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Adjusting to Canadian academics

Tips for international and exchange students

Welcome to Queen’s University! International and exchange students contribute valuable perspectives to our community. As you draw on your previous academic experiences and seek to grow further as a scholar at Queen’s, here are some tips to support your transition. You also might want to register for the Academic Connections Certificate, through which you can earn a certificate while overcoming academic culture shock.

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. Register for the Academic Connections Certificate. The ACC helps you to uncover the academic expectations at Queen’s University through programs and services about academic success and overcoming academic culture shock. Any Queen’s student can register for the certificate and complete it at their own pace. Register here and you will be invited to join the ACC onQ course.
  2. 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.
  3. Need more help with writing? See our online resources or make an appointment with a writing consultant.
  4. Need more support to help you learn effectively? See our online resources or make an appointment with a learning strategist.
  5. 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.
  6. Looking for help in a particular course? Here is an overview of subject-specific academic support resources.
  7. Looking for information on each faculty’s regulations, policies, programs, courses, and degree requirements? See the academic calendars.

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Welcome to exam season! Student Academic Success Services has got you covered.


Make an exam study schedule, or make a professional appointment with a learning strategist to hone your study skills!

Have you made our famous exam study schedule yet?

Download the 2018 Winter Term Exam Study Schedule template (PDF)!

Then, once you’ve made your schedule, make sure you know how best to use your 3-hour study blocks.



Unsure of how your marks are adding up?

Fill in the Grade Calculator and find out exactly where you stand in each course heading into exams.

Learn just about everything we’ve got on effective, efficient exam prep right here. Good luck! 



Not sure where to start with exam prep? Try the study plan

Get organized with our rules for organizing your study schedule

Tools: Strategies for effective studying

Tools: Studying for different types of exams

But what if I have to cram?
Even with good planning, there are times when you have to cram. Here are some helpful hints.



Tools: Overcoming test anxiety

Staying calm under pressure is important during exams.  Learn more about coping with test anxiety.

Tools for staying motivated


Tools for staying focused


Tools for managing academic stress


SASS Peer blogs

Happy to help.

Have questions? Send us an email or give us a call at 613-533-6315

Remember that Student Academic Success Services (SASS) is here to help you with all aspects of academic writing and learning, whatever your year, discipline or proficiency level.

Explore our website for information about booking 1:1 appointments, using peer writing support, finding a helpful workshop, or accessing free learning and writing resources.



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Welcome to exam season! – Student Academic Success Services has got you covered




Welcome to exam season! – Student Academic Success Services has got you covered

! Make an exam study schedule, or make a professional appointment with a learning strategist to hone your study skills!


Have you made our famous exam study schedule yet?

Download our December exam study schedule with instructions!


Unsure of how your marks are adding up?

Fill in the Grade Calculator and find out exactly where you stand in each course heading into exams.

“Study smarter, not harder” is the cliche — but it’s true!

Our ‘Test and Exam Prep” resources are thorough and will help you create a customized study schedule and teach you strategies for effectively preparing, no matter what type of exam you face.


Learn just about everything we’ve got on effective, efficient exam prep right here. Good luck! 

Not sure where to start with exam prep? Try the Study Plan

Get organized with our Rules for Organizing your study Schedule


Sometimes cramming is unavoidable.

Here’s how to do it right (but try to avoid it in the future!)

Staying calm under pressure is important during exams.

Learn more about coping with test anxiety.

One last thing.

Here are some free online resources to help you get through the next few weeks.

Happy to help.

Have questions? send us an email or give us a call at 613-533-6315

Remember that Student Academic Success Services (SASS)  is here to help you with any and all aspects of academic writing and learning, whatever your year, discipline or proficiency level.

Explore our website for information about booking 1:1 appointments, using peer writing support, finding a helpful workshop, or accessing free learning and writing resources.

Read More

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


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


  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?


  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.


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)

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
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
Prepare Self-test
1st section
2nd section
3rd section
10 minutes
20 minutes
2 hours
20 minutes
Day 4 Review
1st section
2nd section
3rd section
4th section
5 minutes
10 minutes
20 minutes
2 hours
20 minutes
Day 5 Review
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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Exam Strategies? SASS has your back.


Welcome to exam season!


Student Academic Success Services has got you covered! Make an exam study schedule, or make a professional appointment with a learning strategist to hone your skills!

“Study smarter, not harder” is the cliche — but it’s true! Our “Preparing for and taking tests and exams” resources are thorough and will help you create a customized study schedule and teach you strategies for effectively preparing, no matter what type of test you face.


Read More

Exam Strategies? SASS has your back.


Welcome to exam season!


Student Academic Success Services has got you covered! Make an exam study schedule, or make a professional appointment with a learning strategist to hone your skills!

“Study smarter, not harder” is the cliche — but it’s true! Our “Preparing for and taking tests and exams” resources are thorough and will help you create a customized study schedule and teach you strategies for effectively preparing, no matter what type of test you face.


Read More

Peer Blog: Catching Up to Road Runners

By Becky Bando, 4th year Con-Ed/English student

If you have ever watched an episode of the cartoon Looney Tunes, I guarantee that at some point during that episode there was a chase scene. We see this same storyline occur in almost every episode between characters such as Sylvester and Tweety, Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck, and Yosemite Sam and Bugs Bunny. But out of all of these chase scenes, the most intense ones would have to be between Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Unlike other antagonists, the Coyote does not appear to have any other food sources aside from the Road Runner since he is out in the dessert. This makes him one of the most desperate predators, and the only Looney Tunes character that I have ever felt sorry for.

Why? Because whenever I am in a situation where I am extremely behind in my academics, I see myself as being in the position of the Coyote when I know I need to be in the position of the Road Runner. Every year I feel as if I am always struggling to keep up with my readings whereas all of my classmates are Road Runners who always seem to be on top of everything. It is important to know though that everyone becomes the Coyote and falls behind in school from time to time. Even those students who appear to be Road Runners are probably more tired of running than you think.

So, as a very experienced coyote myself (who did not do many readings over Reading Week), here are my tips for catching up in school:

#1) Look ahead

While it is important to finish readings that should have been completed earlier, it is more crucial that you look at upcoming readings and assignments. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to catch up that we do not pay attention to what we have coming up next. In Looney Tunes, the Coyote also uses this method by running to specific locations that he knows the Road Runner will come by in the future, rather than running off a cliff (which does happen at times). You can also can anticipate your own Road Runner’s next destination through using your syllabus. So, make sure that you still schedule in time for your upcoming readings and evaluations. Your schedule may also help you understand which readings should be done now, versus during the exam study period when you may have more time to catch up. Here are a few helpful scheduling templates: https://sass.queensu.ca/time-management/schedule-templates/

#2) Don’t fall for the procrastination trap!

Sometimes we take so long planning that we unintentionally get even further behind. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a “worry-planner,” and the Coyote is also a prime example of this. He spends far too much time creating elaborate traps out of sheer desperation. He even makes a painting of a fake tunnel on a wall to trick the Road Runner into crashing into it. So while it is useful to plan ahead, make sure you do not invest all of your time into it. Trust me—a hand-written colored schedule with a color legend to decipher it is not always the quickest option in March. A great way to counter stress-planning is using a variation of the 50/10 rule, where you do 50 minutes of homework but substitute your 10 minutes of relaxation for 10 minutes of planning. The SASS Assignment Calculator is also a quick method of creating a plan without spending too much time on it since it can automatically break an assignment into a series of steps and deadlines for completion: https://sass.queensu.ca/onlineresource/assignment-calculator/

#3) Be realistic and prioritize

Let’s be honest, you were probably working your butt off when you fell behind. So how are you going to catch up to the Road Runner when you were already working your hardest just to keep up with him? The Coyote never faces the fact that the Road Runner is too far ahead of him, yet he still chases him. That being said, just because you cannot complete all of your readings, does not mean you still cannot achieve an acceptable grade. Also, remember that you should never sacrifice your health habits (such as sleeping, exercising and eating) in order to gain more time to catch up. For good health are what make academic success possible. In cases where catching up is impossible, it is important to consider your options. Try identifying which readings and assignments are more important than others; use prioritization strategies such as the ABC method: http://sass.queensu.ca/time-management/

#4) Ask for help

The difference between you and the Coyote is that you are not stranded alone on a desert. There are several resources that can help you get back on track such as:

  • your professor/TA: It can be nerve-wracking admitting to your professor how far behind you are, but the worst thing they can say is that they cannot help you. Though most of the time they can offer more helpful course-specific strategies for catching up. Here are some tips for how to communicate with your professors: https://sass.queensu.ca/communicating-with-profs/.
  • your friends/peers: When I fell behind in my biology course, some of my classmates and I created a Facebook page where we divided up the note-taking on upcoming readings. While this is not the best method for learning course material, it gave us an understanding of the content covered in class and required for assignments.  
  • Student Academic Success Services: The Peer Learning Assistants at SASS offer several helpful workshops on topics such as time management and procrastination. There is even a “Catching Up!” workshop on March 12th (https://sass.queensu.ca/programs/workshops/)! You can also book free one-on-one consultations with Learning Strategies and the Writing Centre (https://sass.queensu.ca/programs/appointments/).

Being weeks behind in a course is one of the worst feelings as a student, and can turn us into the most desperate version of the Coyote. While it may seem as if we will never catch up to the Road Runners of university, we have a chance of getting back on track by staying calm (through following these tips) and not working to the point of burnout. Here are a few other great resources:

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Academic integrity

Download a PDF of this resource here.

For a more in-depth and interactive discussion of academic integrity, check out our online module.

One of the most important reasons to attend university is to continue your own academic and personal growth. Queen’s University is “dedicated to learning, intellectual inquiry, the dissemination and advancement of knowledge, personal and professional development, and good citizenship” in its scholarly community (Queen’s Code of Conduct, p. 2). Academic integrity is a key part of this dedication.

In this resource, you’ll find information about

  • what “academic integrity” means
  • why it matters
  • what counts as academic dishonesty
  • how SASS can help you maintain your academic integrity while you’re at Queen’s.

What is academic integrity?Why do students cheat?Why does it matter?Violations of academic integrityHow SASS can helpFAQReferences

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.

trust, honesty, fairness, respect, responsibility, courage

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

As you likely already know, it’s your responsibility to practice academic integrity in all of your academic work. Violating academic integrity can have some serious consequences. Practicing academic integrity is also critical to your identity as a student and a scholar.

However, you don’t have to master academic integrity skills on your own! SASS can help you, whether you are an undergraduate or a graduate student, new to or familiar with academic integrity.

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

NEXT: Why do students cheat?

Why do students cheat?

Many academic integrity violations are committed when students:

  • are stressed and working at the last minute
  • misunderstand the rules
  • lack knowledge about how to quote and paraphrase.

This and other SASS resources on academic integrity will help you avoid these pitfalls.

You can achieve your goals and follow academic integrity if you adopt good learning strategies and ask for help when you need it. Talk to your instructors if you have fallen behind and feel like cheating is the only option. SASS can help you get back on track.

NEXT: Why does academic integrity matter?

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 and follow the same rules. Academic integrity also supports the reputation of Queen’s; universities, and the degrees they confer, are only as strong as their reputations.

Violating academic integrity can also have serious consequences for you personally, 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 adopt effective and ethical approaches to learning and studying. 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 will follow you beyond any one class to graduation and into the workforce.

NEXT: 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, forgery, and misuse of intellectual property.


What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is probably the most well-known breach of academic integrity. Plagiarism means using someone else’s ideas, words or phrases—their intellectual property—and, intentionally or not, representing them as your own.

For example, it’s plagiarism if you:

  • copy text or images from the internet, a printed source, or other source and fail to provide appropriate acknowledgment
  • copy from another student
  • use direct quotations or paraphrased material in an assignment without appropriate acknowledgment
  • 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

A key factor in scholarship is community. Becoming part of a community of scholars means that you are joining an ongoing discussion. It isn’t necessary, especially at the undergraduate level, to create new knowledge in every assignment. Instead, you are expected to build on and refer to established knowledge.

All scholarship is built on what came before it. We all learn from others, generation to generation, across and within disciplines. So long as you acknowledge the sources of your words and ideas, you are not plagiarizing—in fact, you are doing what you’re supposed to do!

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.

Use of unauthorized materials

What does it mean to use unauthorized materials? 

  • possessing or using forbidden 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
  • 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 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 by:


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
  • 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?

Collaboration includes group work (for example, on a lab or assignment), jointly working on homework problems, having a friend help you rewrite a paper—even checking homework answers before submitting them. In all these cases, it is your responsibility to ensure that the work you submit is the result of only your own effort—if the work has your name on it, you are responsible for all of it.

When is it okay to collaborate? The only way to know for sure is to ask your instructors if, and to what extent, you can work with others on any assignment or task that will be submitted for marks. Never guess or assume, no matter what “everyone else” is doing.

For more information, see “Collaborating with Integrity.


What is falsification?

It’s an act of falsification to misrepresent yourself, your work, or your relationship to Queen’s. For example, it’s falsification if you:

  • create or alter a transcript or other official document
  • impersonate someone in an exam or test
  • 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:

  • plan ahead so that you have enough time to find materials, gather data, do your readings, or study course content.
  • always honestly portray your own and others’ work. Sometimes what you perceive to be the wrong numbers or seemingly insignificant data can turn out to be just as valuable as what you expect to find.
  • keep lines of communication open with your professor or graduate supervisor and discuss challenges.


What is forgery?

Forgery is falsification taken to the extreme: it is not altering official documents, but submitting 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.

Intellectual property

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property can take different forms, but broadly speaking, it is a product of intellectual or artistic effort, for example:

  • slides or notes from a lecture
  • exam content
  • a handout from a student’s presentation
  • a piece of art produced by a student
  • research notes
  • lab notes
  • a research paper (published or not).

Why is misuse of intellectual property a problem?

Students and professors at Queen’s own the intellectual property rights to their academic work. This means that you may not use or sell their work without their authorization. Using or selling others’ work for profit or unfair academic, personal or professional advantage is a violation of academic integrity and very likely of copyright law. It also breaks the bonds of trust between instructors and students, and gives future students an unfair advantage.

Examples of this type of violation:

  • uploading course materials, such as lecture notes or slides, to note-sharing websites without an instructor’s permission
  • providing course materials to commercial exam prep services that have not been sanctioned by the university
  • accessing and using materials from file-sharing sites.

How to avoid this form of academic dishonesty:

  • Always ask your professor’s permission first if you would like to distribute course materials.

If you would like to access past exams or assignments, ask your instructor if they would share them, or ask if there is a place to access past assessments to which the instructor has already consented (like an exam bank).

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

How SASS can help

How SASS can help

We get it: it can be challenging to keep up with coursework, submit assignments on time, and still have time to manage the rest of your life.

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 academic integrity. For example, we have workshops on

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

SASS handouts and resources

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

Writing & Learning appointments

Our expert staff of professional writing consultants and academic skills specialists 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.

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

NEXT: Frequently-asked questions about academic integrity

Frequently asked questions

Students often have specific questions about what is and isn’t considered an academic integrity issue. We answer some of these questions 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 or even their 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.

Still have questions about academic integrity?

Remember, you don’t have to master these skills all by yourself. Many people and services at Queen’s can help you.


International Center for Academic Integrity. (2021, May 16). Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity. https://academicintegrity.org/images/pdfs/20019_ICAI-Fundamental-Values_R12.pdf.

Queen’s University Office of Academic Integrity. (2021, May 17). Responding to Investigations Related to Academic Integrity. https://www.queensu.ca/academicintegrity/students-and-academic-integrity/responding-investigations-related-academic-integrity.

Queen’s University Senate. (2021, June 28). Senate Policy on Academic Integrity Procedures – Requirements of Faculties & Schools


Weimer, M. (2021, May 10). A Memo to Students About Cheating. The Teaching Professor. https://www.teachingprofessor.com/topics/resource-collections/resources-for-students/memos-to-students/memo-students-cheating/.

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Making Molehills out of Mount Doom

By Sophie Lachapelle, third-year Health Studies and Global Development student

Let’s talk about The Lord of the Rings. Frodo the hobbit was given the mission of destroying the One Ring, essentially destroying all evil in the world. As you could expect, the journey wasn’t completed in a one shot attempt. Frodo, with the Fellowship of the Ring, worked tirelessly for months to reach his goal while making sacrifices along the way. As we all know, the Ring was destroyed, Lord Sauron was defeated, and Middle Earth experienced peace once again.

Okay, back to Queen’s University in Kingston for a second. We’re still lamenting the end of Thanksgiving and perhaps recovering from Homecoming Weekend – why are we talking about Lord of the Rings? Although I am a big fan of the movies, there is a lesson to be learned here.

Who has a big project (or two, or five) due sometime in the next seven weeks of class? Ya, me too. Don’t those titles like “Final Term Essay” or “Group Project Discussing Everything We’ve Ever Learned” sound a bit intimidating? I’m sure that Frodo felt the same way when Lord Elrond gave him the Ring to destroy. It would be really easy right now to ride the holiday train a few more weeks and put off starting those mountainous projects. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer grade-weight that this project will have on your final mark, I suggest you follow Frodo’s example: take it one phase at a time. As we say at Learning Strategies, “Make molehills out of mountains.

When I write an essay, I break it into four stages: research, outline, a rough draft, and a final draft. I generally try to leave a week for each stage so that I’m not racing against time two days before the deadline. Frodo and his friends did something similar; their journey was broken up into crossing smaller geographical distances, instead of traversing the whole of Middle Earth in one go. Not only did breaking up the journey re-energize Frodo to take on the next stage, it gave him the motivation and pressure he needed to continue.

Try breaking up your projects into more manageable steps and you’ll be more likely to start them earlier, put more effort into the final results, and finish with a higher degree of satisfaction. If you need some help breaking up your projects, head on over to the Queen’s Learning Commons’ Assignment Calculator and simply enter the desired project start and end dates to see a schedule of smaller, easier-to-complete deadlines!

If you’re like me and you like to see when projects are due ahead of time, print off a couple copies of the Learning Strategies Term Calendar Template! This term calendar will help you visualize each deadline in relation to the others – an important thing to keep in mind when you have more than one final project!

Although these last seven weeks may feel like you’re travelling through Middle Earth on a nearly impossible mission, remember that if Frodo can climb up Mount Doom to destroy the Ring, you can finish this project. You’ve got this.


Photo courtesy of Antoine Skipper under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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