Academic Integrity and Ethics

“You know it's not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls. It's the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our very being is good stuff."

— Fred “Mr. Rogers” Rogers

Note: the information below may be outdated, please check the Ethics and Integrity at Carolina website or with your department for the most current guidelines.


As an emerging researcher, the questions you ask and the answers you find will lead you and your colleagues into uncharted waters of knowledge. With intellectual discovery and collaboration come new responsibilities. In conducting and then disseminating the results of your research, you will be accountable both to your colleagues and to the public. The material that follows is intended to help you navigate the complex moral situations that you will encounter in an advanced academic setting.

Trust is the foundation of scholarship at the University. Innovation can continue only in an atmosphere of confidence and fairness. You must be able to trust that your colleagues are honest in presenting their research, and they must have the same trust in your work. The range of research subjects and methods, along with systems of analysis and data presentation that guide each field, give rise to situations of great moral complexity. Likewise, relationships between teachers and students, along with great opportunity, carry important responsibilities and obligations. Students will strengthen the foundation of trust within the University by gaining knowledge of their fields and committing themselves to cultivating collegial relationships.

Academic integrity is essential not only for progress within the academy, but also for maintaining the trust granted by the people of North Carolina, the nation, and the world. The independence and reputation of the University rest in the hands of those who are scrupulous in their search for truth. This responsibility is now yours.

Some Causes of Academic Misconduct

Graduate students are under a lot of pressure while completing their academic programs. These pressures may tempt scholars and researchers to “cut corners,” borrow an idea without proper attribution, or stray from standard practices in a particular academic field. Student teachers and researchers should strive to be attentive to how these pressures impact their conduct in the classroom, the library, and the laboratory. These pressures include:

These pressures or some combination thereof will be present throughout your graduate career and beyond. As you make your way in an academic discipline, continue to be aware of the ethical implications of the work that you do. The professional associations that govern your discipline are likely to have published guidelines for professional practice and scholarship. Allow these guidelines to inform your own, personal values in conducting scholarship, teaching, and research.

Continue to include ethical considerations in discussions with your student colleagues, teachers, researchers and others with whom you will be working. A healthy dialogue about academic integrity and ethics will go a long way to ensure that the public trust and the professional trust are in good hands. As times change and knowledge increases, new ethical demands will be placed on you and your work. With a clearly articulated set of standards, you will be able to meet the ethical challenges that this new knowledge presents.

Violations and Sanctions

The University, along with professional associations, monitors and applies sanctions in response to violations of normative practices in scholarship, teaching, and research. There are a variety of University agencies and policies that address academic or research misconduct. Consult with your academic advisor, a faculty member, the chair of your department, dean of your school/college, or a dean in the Graduate School if you have questions about the ethical dimensions of any component of your program at Carolina.

Also, consult the resources listed in the enclosed booklet, Responsible Conduct of Research, for more information specifically related to integrity in research.
Other University policies relating to ethics in research, scholarship and teaching are found in the third section of this orientation binder, “Policies and Procedures.” They include policies on:

Consult these documents, the Graduate School (966-2611), or the Assistant Dean of Students/Judicial Programs Officer in the Office of the Dean of Students (966-4042) for more information or to register your concern about issues of academic misconduct on campus.

Ethical Issues in Research

Guidelines for Research

There has been a good deal of concern in the U.S. Congress, among grant funding agencies, and among the general public about “fraud in research.” The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has put in place its “Policy and Procedures on Ethics in Research” as required by these agencies. All persons engaged in research should be familiar with these rules. (Copies are available from the Office of Sponsored Research, 966-3412 or 3411.)

Clearly it is important for the Institution as well as for the individual not just to know how to deal with fraud in research when it has occurred but—perhaps more importantly—to prevent such fraud from occurring in the first place. In fact, we should comport ourselves in such a way that even the suspicion of fraud is unlikely to arise and, if it does arise unjustly, we have the records in hand to prove that the allegation was misplaced.

Therefore the present guidelines, relating to Data Gathering, Storage and Retention, to Publication Practices and Authorship and to Supervision of Research Personnel were devised by the Faculty Committee on Research. Many are based on similar guidelines already extant at other institutions or in our School of Medicine. Although they do not have the force of law or regulation, they are strongly commended to your attention as desirable and prudent practices.

The most important ingredients in avoiding fraud are the integrity and high ethical standards of the research project leader. If the project leader cuts corners and is more concerned with next week’s publication or next month’s research grant renewal than with a life-long reputation and the integrity of the research, these guidelines are not likely to be of much help. They have been designed to assist those who are determined to maintain high standards in their research careers.

In making the following recommendations, the Faculty Committee on Research recognizes that there are wide variations from one field to another. Nevertheless we strongly urge adherence to these guidelines, if necessary with appropriate modifications to accommodate solidly established practices within a field.

General University Policies

Anyone engaged in research must abide by University, Divisional and Departmental policies and procedures concerning research.

Data Gathering, Storage, Retention

A common denominator in most cases of alleged scientific misconduct has been the absence of a complete set of verifiable data. The retention of accurately recorded and retrievable results is of the utmost importance for the progress of scientific inquiry. A scientist must have access to their original results in order to respond to questions including, but not limited to, those that may arise without any implication of impropriety. Moreover, errors may be mistaken for misconduct when the primary experimental results are unavailable.


Publication Practices: Authorship

A gradual diffusion of responsibility for multi-authored or collaborative studies has led in recent years to the publication of papers for which no single author was prepared to take full responsibility. Two critical safeguards in the publication of accurate scientific reports are the active participation of each coauthor in verifying that part of a manuscript that falls within their specialty area and the designation of one author who is responsible for the validity of the entire manuscript.


Supervision of Research Personnel

Careful supervision of all research personnel by their research project leaders is in the best interest of the trainee, the institution, and the scientific community. The complexity of scientific methods, the necessity for caution in interpreting possibly ambiguous data, and the need for advanced statistical analysis, all require an active role for the research project leader in the guidance of research personnel.


Ethics in Scholarship

Issues of Attribution

Scholarly research and writing requires a delicate weaving of your ideas with the ideas, research, and methods of other scholars. As isolating (and private) an act as scholarship might feel, after long, lonely hours in a library or a laboratory, scholarship is accomplished within a community of scholars, whether or not you ever meet the people upon whose ideas you build your own. Scholars must rely responsibly on the work of others. Therefore, it is important that you know what constitutes appropriate attribution of source material when you write and conduct research.

Become familiar with the guidelines for attribution outlined in the booklet, Responsible Conduct of Research, or in documents prepared by your department or the professional association in your field. These issues become particularly important when attributing credit for work and authorship in scholarship conducted collaboratively. Do not hesitate to contact your advisor or the chair of your department for guidance.


It is important to know exactly what plagiarism is in order to avoid it in your work. While the Instrument of Judicial Governance addresses academic offenses under the Honor Code (see the Policies section of this orientation binder), several examples of plagiarism may make the concepts clearer.

Plagiarism, as defined by the Instrument of Judicial Governance is the “intentional representation of another person’s words, thoughts, or ideas as one’s own.” Plagiarism is wrong, and should not be condoned. Cases of plagiarism strongly affect the University community. The normal sanction for plagiarism is suspension of the student from the University. For graduate students who may be assigned a failing grade on recommendations of the Graduate Honor Court because of documented plagiarism, the result is expulsion from their program and the end of their graduate career at Carolina.

Independent thought is encouraged in graduate education, but mature scholarship requires that one person’s ideas be built with the help of other scholars and researchers. In the academy it is expected that all “borrowed” material will be appropriately credited to the originator of the thoughts, ideas, and words.

Any amount of material copied from an unacknowledged source, no matter how small, can be considered plagiarism. Ignorance of citation procedures is not an excuse for plagiarism. At the graduate level, it is assumed that all students know the rules of citation and quotation. It is not enough to list a source in the bibliography without proper citation of the material in the body of a text. If you are unsure of the rules of citation and attribution, talk with your instructor or consult any of the style and writing manuals listed at the end of this section of the orientation binder.

One practice that may lead to unintentional plagiarism is careless note taking, but even here, there is no excuse. Take good and thorough notes when reviewing literature or recording data; record exact sources and citations, including page numbers. Students often will forget if a sentence or passage is something they wrote or if it was taken from another source. The following are examples of plagiarism:

1. Quoting Directly without Proper Acknowledgment

In this example, the student made changes to the first part of the sentence, then copied directly from the source. All material borrowed from another source must be placed in quotation marks. Quoted material longer than three sentences should be indented without quotation marks.


For decades, student athletes, usually seventeen-to-nineteen-year-old freshmen, have informally agreed to contract with the university to attend: athletic performance in exchange for an education. The athletes have kept their part of the bargain; the universities have not. Universities and athletic departments have gained huge gate receipts, television revenues, national visibility, donors to university programs, and more, as a result of the performances of gifted basketball and football players, of whom a disproportionate number of the most gifted and most exploited have been black.

From Harry Edwards (1983)
“Educating Black Athletes”
The Atlantic Monthly, August 1983

From the student’s paper

For years, young student athletes have virtually signed four years of their lives away to compete for a university in exchange for a college degree. The athletes have kept their part of the bargain; the universities have not. Universities and athletic departments have gained huge gate receipts, television revenues, national visibility, donors to university programs, and more, as a result of the performances of gifted basketball and football players, of whom a disproportionate number of the most gifted and most exploited have been black.

2. Paraphrasing

In the passages that follow, the student has recorded the source by substituting words and changing sentences, but keeps the ideas and thoughts of the source. Although the student has reworded the sentences or passage extensively, the author still must be acknowledged. When used properly, paraphrasing can be a valuable tool for summarizing the author’s ideas into your own thoughts. When paraphrasing, if most of the ideas are coming from the source, you must include an appropriate citation to the original author. Paraphrasing, without proper citation, is plagiarism.


For decades, student athletes, usually seventeen-to-nineteen-year-old freshmen, have informally agreed to contract with the university to attend: athletic performance in exchange for an education. The athletes have kept their part of the bargain; the universities have not. Universities and athletic departments have gained huge gate receipts, television revenues, national visibility, donors to university programs, and more, as a result of the performances of gifted basketball and football players, of whom a disproportionate number of the most gifted and most exploited have been black.

From Harry Edwards (1983)
“Educating Black Athletes”
The Atlantic Monthly, August 1983


Generations of athletes entering colleges and universities across the country have signed a contract with the university to compete in sports, giving their athletic services in exchange for room, board, tuition, and a college degree.

The athletes have kept their part of the bargain by dedicating themselves to the university for four years; the universities have not, with eight out of ten leaving the university without a college degree.

The sports programs at these universities have profited tremendously from the talent of football and basketball players, of whom, blacks tend to be over represented. The dramatic increase in the proportion of black college athletes has paralleled college sports’ ability to attract television revenues, huge gate receipts, and national visibility.

Plagiarism can be easily avoided by consulting any of the many writing manuals. There are many different ways to note a source. The most widely used is the University of Chicago Manual of Style, favored in the traditional humanities. The economy of citation used by the Modern Language Association (MLA) also is widely accepted. The following style and writing manuals are in the library:

The secret to using sources productively is to use them to support and develop your own ideas. If you find that too much of your paper is coming from the source, start over. If you have doubts about how to cite material, consult your instructor to see which method is preferred in your department or field.

Ethics in Teaching

Good teaching requires that you both act responsibly and teach your students how to
act responsibly.

Being a Responsible Teacher

There are number of ethical issues of which you should be aware when teaching. These include, but are not limited to, confidentiality, racial and sexual harassment, favoritism, exploitation, and conflict of interest. It is crucial that you have an attitude of respect toward your students and that you uphold their right to a fair and impartial classroom environment. If you are unsure about what is required of you, consult the TA coordinator in your department or in the Center for Teaching and Learning. Many of these issues will be discussed in departmental TA training courses or the Orientation Program for TAs conducted by the Center for Teaching and Learning.

Teaching Responsible Conduct

In acting respectfully toward your students, you will be teaching them about proper academic behavior. You also have a responsibility to promote and enforce the Honor Code in your classroom (see the Policies section of this orientation binder). The way in which you do this will depend, of course, on your teaching situation; however, there are some general strategies that you can implement.

If at any time you have questions about the Honor Code or how it applies to your course, do not hesitate to contact either the Attorney General or Assistant Dean for Students/Judicial Programs in the Office of the Dean of Students (966-4042).

Research Misconduct


Public trust in the integrity and ethical behavior of scholars must be maintained if research is to continue to play its proper role in our University and society. It is the policy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (hereinafter "University") that its research be carried out with the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior. While the primary responsibility for maintaining integrity in research rests with those who conduct it, the University has established standards to ensure a healthy environment for research and compliance with law. Such standards include this Policy and Procedures on Responding to Allegations of Research Misconduct (hereinafter "Policy").

Each member of the University community has a personal responsibility for implementing this Policy in relation to any scholarly work with which he or she is associated and for helping his or her associates in continuing efforts to avoid any activity which might be considered in violation of this Policy. Failure to comply with this Policy shall be dealt with according to the procedures specified herein and is considered to be a violation of the trust placed in each member of the University community.

This Policy applies to University research personnel, including faculty, staff, students, trainees, technicians, guest researchers, collaborators and consultants. In addition this Policy applies to all research conducted under the auspices of the University, regardless of the source of financial support.

Any use of this Policy or these Procedures to bring malicious charges or charges not otherwise in good faith against any individual and any act of retaliation or reprisal against an individual for reporting in good faith a charge of misconduct in research shall be violations of this Policy. Such violations shall be dealt with through regular administrative processes for violations of University policies.


1. "Research Misconduct" means fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.

2. Any individual having reason to believe that someone has engaged in research misconduct related to University research has an obligation to report their concerns to their own department chair (or equivalent unit head) or directly to the Research Integrity Officer (RIO). The Department Chair (or equivalent) shall immediately notify the RIO, who will inform the Deciding Official. If the circumstances described do not meet the definition of research misconduct, as set forth in Section IV.A of the Policy, the RIO may refer the individual or allegation to other offices or officials with responsibility for resolving the issue. Research misconduct is a confidential personnel matter.

3. The RIO will assess the allegation to determine whether it (1) falls within the definition of research misconduct in the Policy and applicable federal regulations, including, as applicable 42 C.F.R. ยง 93.103 and other federal agency guidance, and (2) is sufficiently credible and specific so that potential evidence of research misconduct may be identified. An Inquiry will be conducted if both of these criteria are met. The Inquiry is a step in the process to conduct an initial review of the available evidence to determine whether an Investigation is warranted. An Investigation is warranted if: (1) there is a reasonable basis for concluding that the allegation falls within the definition of research misconduct in this Policy and (2) preliminary information-gathering and preliminary fact-finding from the Inquiry indicate that the allegation may have substance.

5. A research misconduct matter that progresses to an Investigation is the formal development and examination of a factual record leading to (1) a decision not to make a finding of research misconduct or (2) a recommendation for a finding of research misconduct, which may include a recommendation for internal administrative or other appropriate action.

6. A finding of research misconduct requires: (1) the misconduct alleged meets the definition of research misconduct as set forth in this Policy or applicable federal agency policy; (2) the alleged misconduct is a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; and (3) the misconduct was committed intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly. A finding of research misconduct must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. If the respondent presents any affirmative defenses to an allegation of research misconduct, the respondent has the burden of going forward with and the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, such affirmative defenses.

Revised 12/03/2015

Reporting Research Misconduct

You can report research misconduct by:

University Policies Affecting Graduate Student Research

Participating in research that is important, challenging, feasible, ethical, and complementary to your needs is fundamental to your success in graduate school. Each graduate research experience involves a unique set of circumstances, including sources of extramural support, involvement of external collaborators, relationships between graduate students and faculty, and supervision of people and resources. Understanding the dynamics of managing a multidisciplinary research project is one of the most valuable aspects of the graduate experience.

In order to prevent misunderstandings, it is essential that faculty and graduate students engage in frequent, candid and thoughtful discussions about the technical and ethical implications of their research. You should ask your research advisor about 1) all sources of extramural funding directly supporting your research experience, 2) all collaborators and co-investigators who may be directly involved in your research, 3) any of his or her personal and/or professional relationships that may be directly involved in supporting your research, and 4) any implied or implicit restrictions on your learning experience related to the preceding items.

As you conduct your research, there will be a number of pertinent institutional policies with which you must comply. A short list may include the protection of research subjects, safe laboratory procedures, animal care policies, grant and contract requirements for disclosure of research findings, and infectious disease control policies. The exact mix of these policies that will affect you depends greatly upon the specific nature of your research project. Ask your research advisor to explain, and make available to you, those policies which affect your lab and your research project. Short descriptions of University policies on copyright, patent rights and involvement of graduate students in the outside commercial interests of faculty members follow.

Copyright Guidelines

As a graduate student, you may be both producing works entitled to copyright protection and using, either in teaching or research, materials which are copyright protected. Thus, a thumbnail sketch of copyright guidelines is useful. Subject to important exceptions, one who holds a copyright has the right to prevent others from using or reproducing the copyrighted work without permission. University policy provides that in general, copyright in copyrightable materials (e.g, written or visual works, sound recordings or software) is held by the creator. Creators of a joint work are co-owners of the copyright. In instances where the University does not own all or part of a copyright, distribution of income from the copyrighted work, rare in an academic setting, is a matter of arrangement between the creator(s) and the publishers or licensees. Be aware, however, that many publishers require authors of journal articles to assign copyright as a condition of publication.

General exceptions to the preceding rules apply to those who are hired to produce a specific work, where the University retains copyright, and where a sponsored research agreement requires a different arrangement, where either the University or sponsor retains copyright, depending on the provisions of the research agreement. In the case where an author uses unique University resources on a sustained and significant basis as in the production of software or audio-visual materials, the contribution of the University is acknowledged through joint copyright ownership. Also, some University units or departments, under policies approved by the Chancellor, require faculty, staff and students to assign copyright to the University.

In the case of student works, the University Copyright Guidelines make a couple of special exceptions to the general presumption that the creator holds copyright. When your dissertation, thesis or other student work is part of a larger University research project, original records of the investigation (i. e., data or notebooks) are property of the University, but may be retained by the student at the discretion of the chair of the student’s major department. The University shall also have, as a condition of enrollment in any course or the award of any degree, the royalty-free right to retain and use a limited number of copies of a student work. In the case of theses and dissertations, the University has the right to require their publication for archival use.

The “fair use” doctrine is a defense to claims of copyright infringement. Where the doctrine applies, one may copy and use copyrighted works without permission of the copyright owner. At the University, such copying or use should not be undertaken without consultation with the appropriate legal counsel staff. Students may consult Student Legal Services regarding application of the fair use doctrine to their research activities. Questions about unauthorized use or reproduction of copyrighted materials in other contexts should be directed to the Office of University Counsel.

Patent Rights

In some cases, the research you do as a graduate student might lead to patentable discoveries. Assignment of patent rights and shares of any royalty income for work done by you while at the University is governed by the Board of Governors’ Patent and Copyright Policies and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Patent and Copyright Procedures. The policy applies whenever there is any use of institutional time, resources, or facilities by faculty, staff, or students. If you believe you have made a patentable discovery, you should contact the Office of Technology Development in Bynum Hall.

Patent rights may be affected by contractual arrangements between the University and the sponsor of your research project. Under the terms of some research contracts between the University and various agencies of government, private or public corporations, or other private interests, the University may be required to license all patent rights to the contracting party. In these cases, specific provisions of the grant or contract will govern rights and revenue distribution regarding inventions made in connection with sponsored research.

Conflict of Interest and Commitment

Funding the research enterprise is becoming a more complex endeavor than in the past. Faculty members are increasingly engaging in consulting and outside commercial interests to capitalize upon the discoveries made in their academic research labs. These developments offer a variety of new opportunities for graduate student research. The Policy on Conflicts of Interest and Commitment helps to assure the primacy of academic integrity in these relationships between faculty members, graduate students, and a faculty member’s outside commercial interests.

The University requires disclosure to academic administration and a heightened level of oversight in cases where 1) a faculty member assigns any students, postdocs or other trainees to projects sponsored by a for-profit or non-profit business in which the faculty member, or a family member, has a significant financial interest, or 2) a faculty member allows participation of students or other trainees in a consulting relationship meeting the definition of a significant financial interest.

In these cases, a management plan must be devised by the Department Chair, with the Dean’s approval, to monitor and correct any adverse effects upon involved, and non-involved, graduate students. Regular monitoring and establishment of open feedback channels for the graduate students should be a normal part of each management plan must be devised by the Department Chair, with the Dean’s approval, to monitor and correct any adverse effects upon involved, and non-involved, graduate students. Regular monitoring and establishment of open feedback channels for the graduate students should be a normal part of each management plan. If you become involved in the outside commercial interests of a faculty member, any concerns that arise should be addressed as soon as they arise to your advisor or your Department Chair or Dean.

This document benefited from the UNC School of Pharmacy’s Rights and Procedure of Recourse for Students Involved in Research and discussions of the Conflict of Interest and Commitment Committee of the Administrative Board of the Graduate School.


American Association of University Professors. (1994). Policy documents and reports. Washington, DC: American Association of University Professors.

————. (1987). Statement on professional ethics. Academe. July-August, 1987. 49.
Asmore, R. B. & Starr, W. C. (Eds.). (1991). Ethics across the curriculum: The Marquette experience. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press.

Association of American Medical Colleges. (1994). Teaching the responsible conduct of research through a case study approach: A handbook for instructors. Washington, DC: Association of American Medical Colleges.

Baca, M. C. & Stein, R. H. (Eds.). (1983). Ethical principles, practices and problems in higher education. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher.

Bok, D. C. (1976). Can ethics be taught? Change. October 1976. 4-6.

Cahn, S. (Ed.). (1990). Morality, responsibility, and the university. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Collins, M. J. (Ed.). (1983). Teaching values and ethics in college. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 13, March 1983.

Getman, J. (1992). In the company of scholars. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Kasworm, C. E. (1988). “Facilitating ethical development: A paradox” in Brockett, R. G. (Ed.) Ethical issues in adult education. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.

Keith-Spiegel, P.; Wittig, A.F.; Perkins, D.V.; Balogh, D. W. & Whitley, R., B. E. (1993). The ethics of teaching: A casebook. Muncie, IN: Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology, Ball State University.

LaPidus, J. B. & Mishkin, B. “Values and ethics in the graduate education of scientists” in May, W. W. (Ed.) Ethics and higher education. New York: Macmillan.

Long, E., Jr. (1992). Higher education as a moral enterprise. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

May, W. (Ed.). (1990). Ethics and higher education. New York: Macmillan.
Menand, L. (1993). “The future of academic freedom.” Academe, (May-June 1993).

Payne, S. & Charnov, B. (Eds.). (1987). Ethical dilemmas for academic professionals. Springfield, IL: Thomas Books.

Swartzlander, S. D.; Pace, D. & Stamler, V. L. (1993). “The ethics of requiring students to write about their personal lives.” Chronicle of Higher Education, (February 17, 1993, B1-2).

Swayze, J.P.; Louis, K. S. & Anderson, M. S. (1994). “The ethical training of graduate students requires serious and continuing attention.” Chronicle of Higher Education, (March 9, 1994, B1-4).

Sylvan Lake Associates. (1994). Ethical issues in research and science. (A computer-aided, self-instructional course).