How I found out what is academic integrity and stopped worrying about it

Written by Boris Licina

The transition from workplace to school was stressful for me as a first-year international and mature student. Everything in York was unknown to me in my first year and the unknown is always tricky for me to manage. One of the things I had never heard before coming to York is academic integrity. 

What is academic integrity?

I encountered academic integrity for the first time in FA/FILM1400 A - Film Art: An Introduction with prof Zryd through the SPARK Academic Integrity module. SPARK (Student Papers & Academic Research Kit) is the module we needed to complete before an assignment we needed to submit - a film essay. I learned that academic integrity means not cheating on your work. 

Let us say this blog post is an essay, and I used Chat GPT to write it, or someone else wrote it for me - that is considered cheating. That is easy; I will not do that, but what about citations or originality when everything was already said? I panicked.  

Plagiarism is also considered a breach of academic integrity, and I had what felt like a close call with that one. In the same class, Film Art: An Introduction, I had a similarity of 37 % in the final exam. When you submit your work, you do it through the Turnitin software that does, among other things, AI usage checks or plagiarism checks. Thirty seven per cent was quite high for my work, and I panicked. Thankfully, I was not alone - many had the same score because of the repeating questions generated by the exam instructions, the professor told us. 

Pro tip: If you are unsure if what you are doing is considered cheating or plagiarism, read the Avoiding a Breach article. 

How I stopped worrying about academic integrity

I’m not the first person who panicked in York about academic integrity. Today, every month in Canada, there are between 1,000 and 10,000 searches on Google about “academic integrity.”  

But something else calmed me down and showed me I am not alone - the magical words of the TAs and professors who recommended the - insert divine music - Writing Centre. Did you know they told us you can submit your essay and get feedback in 24 hours? Or go to a live appointment? During the 50- minute appointment, you chat with a writing instructor with expertise in the area you write about. When I had one of my first essays to write, I watched one of the Writing Centre's videos, Steps to Drafting Your Essay, and I subscribed to their YouTube channel. There, you can find videos like Plagiarism & Other Scary Things

And there are other resources I used to be safe from cheats and breaches. One of them is the Academic Integrity portal, which guided me through possible cheating scenarios, explained how to avoid a breach, and gave me a lot of resources so I could stop worrying about it.  

So, unlike Maeve from Sex Education (You should watch it!), I had my safety net - woven from York's resources. 

Pro tip: Student life is complex, and it is easy to be overwhelmed with assignments, work, and life in general. And that is entirely normal and common; many of us feel it. If you have a tough time, do not hesitate to contact Student Counseling and Health and Well-being services to get help through counselling or support groups.