Case Studies

Jessica Kalra

Sharing case studies and news reports of real-life examples of academic misconduct and the consequences of a failure to meet the expectations of academic integrity policies is another useful way of beginning the conversation with your students. These types of examples are less abstract than those included in the policy documents and therefore can be more memorable for your students. In groups, students can analyze the case study by answering guiding discussion questions and then as a whole class compare their answers and try to come to a consensus.

How to implement a case study or cooperative learning activity:

Option 1

  1. Divide the students into small groups (3 to 4 participants).
  2. Select one of the case studies below to work with.
  3. Ask the groups to analyze to case study by answering the guiding questions within the group.
  4. Ask the groups to share their ideas. Identify points of agreement and explore differing opinions. Seek to come to a common understanding.

Option 2

  1. Ask the students to work in small groups
  2. Assign a different case study to each group.
  3. Ask the group members to analyze the case study and answer the guiding questions.
  4. Once the group members have thoroughly read and analyzed the case study, reassign students to Cooperative Learning Teams where each team has a representative from each of the previous groups.
  5. Ask the students within each Cooperative Learning Team to share the case they read and lead a discussion on the case study.

The following are some case studies and discussion questions that can be used in class to help students examine the nature and consequences of different forms of academic misconduct.

Case 1: The Cover Letter

Jane Albert is a student in an upper level, experiential learning course. As part of this course she is asked to practice writing a resume for a chosen field. Jane chose to write the resume as if she were applying for an entry level customer service position. When Jane handed in the assignment, it included the following paragraph in the objective statement:

“Acquiring and maintaining loyal repeat business as well as spreading the word of your business through these loyal patrons is of the utmost importance in every company”.

The vocabulary and grammar in this paragraph did not match the language in Jane’s previous assignments, so Jane’s instructor searched the internet and found the following on a web site:

“My long-term experience in the service industry has taught me how to meet and exceed each customer’s expectations with service that sells. I have assisted all types of customers in all types of settings. I realize that acquiring and maintaining loyal repeat business as well as spreading the word of your business through these loyal patrons is of the utmost importance in every company.”


  1. Has Jane demonstrated academic Integrity in her actions? Explain why or why not.
  2. Could Jane’s actions be unfair or dishonest? If so, to whom? If not, why not?
  3. What would be an appropriate course of action by the instructor if this was the first time Jane did this? Be sure to justify your answer.

Case 2: Was this your idea?

Sam Pender wrote a review paper for his cell biology class. The topic was on the novel findings of mitochondrial DNA transmission patterns. In the paper Sam wrote the following without an in-text citation:

“I believe that understanding this different mechanism of mitochondrial DNA transmission will help to create novel treatments for people with mitochondrial disease….”

This idea struck Sam’s instructor as being very advanced and beyond the scope of the class. The instructor went to Sam’s reference page and examined the cited materials. One author from Sam’s list of references had mentioned this idea in at least two different research papers. In the cited papers, the author wrote:

“Elucidating the molecular mechanism for this unusual mode of inheritance will provide new insights into how mtDNA is passed on from parent to offspring and may even lead to the development of new avenues for the therapeutic treatment for pathogenic mtDNA transmission.

The rest of Sam’s paper was very well written.


  1. Explain why Sam’s actions could be considered a form of academic misconduct.
  2. If you were the instructor, how would you mark this assignment?
  3. What do you think the consequences should be for Sam?

Case 3: On Repeat

Jamie Dhillon took an Introduction to English Literature course the previous year and did very well. Jamie did so well that he registered for second survey course in English literature. To save time, Jamie decided to use a paper from the first course for the final term project of the second course. It was all of Jamie’s own work, and got an A on it, so why shouldn’t they use this material again?


  1. Did Jamie demonstrate academic integrity in this situation? Explain.
  2. Jamie’s instructor did not recognize that this assignment was used previously, and Jamie got a grade for the paper. Should Jamie be held accountable for what they did? If so, how?

Case 4: Unauthorized Collaboration

Tom, Kiran and Li-An Have been friends since high school. They all decided to register in the same program and do their work experience at the same time. They were planning to apply to very similar jobs and hoped to end up on a work term together as well. To their luck, they ended up in the same EXPE 4801   class. Part of their assessments for this class includes the completion of a resume that the student would then use to apply for work experience positions. Tom, Kiran and Li-An decided that they would work on the assignment together. For three weeks, they spent every Tuesday and Thursday in the library together, working on their resumes. When they handed in the final assignment, the instructor was astonished that all three resumes looked nearly identical.


  1. Is this an example of academic misconduct? Explain why or why not.
  2. What course of action might you take if you were the instructor in this case?
  3. How might the instructor prevent this from happening again?


Additional Sources for Case Studies

Cases Studies:

Videos and Quizzes:


Encouraging Academic Integrity Through Intentional Assessment Design Copyright © by Jessica Kalra. All Rights Reserved.

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