Since the rules for group projects and collaboration are specific to each course, you should clearly and repeatedly communicate them with your class verbally and in writing. Carefully consider how you want to organize group projects, as different methods of managing group projects have other academic honesty implications.
Collaboration is a beneficial practice for students’ ability to learn within a course and as a practical skill for their later careers. However, to avoid instances of unauthorized collaboration, instructors need to be explicit about whether collaboration is allowed for each assignment and the extent to which it is permitted.
For example, if students must complete an assignment independently, explain both verbally and in the assignment guidelines that you will not permit collaboration. If you allow collaboration at certain stages of a project (e.g., during the research but not during the writing of the paper), be explicit about when and when it is not allowed.
Building group project guidelines
Group projects and reports involve special academic honesty issues for both students and faculty. They offer an opportunity for faculty to teach principles of academic honesty as applied to group work. Below we provide some recommendations for how instructors can guide students and include example statements to adapt for your use. In general, when assigning projects that will result in a single product submitted and signed by a group of students, it is essential to clarify each student’s responsibility for the entire product’s integrity. This task applies to written reports, as well as oral presentations with or without slides or handouts. Two general recommendations follow:
Recommendation 1: Written and oral guidelines for students
It is essential to spell out to students your expectations for handling group projects/reports, particularly regarding academic honesty standards. We recommend that you do this both orally and in writing (e.g., in the syllabus or assignment instructions). Students have limited experience handling the more complex issues involved in group assignments, and your guidance is needed. You should consider:
- Require each student to provide a clear specific statement indicating each individual’s contribution to the project as part of the work.
- Describe the students’ shared responsibilities regarding academic honesty.
- Providing clear guidelines on what a student should do if there are problems with other students in the group to disrupt academic dishonesty problems.
- Guidelines could also include a statement that students should engage in some degree of collaboration on all parts of the project, rather than dividing the tasks and simply assembling the pieces into a final report at the end.
Recommendation 2: Individual reports for group projects
In general, we recommend that students be required to write up their reports for group projects rather than turning in a group written report. This practice allows the instructor to define responsibility more clearly and reduces anxiety for students concerned about their responsibility for others’ activities. Instructors should specify which activities are group and which are individual. Then, provide a clear statement that copying and sharing written reports among group members constitutes plagiarism.
Example guideline statements
Example guideline statement:
This course includes xxx group assignments. During these assignments, you will collaborate on tasks x, y, and z. You are permitted and encouraged to share xxxxx. However, you are required to xxx (e.g., analyze your own data) and write up your report individually and in your own words. Make sure to xxx (insert statement about citations, e.g.). The final requirement is to provide a clear statement of each member of your group’s contributions to the group activities.
Example guideline statement:
This course includes xxx group assignments. During these assignments, you will collaborate on tasks x, y, and z. You are permitted and encouraged to share xxxx, and you will write your report as a group effort. Therefore, it is important to understand that you are responsible for the entire report’s academic integrity, including other group members’ contributions.
To avoid potential problems with academic honesty (and to engage in the project more fully), you should be involved in various aspects of writing the report. You must verify that citations are cited correctly and not plagiarized.
The final requirement is to provide a clear statement of each member of your group’s contributions to the group activities.
If you feel that problems are developing in your group project, you should come to see me early to provide general guidance to group members to set your activities on the right course.
As you are responsible for the entire assignment, it is incumbent upon each of you to ensure the project’s integrity.
Examples of acceptable and unauthorized collaboration
Scenario 1: The instructor assigns a group project, permitting collaboration at all stages of the project.
- The students work together researching and writing the project
- The students get help understanding the course concepts, with the writing process, or with finding and using research (e.g. from an instructor, tutor, Writing and Media Center, a Librarian, etc.)
- Someone (e.g. a tutor, friend, etc.) writes or re-writes portions or all of the project for the students
Scenario 2: The instructor assigns an essay and does not permit collaboration.
- The student does not collaborate with other students in the research or writing of the essay
- The student gets help understanding course concepts, with the writing process, or with finding and using research (e.g., from an instructor, tutor, Writing and Media Center, a Librarian, etc.)
- The student works with other students on part or all of the assignment
- Someone (e.g. a tutor, friend, etc.) writes or re-writes portions or all of the project for the student
Example checklist for group submissions
The following text is recommended for instructors who utilize group assignments as an assessment technique. Students should be aware that academic integrity is expected in all individual and group assignments. Have students read the disclosure, fill out their contributions, and sign it.
Group Assignment Disclosure
Please read the disclosure below following the completion of your group assignment. Once you have verified these points, hand in this signed disclosure with your group assignment.
- All team members have referenced and footnoted all ideas, words, or other intellectual property from other sources used in the completion of this
- A proper bibliography has been included, which includes acknowledgement of all sources used to complete this assignment.
- This is the first time that any member of the group has submitted this assignment or essay (either partially or entirely) for academic evaluation.
- Each member of the group has read the full content of the submission and is assured that the content is free of violations of academic integrity. Group discussions regarding the importance of academic integrity have taken place.
- All team members have identified their individual contributions to the work submitted such that if violations of academic integrity are suspected, then the student(s) primarily responsible for the violations may be identified. Note that the remainder of the team may also be subject to disciplinary.
Student tips for group work
Before beginning the project:
- Discuss citation styles and expectations with your group members before beginning the assignment. Anytime your group uses someone else’s work (ideas, words, images, code, etc.), it needs to be cited. For more information on how to cite, visit the ISU Library’s Citation Style Guide. If you are not sure which citation style to use, ask your instructor.
- Create a schedule to stay on track. Find schedule templates in the Academic Success Center’s section on Time Management and Procrastination.
While working on the project:
- Keep track of what each group member is contributing.
- Have frequent meetings with your group members to discuss progress and challenges.
- Before submitting, review and sign the Checklist for group submissions.
Academic integrity for group work, by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at Iowa State University, is licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0. This work, Academic integrity for group work, is a derivative of Academic Honesty: Instructors developed by the University of Rochester (retrieved on March 1, 2021) from https://www.rochester.edu/college/honesty/instructors/prevention.html, and the Group Project Guidelines developed by University of Rochester (retrieved on March 1, 2021) from https://www.rochester.edu/college/honesty/policy/group-projects.html, and the Academic Integrity: Group Work from University of Waterloo (retrieved March 12, 2021) from https://uwaterloo.ca/academic-integrity/integrity-students/group-work