and research often take more time than you might expect—start early and get help at the Writing Centre or from a research librarian to save time.
  • Math, engineering and science courses will ask you to solve math problems.
  • It’s very important that you adhere to academic integrity.

You will be asked to think critically, which means analyzing, evaluating and synthesizing information, not just describing it. Speak to your professor or TA if you are unsure of their expectations.

Habits: What should I do regularly?

  • Go to all your classes, labs, and tutorials, and participate: take notes, ask questions, offer your ideas, listen to others.
  • Reduce distractions in class: sit near the front and turn off your phone.
  • Do your homework.
  • After class, write a short summary, in your own words, of key ideas from the lecture and homework.
  • Learn a little every day instead of trying to learn and memorize it all just before a test or exam.
  • Don’t work all the time! Take breaks. Make time for sleep, eating, exercise and fun.

Stress is a common reaction to a new environment, but you don’t have to manage it alone. If stress interferes with your daily life and school, speak to someone. Many people at Queen’s will be glad to help you.

Relationships: How can I connect with my professor, TA, classmates and other community members?

  • Your professors and TA want you to succeed. Go see them during their office hours to get to know them and to ask for help. Here are some tips for communicating with them.
  • In some classes you might work in groups. Here are some tips for navigating group work.
  • Try to develop friendly relationships with your classmates early in the course, to make it easier to share notes, study together, and enjoy attending class.
  • The Alma Mater Society and Society of Professional and Graduate Students can help you find opportunities to get involved on campus and meet people.

Looking for more support?

You are already likely in touch with the Queen’s University International Centre or your exchange office, but here are some other sources of support at Queen’s that you might find helpful:

  1. Need more support with English skills? See our online resources or make an appointment for a consultation with our English as an Additional Language (EAL) coordinator.
  2. Need more help with writing? See our online resources or make an appointment with a writing consultant.
  3. Need more support to help you learn effectively? See our online resources or make an appointment with a learning strategist.
  4. Feeling stressed or in need of advice about course selection, your health, finances, personal challenges, or life as a graduate student? See here for some resources.
  5. Looking for help in a particular course? Here is an overview of subject-specific academic support resources.
  6. Looking for information on each faculty’s regulations, policies, programs, courses, and degree requirements? See the academic calendars.

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Course planning resources

Return to Time Management

Steps for Getting OrganizedHow to use homework timeCourse PlannerCourse Tracking SheetEnd of Term Planning ChartGrade CalculatorThe Study Plan

Steps for Getting Organized

  1. Use term calendars, weekly calendars, and daily to do lists. (Here are some helpful templates to get you started.)
    • If you need some flexibility, try not to pack your weekly calendar with too many activities. If you find that using calendars and to-do lists make you feel even more stressed, try looking at your life as a whole. Ask yourself: What are my values? What are my goals for the future? List your goals and then prioritize them. This might help you focus on what to do today and in the future.
  1. Don’t overbook. Schedule downtime every day. During downtime, you are not accountable to anyone or anything!
  2. Use a mind map. To see the whole picture first, draw a mind map. Mind maps are powerful visual tools for seeing the connections between a big concept and its associated detail. In other words, it allows you to see both the forest AND its trees! A bonus of mind-maps is that details can be easily added, deleted and moved around.
  3. Break down big projects.
    • Start by brainstorming.
    • Break the project down into steps, focusing on one step of a project at a time. Imagine putting on blinders like a racehorse so you can help yourself focus. You can do this by reorganizing and redrawing your mind map; writing the steps on sticky notes and rearrange until you have the right order; or using the Task Analysis chart.
    • Break steps into activities. You could then make a new map for each step.
    • Schedule activities: Use an agenda. Put sticky notes in an agenda and only take off the ones that are to be completed that day.
    • Complete project.
  4. Just do it. Sometimes just getting started on a task can help you feel better and will jump-start your motivation.

How to use homework time: Work smarter, not longer

It can be helpful to make a distinction between learning and studying.

Learning is focused on increasing your understanding of facts, concepts, processes and relationships (i.e., your understanding of the material).

Studying is designed to increase your recall of subject matter, through repetition of previously learned material.

The following ideas explain how to use homework time for effective learning, which will also result in less pressured studying.

Homework activities

1. Preview the lecture:

  • Before class, preview the lecture outline, web notes, lab objectives, or assigned problem set to begin to form a picture of what the class will be about.
  • Skim or read the assigned text. Read to get the BIG PICTURE, by reading the chapter introduction, summary, glossary and review questions. Then, return to the chapter beginning and read for more detail, or skim by reading the subtitles, first and last sentence of each paragraph. Be aware of material that is totally new and complex, and listen for that in the lecture.

2. Review your notes after the lecture:

  • Before sleeping that night, read over your notes from each class that day; this facilitates establishing a strong memory trace – which is very helpful when it comes time for studying! This might take 10-15 minutes for a single lecture.
  • Fill in gaps in your notes, add titles, and identify what you do not understand.
  • Summarize each lecture (don’t just copy it over verbatim) to use as study notes.

3. Complete assignments:

  • Keep up to date with assignments, aiming to finish 1 day ahead of due date to allow for human or technical malfunction!
  • Read in detail if you need further clarification, if the course is based on the text, your prof.expects you to, or you have time and enjoy the topic.

4. Do a weekly review:

  • Schedule a block of time for regular review of your summarized lectures or readings notes, concepts in key problems or labs, made over the past week. This might take 20-30 minutes per course.
  • Pay attention to what you do not know, and set a goal of figuring it out over the next week.

How much is “enough” homework time?

(Psst! Did you know there are 168 hours in every week?)

Time estimates vary according to course content, academic goals, other responsibilities and commitments, but…

  • A minimum is typically 1 hour of homework for every hour of undergraduate Arts.
  • Often, 2-4 hours of homework for every hour of lecture is needed for preview, review, and either keeping up with labs and assignments, or reading in the humanities or social sciences.
  • Lab and applied science courses are harder to predict, so track your own patterns and estimate based on that. Remember to include preview and review.

Consider school your full-time job

  • 15 lecture hours + 15 homework hours = 30 hours/week
    15 hours of class + 30 hours homework = 45 hours/week
  • Most full-time jobs range from 30 to 45 hours per week! Celebrate the flexibility of your working hours!

Course Planner

Download Course Planner Template

Course:                                                               

Assignment
(Labs, essays, exams, tests, seminars, projects, etc.)
Value Due Date Grade
 .
Midterm exam
Final exam
Participation

Instructions:

  1. Make one copy for each course and place in the front of each binder.
  2. Review the course syllabus and record all assignments, exams, etc. on your planner.
  3. Record the value of each item and the due date.
  4. Transfer due dates to monthly wall calendar.
  5. As tasks are completed during the term, enter the grade received.
  6. Prior to the final exam, calculate grade achieved thus far.
  7. Assess what your grade will need to be to maintain or improve your grade.

Course Tracking Sheet

Download Course Tracking Sheet Template

Use this to set goals, record your progress, and make decisions about allocating or re-distributing time among your courses. Do you need to shift amount of time you spend on each course, to meet your goals? How many marks do you need on final exam or paper to achieve your goal?

Course Grade  Goal Accomplishments (record as weighted value or % if assignments & tests are of almost equal value)
 .

End of Term Planning Chart to complete assignments

Download End of Term Planning Chart Template

Behind in the work? Aiming to finish your term work by the last day of class? Looking for a plan?

Instructions

  1. Make a list of the things you need to accomplish and enter these things on your Term Calendar. Break large projects into smaller chunks, so they feel more See the Assignment Calculator for research papers.
  2. Create an End of Term Planning Chart and include 7 columns:
    • Course, task or assignment, % value if relevant, due date if
    • Then add: estimate of time needed to do the task, leave a column to record the actual time taken, and finally, a column for “DONE.”
  3. Look at your Weekly Schedule to see when you have homework time available, and slot in hours for your different tasks or Separate your “keep up with regular work” from your “catch-up” time. It is often helpful to make a schedule for each week, by copying the basic template of classes, other commitments, health habits (eating, sleeping, exercise), and filling in the rest based on your immediate priorities.

NOTE: If you estimate you need more time to do your tasks than is actually available, you will need to re-adjust your estimate.  Can you take time from one project and re-assign it to another to better reach your goals? Or can you accept using less time than you would like on something?

You can’t make more time, so you will need to fit your work into the time available.

 Example:

Course Task % Value Due Date Estimated Time
to Complete
Actual time Done!
CRSS 335 Chapter 5 (30 pages) Nov. 15 10 hrs 2+1.5+ 2+

3+3 (11.5)

x
PHIL 202 20 page essay

  • confirm topic
  • make research plan
  • research, make notes
  • outline
  • messy draft
  • edit, rework
  • visit the Writing Centre
30% Nov. 22

  • Nov. 7
  • Nov. 8
  • Nov. 11 
  • Nov. 15
  • Nov. 18 Nov.19 Nov. 20
3 or 4 days

  • 1 hr
  • 1.5 hrs
  • 10 hrs
  • 3 hrs
  • 8 hrs
  • 2 hrs
  • 1 hr
 

 

 

 

End-of-Term Planning Chart

Course Task % Value Due Date Estimated Time
to Complete
Actual time Done
 .

Grade Calculator

Not sure how your marks are adding up? Download the grade calculator, an Excel spreadsheet, to help you keep track of your grades.

Download the Grade Calculator

The Study Plan

Download The Study Plan Template

Why should I start studying early?

Did you know that the human brain learns academic material faster and better if done in brief blocks of time spread over longer periods, rather than in a few lengthy sessions?

For example, you will perform better on an exam if you spend one hour studying each day for 20 days than if you spend 10 hours studying for two days before an exam. Which means that cramming is BAD NEWS!

What if I have to cram?

Ok, so sometimes life gets crazy and we end up having to cram, right? If you have to cram, try to focus on remembering the information you know already rather than trying to learn new information. And here’s the kicker: you will typically NOT remember what you tried to learn the night before the exam, so it’s best to make sure you really know some of the information well. If you do have a few days, try to spread the studying out so you are not doing it all in one day.

How should I plan my exam preparation?

If you plan ahead, many students have found the “The Study Plan” gets good results. However, five days is really the minimal and we recommend a much longer study plan, if possible. For example, if you have not read any of your BIOL 101 textbook and a multiple choice quiz of over 100 test questions is looming, 5 days will probably not suffice.

Components of The Study Plan:

  • Space out your learning over a minimum of 5 days.
  • Divide your material into workable “chunks,” (e.g., a chapter, a set of lecture notes).
  • During each day, prepare a new chunk. Preparing might be reading and note-taking, amalgamating lecture and textbook information, reorganizing lecture notes.
  • Review previous material.
  • Use active learning strategies such as questioning, reciting, cue cards, study groups, etc.
  • Use self-testing techniques to monitor your learning.

How much time should I set aside to study?

You might need a minimum of 8-10 hours of studying to get a good mark on an exam. However, the time you need to spend really depends on many things such as:

  • the difficulty of the course
  • to what extent you have kept up with the materials during the term
  • how important this exam is to you

How to make a Study Plan

  1. Break your material into chunks. If it can be divided by chapter, article, theme or topic, then use that. If not, divide the material in a way that is manageable to you. For example, if one chapter is very long and/or complex, break that chapter into sections.
  2. Plan to spend 2.5-3 hours studying on each of the five (or more) days.
  3. Each day, begin by reviewing the previous day’s work, focusing on what you did not know on the self-test, and then preparing a new section. End with a self-test.

Example time frame:

Date What to do What to study Length of time
Day 1 Prepare
Self-test
1st section/chunk
(e.g., a chapter)
2 hours
20 minutes
Day 2 Review
Prepare Self-test
1st section
2nd section
20 minutes
2 hours
20 minutes
Day 3 Review
Review
Prepare Self-test
1st section
2nd section
3rd section
10 minutes
20 minutes
2 hours
20 minutes
Day 4 Review
Review
Review
Prepare
Self-test
1st section
2nd section
3rd section
4th section
5 minutes
10 minutes
20 minutes
2 hours
20 minutes
Day 5 Review
Review
Review
Review
Self-test
1st section
2nd section
3rd section
4th section
5 minutes
5 minutes
10 minutes
20 minutes
2 hours

You may need to extend the preparation time depending on the information and to match your own learning pace. However, studying for more than 3-4 hours at one session is not as helpful as several shorter ones.

Also, don’t forget to take short breaks throughout!

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TOOLS: Strategies and resources related to perfectionism in writing

Return to Perfectionism in Writing

Strategies about managing your timeStrategies to cope with the anxiety of writingLetting go or stopping strategies

Strategies about managing your time

Work habits

  • Plan to write on a regular basis. Work 90 minutes followed by a significant rest or other unrelated task, or work a 3 hour block divided into 3 periods of ~ 50 minutes “on task” (thinking or writing), 10 minute break, or any pattern that works for you.
  • Break a large project into smaller more manageable pieces. Will your finished document be a collection of shorter chapters or critical essays? (Haven’t you written smaller pieces previously, and this project just has more chunks?)
  • There is no perfect order in writing on the topics. Think of a section you’re comfortable with writing. e.g. the section you’re most ready to write, or the part that will be easiest/most interesting/most fun.
  • If you are stuck with something, put it in point form, highlight it, make a note to come back later – but move on!
  • Work backwards from large target dates, and create due dates for the smaller pieces. See for example project scheduling software such as the Assignment Calculator for research papers, or the Thesis Manager, or the Gantt chart.
  • Start a writing journal, to track your thought development and to add some fun.
    • Finish each writing session by posing a question to yourself based on this day’s work- something you didn’t quite understand, or something you want to think more about, or something you can’t see how to connect with another important idea.
    • Start each writing session by recording any thoughts you may have had about yesterday’s session.
    • If you lose track of the development of your line of reasoning or direction, review your journal for clues.

Decide how to use your perfectionistic habit

Consider what skill or attribute is required for the different tasks (creative thinking, picky data analysis, precise checking of citations…). Indulge the perfectionist in you for tasks requiring an uncompromising standard of excellence. Apply the “good enough” standard to other tasks.

Strategies to cope with the anxiety of writing

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a sh*tty first draft…Perfectionism means you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter is wonderfully fertile ground – you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of holding breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.” (Lamott, A., Bird by Bird, 1995)

Well- chosen strategies regarding your attitude, approach to the writing process and work habits may be necessary but not sufficient for some people to overcome their perfectionistic habits, actually engage in writing in a satisfying way, and produce the required product.

Do you experience uncompromisingly critical self-evaluation? a crippling desire to be thought of as extraordinarily exceptional? IGNORE BOTH!

Cognitive strategies to reduce anxiety

Engaging with writing

We all have an inner dialogue that has developed over our life-times, which reflect the experiences we have had. Those voices can inspire us and help us make good choices, but can also feed our insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. Are your inner voices helpful to you or holding you back?

Think of your inner dialogue or self-talk as coming from a “coach’ or “critic.” Your coach helps you grow and face new challenges.

Your critic keeps you fixed, scared and dissatisfied with your efforts and results.

  • Picture your coach and your critic sitting on each of your shoulders
  • Create a visual image that makes sense for you, to capture the words or feelings that each evokes. Feed the one you want— you have a choice.
  • Practice calling on your supportive coach when you sit down to write, or face another challenging
  • Refute your Ask yourself:
    • What’s the worst that can happen?
    • How likely is this to happen?
    • Is there any evidence that contradicts this negative view?
    • Am I looking at the whole picture?
    • I am being realistically objective?
  • As you become more aware of your monstrous critic attacking you, imagine putting the demon in a sealed box, or putting a clothes pin on its nasty mouth!!

Get back to work! You do not need to be held hostage by your own negative thoughts.

Letting go or stopping strategies

Trouble stopping the literature search phase?

When you start seeing the same material over and over… it’s time to stop researching. Keep perspective: one article is very seldom so earth-shattering that it changes your argument, and it’s more likely just to end up as a single reference or a footnote.

When you are spending all your time researching a minor detail or remotely related topic… it’s time to stop.

If you don’t have an overall picture of how the current topic you are investigating relates to the purpose or thesis statement, stop and think. Try making a mind map of the topics you wish to discuss. Where does your current area of reading fit in? Is it a major area directly related to the thesis statement or core theme, or is it a sub-sub-sub-sub-topic?? Decide the value of continuing to pursue the search vs setting boundaries on what you are able to discuss.

Trouble stopping the writing phase?

Consider “contracting” with yourself for your desired grade or end product before you begin writing. STOP when you achieve your goal.

Weigh your desired grade or quality of finished product against other factors such as the amount of available time, resources, other demands you must meet, or obligations, and the importance of this phase of the project. Trust your judgment. Monitor the project in relation to your practical goal, and stick to the plan.

Satisfactory product vs.  Resources and other obligations

Use a good time management plan, with tasks to be completed by certain dates. Stick to it.

Build down- time into your schedule, so you get some distance from your writing. When you re- read your work, you may have a better perspective and be more objective.

Be aware of when you are “obsessing” over the quality of your work. Do a Cost /Benefit Analysis, or try a 4-Square Review. This is when you compare what you desire and fear about working on the piece, and also what you desire and fear about stopping the work.

Cost/Benefit Analysis

What do I desire about continuing to work on the piece?

What do I fear about continuing to work on the piece?

What do I fear about stopping?

What do I desire about stopping?

4 Square Review:

  • Record your thoughts, as above
  • Look them over
  • Accept the contradictions within yourself…we are full of contradictions!
  • If you are trying to make a decision, the content may be useful in weighing alternatives

Arrange with your supervisor or a friend to have regular check-ins, to help you stay on track with your time management plan.

Seek a qualified opinion regarding your final draft document, or use a copy editor.

Quiet your inner critic, that pushes you to seek uncompromising excellence and is never satisfied with what you offer.

Trouble letting it go and handing it in?

Aim for the latest word, not the last word! You are joining a long line of individuals who have thought about this problem, or whose thinking has opened the door to this question.

Quiet your inner critic.

Keep your perspective. In truth, others will have different things to say at some point. Your writing captures your knowledge or perspective at this moment in time. That is enough.

Make a list of your strengths, past achievements, skills. Use this as a buffer for your ego if you are frightened to receive feedback.

Reframe the value of the feedback you may receive. It is not a reflection of your personhood, although your supervisor may make suggestions to improve your writing process or end product.

Forgive yourself for being human – living with flaws and faults.

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MODULE: Improving the writing experience and the writing process

Return to Perfectionism in Writing

Strategies to improve the writing experienceStages in the processSubmit the paper... for external readers

Strategies to improve the writing experience

Are there any aspects of writing a report, paper or thesis that are potentially helped by an uncompromising desire for excellence?

YES: tasks that have defined, uncompromising standards.

  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Citations and References

Writers accept that the writing process is inconsistent

Most writers experience periods of intense work, and also periods of no observable work. Thinking is a quiet but necessary component in writing, and many scientists and academics need to discuss their ideas with others to clarify the task or their thinking.

The process of thinking-talking-writing is also “messy” work. What is on the page or screen is modified as one’s thinking becomes clearer, or new results are incorporated.

Writers develop the HABIT of writing

A place

A time of day

A duration: 90 minutes followed by a significant rest or other task, or a 3-hour block divided into three periods of around 50 minutes “on task” (thinking or writing), 10 minute break, or any pattern that works for you.

A clear concrete goal (e.g., a specified task, an amount or “output,” a diagram, an argument, etc.). lf you choose to specify a duration of time-on-task, then also track the “output.”

Writers learn to detach (somewhat) from their product

As a student, academic or scientist, it is expected that your work will be discussed, graded or judged on the merit of the written piece.

Your work ≠ your worth as a person!

See also: Coping with Anxiety.

Writers understand that writing does not need to be stressful

The university may have a “culture of stress” around completing writing assignments, but students can choose not to engage with that expectation. You can reduce the stress – even for students trying to harness their uncompromising pursuit of excellence – if you:

  • understand the assignment or task,
  • understand the writing process, and
  • use good time management habits.

Strategies regarding the writing process

Stages in the process

The writing process consists of several private stages including invention, research, outlining, drafting, initial proof-reading and editing. Refer to the Writing Centre’s Online Resources for information on creating an outline, developing a thesis statement, and writing particular types of assignments. The punctuation handouts are also useful for editing.

 Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) holds additional writing information.

The public stage is final editing, and submitting to your professor or editor.

By following the steps in the writing process described below, students who seek perfection in their written work can reduce their anxiety. Students will feel more in control of issues such as confusion about what is expected, knowing how to create the piece, and determining what they want to say in the paper.

Invention: starting the process

  • Clarify the purpose and audience of finished product
  • Create a rough plan of tasks, due dates, and choose a dedicated research/writing. See the Assignment Calculator for guidelines on planning the tasks and time frame for a research paper, or the QLC’s Online Thesis Manager for guidelines on thesis-writing.
  • Pre-write on what you already know and what you want to know more

Capturing ideas: use mind maps or bullet points

  • have a flexible, working sense of the focus before starting a literature search
  • narrow the topic, form a working position statement or thesis
  • start an Outline using a mind map, web or brain-storm format or more traditional linear format

Research

  • In addition to data collection within your research lab or field work, the Research Librarians are extremely helpful in building a research plan and suggesting resource material.

Finish the outline

  • This step is critical for writers with perfectionist tendencies! Preparing an outline requires you to organize your thinking, so you’ll know what you will say.
  • Focus first on outlining the Big Picture Ideas, and agonize over the choice of words in later drafts.

Write the paper


Perfectionists take note:

With Draft #3, exacting standards should be applied to the editing of spelling and grammar errors, and accuracy of citations. Go for it!!

Submit the paper… for external readers

This stage marks the shift from writing “for your eyes only” to the final product which is submitted for evaluation.

Before you hand in the final version to your professor, tutor, or reviewer, you may bring it to the Writing Centre for a collaborative discussion about your structure, flow and style.

You can also have it read by a lab partner, or a naïve reader. Remember – it is the paper that is graded, not your value as a person.

Is the act of “submitting for grading or feedback” challenging for you? Perhaps you need to think about the different meanings of the word “submit,” and what each means to you.

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Academic integrity

Download a PDF of this resource here.

There are a lot of reasons to attend university, but one of the most important is the opportunity to further your own academic and personal growth. Queen’s University is committed to the “dissemination and advancement of knowledge, personal and professional development, and good citizenship” in its scholarly community (Queen’s Code of Conduct, p. 3).

In this module, you’ll find information about

  • what “academic integrity” means,
  • why it matters,
  • what counts as academic dishonesty, and
  • how we can help you maintain your academic integrity while you’re at Queen’s.
What is academic integrity?Why does it matter?Violations of Academic IntegrityHow SASS Can HelpAdditional InformationFAQ

What is academic integrity?

Academic Integrity means the practice of honest and responsible scholarship. It’s a key part of everything we do at university.

Academic Integrity consists of the “fundamental values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility,” which are “central to the building, nurturing, and sustaining of an academic community” (see the Centre for Academic Integrity).

It is your responsibility to adhere to the principles of academic integrity.

You probably have questions. Maybe you’ve heard of “plagiarism,” but aren’t sure exactly what it means. And then–how do you avoid committing it? Is plagiarism the only way you can violate academic integrity? And why does it all matter so much, anyway?

NEXT: Why does academic integrity matter?

For more information on policies and procedures specific to your faculty or school, click here.

Why does it matter?

Academic integrity matters because it’s what makes your degree worth something. Studying at Queen’s means you are part of a scholarly community, one in which all members (students and faculty alike) are held in mutual respect. Academic Integrity also supports the reputation of Queen’s University; universities, and the degrees they confer, are only as strong as their reputations.

Violating academic integrity can have serious consequences, from failing a course to being expelled from Queen’s. Keep the big picture in mind: you’re paying a lot of money for the opportunity to learn and develop your knowledge and yourself.

Cheating affects those around you, but, most of all, it affects you–ultimately, you are cheating yourself.

Maryellen Weimer, professor emerita at Pennsylvania State University, outlines some of the consequences of cheating in a blog post on the Teaching Professor Blog. Paraphrased from that blog post, here are six reasons not to cheat:

(1) Knowledge is cumulative.
  • What you learn later will draw on what you’re learning now. Cheating now means you’ll have to do twice the work later to catch up.
(2) Train your brain.
  • When you cheat, you don’t learn. You won’t develop your writing, critical thinking, and problem solving. These critically important skills are ones that employers will assume you have upon graduation.
(3) Once a cheater…
  • Research shows that cheating is almost never a one-time thing. In fact, you might get used to cheating and do it after you leave Queen’s (e.g., at work, on your taxes, with unethical business practices, in your personal life).
(4) It’s about integrity.
  • It doesn’t feel good when people are dishonest with you. Think about the kind of person you want to be: it probably isn’t someone who cheats.
(5) You’ve got this.
  • You can achieve your goals without cheating! Successful university students are those who adopt positive and tested approaches to studying, not necessarily those with the most innate intelligence. There are resources on campus (like SASS) that can help.
(6) Pride and self-respect from your grades.
  • You’ll feel a sense of satisfaction and receive a self-respect boost from grades you’ve earned honestly.

Academic integrity is a principle that will follow you beyond any one class to graduation and into the workforce. Here’s a powerful example of how cheating can haunt you from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (Learning Module 1, pg. 3):

“[I]n 2013, Chris Spence was forced to resign as the director of education for the Toronto District School Board after he was caught plagiarizing parts of several opinion-editorial articles published in a Toronto newspaper.

Subsequently, he was also found to have plagiarized parts of his doctoral thesis which was completed in 1996. While no decision has been made yet regarding this allegation, Spence risks having his degree revoked. He now must work to restore his reputation in order to find new work. Academic misconduct is a serious offence which may affect not only your university career, but also your professional career.

NEXT: Examples of violations of academic integrity.

Violations of Academic Integrity

According to the Senate policy on academic integrity, the specific violations of academic integrity are: plagiarism, use of unauthorized materials, facilitation, falsification, and forgery.

Plagiarism

What is plagiarism?

  • using someone else’s ideas or phrasing without proper acknowledgement
  • intentionally or inadvertently, representing some or all of another author’s ideas as your own

For example, it’s plagiarism if you:

  • copy and paste from the internet, a printed source, or other source and fail to provide appropriate acknowledgement
  • copy from another student
  • use direct quotations or paraphrased material in an assignment without appropriate acknowledgement
  • paraphrase so closely that most of the phrasing resembles that of the original source
  • submit the same piece of work in more than one course without the permission of the instructor(s).

How to Avoid Plagiarism

Many students struggle with academic integrity simply because they do not understand what scholarship means: a key factor is community. Becoming part of a community of scholars means that you are joining an ongoing discussion. Counter to many students’ expectations, it is not necessary, especially at the undergraduate level, to create new knowledge in every assignment. Instead, students are expected to build on and refer to established knowledge. Many students are tempted to cheat because, fundamentally, they don’t understand the expectations: “the more [citations you] have, the smarter [you] look!” (Prior, 2001).

Think of it this way:

It’s not that you have to cite sources, it’s that you get to cite them.

You can avoid plagiarism if you:

For more on how to avoid plagiarism in your writing assignments, see our handout on Avoiding Plagiarism.

For students with English as an Additional Language: Many EAL students struggle to meet their instructors’ expectations for academic writing when they are learning not only the subject matter, but also the English language. it isn’t always clear how to write in your own words. See here for more information on academic integrity, plagiarism, and instructors’ expectations.

Use of Unauthorized Materials

What does it mean to use unauthorized materials? 

  • possessing or using unauthorized study materials or aids during a test,
  • copying from another student’s test paper,
  • using an unauthorized calculator or other aids during a test,
  • removing materials from the library without authorization, or
  • deliberately concealing library materials.

This is the “classic” form of cheating that you have probably seen in movies or in stock photography. Leaning over to copy an answer from another student’s paper, writing the formulae on your arm, using your phone to look something up, smuggling notes into an exam–these are all considered violations of academic integrity.

You can avoid use of unauthorized materials if you:

Facilitation


What is facilitation?

Facilitation refers to deliberately enabling another person’s breach of academic integrity. For example,

  • knowingly allowing your essay or assignment to be copied by someone else,
  • buying term papers or assignments and submitting them as your own, or
  • selling term papers or assignments.

Buying and selling academic work are more explicit examples of facilitation, ones that most students would identify as breaches of academic integrity. However, allowing a friend to copy your assignment (in whole or in part) is also cheating. If either of you is caught, you could both face consequences.

You can avoid facilitation if you:

Inappropriate Collaboration

Is it all right to work together on an assignment? Never guess or assume, no matter what “everyone else” is doing–ask your professor to be sure!

“Collaboration” includes group work (e.g., on a lab or assignment), jointly working on homework problems, having a friend help you rewrite a paper–even checking homework answers prior to submission. In all these cases, it is your responsibility to ensure that the work you submit is the result of your own effort–if the work has your name on it, you are responsible for all of it.

So when is it not okay to collaborate? If “two or more students submit identical or nearly identical work, claiming it is their own,” it’s inappropriate–and it’s cheating. More broadly, it’s cheating if students “work together or share information without specific instructions [to do so] by the professor“–on any assignment or task that will be submitted for marks!

For more information, see “Collaborating with Integrity.

Falsification


What is falsification?

You commit an act of falsification when you misrepresent yourself, your work, or your relationship to Queen’s. For example, you cheat by falsification if you:

  • create or alter a transcript or other official document,
  • impersonate someone in an exam or test, or
  • falsify or fabricate research data.

While most students violate academic integrity inadvertently, it is difficult to commit falsification by accident. This category of academic dishonesty takes purposeful effort.

You can avoid falsification if you:

  • just don’t do it! There’s always another way.
  • plan ahead (see time management in grad school, goal setting, planning your assignments, and prioritizing your time)
  • keep lines of communication open with your professor or supervisor and disscuss challenges.

Forgery


What is forgery?

Forgery is falsification taken to the extreme: it is not the altering of official documents, but the submission of documents which are entirely fraudulent (e.g., medical notes, transcripts, etc.).

It is extremely unlikely that you could commit forgery by accident; just as with falsification, this category of academic dishonesty takes purposeful effort. Forgery is a transparently deliberate act of cheating.

You can avoid forgery if you:

  • just don’t do it! There’s always another way.
  • plan ahead (see time management in grad school, goal setting, planning your assignments, and prioritizing your time)
  • keep lines of communication open with your professor or supervisor and disscuss challenges.

NEXT: How SASS can help you avoid violations of academic integrity

How SASS Can Help

It can be challenging to maintain your GPA, balance the demands of a full course load, keep up with coursework, submit assignments on time, and still have time to manage the rest of your life.

We get it. Student Academic Success Services is here to help make sure that students have the skills in place to avoid violations of academic integrity. In fact, two of the most common reasons why students violate academic integrity are poor time management and lack of knowledge, both of which can be overcome with a little effort. You can do it and we can help!

We offer a variety of resources, from workshops to online resources to one-on-one consultations.

Academic Integrity Workshops

Throughout the term, SASS offers workshops on issues related to the effective practice of academic integrity. For example, we have workshops on

  • effective time management that can help you avoid time-crunches that might tempt you to cut corners;
  • note-taking skills that can help to ensure that you’ve accurately recorded source material and the sources from which you’ve borrowed;
  • the practice of academic integrity in student writing.

SASS Handouts and Resources

Looking for resources online you can read right now? We have

1:1 Writing & Learning Consultations

Our staff of professional writing consultants and learning strategists can help you learn to

  • integrate sources into your work
  • properly paraphrase, quote, and use citations
  • manage your time to avoid the temptation to take short cuts
  • and more!

Book an appointment online to find out how we can support your writing and learning.

NEXT: Additional sources of information and frequently asked questions about academic integrity

Additional Sources of Information

There are number of useful resources from other post-secondary institutions that address academic integrity. The following resources can help you further develop your understanding of and adherence to the principles of academic integrity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Students often have specific questions about what is considered an academic integrity issue and what is not. Some of these questions are below (adapted from the Academic Integrity @ Queen’s website):

Is it true that if I paraphrase or slightly alter the wording from a source, I do not have to give credit?

This is not true. If you take anyone’s ideas or words and present them as your own argument or use them to support your argument, you must give appropriate credit. If you are unsure how to do so, click here for citation resources or ask your instructor for help.

Is it true that as long as I provide a citation when I copy something, I am not plagiarizing?

Providing a citation is a good start, but you must add quotation marks if you are copying someone’s idea word for word.

Am I allowed to re-submit previous assignments since I own them?

Although this may seem logical, it is prohibited and an example of “self-plagiarism.” If you truly feel that your previous work is related to your current assignment or project, talk to your instructor(s) to see if it can be re-submitted or revised for an alternate submission.

Since my instructor did not ask for my sources, do I need to include any?

Just because your instructor did not ask for them, it is not a legitimate excuse to avoid giving proper credit. You may still be found to have committed plagiarism if you don’t. Further, it is good practice to include your sources in order to acknowledge where your ideas come from.

Is it okay if I forgot or didn’t know that I was plagiarizing/breaching other aspects of academic integrity?

It is your responsibility to understand what conduct is not permitted at the University. “Not knowing” is not an excuse, so you should familiarize yourself with the forms of academic dishonesty and school policies, or ask your instructor if you are still unclear.

Is sharing information with friends on an assignment all right?

There is a distinction between inappropriate collaboration and ethical group work.  If the work is meant to be independent, you are breaching academic integrity by discussing answers with others. If your instructor does not address the issue, it is your responsibility to find out, rather than assume that it is collaborative group work.

Is it true that submitting papers that I buy online is not plagiarizing, since they are available? 

This is definitely not true. The act of purchasing a paper to submit is cheating.

Will I be at a disadvantage if everyone cheats except for me?

If others are earning their marks and even degrees by cheating their way through, it won’t be long before they get caught. Furthermore, they will not develop the necessary skills for life and work after university. Holding yourself to high standards of academic integrity in learning will pay off in the future and make you proud of a degree that you worked hard to get.

Have a question about academic integrity? Email us! Or book a 1:1 appointment with a learning strategist or a professional writing consultant.

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