Suggestions for T.A.s

TAs play an important role in protecting the academic integrity of the University and are often the first to detect academic dishonesty. The following is intended to equip them with strategies to educate about, and prevent or reduce, two of the more common forms of academic dishonesty – plagiarism and cheating.


Written Assignments

  • Be specific about citation expectations and refer students to related library resources. For instance, the McMaster University Library has created electronic guides pertaining to some of the more common citation standards:  and  
  • Be clear about writing expectations and remind students who struggle with writing that help is available. For instance, the Centre for Student Development provides academic skills and ESL support. Of particular interest are its Student Achievement Series and Online Resources portals (the latter of which contains videos on Referencing Basics) found respectively at: and

  • Refer the class to the Academic Integrity Office’s student portal for information about what constitutes academic dishonesty and tools to test one’s Academic Integrity IQ:

  • Provide guidelines as to the types of electronic resources that are acceptable for use in course work (i.e. no Wikipedia, only specified databases or scholarly journals, etc.)
  • Guide a class discussion on how to evaluate internet sources for research purposes. Contact your liaison librarian for ideas and in-house expertise, or consult external resources such as the University of Guelph Library’s Evaluating Web Sites online tutorial at or the University of Alberta Library’s publication on Evaluating Internet Sources posted at
  • Be conscious of changes in voice and writing styles in written submissions and conduct basic “Google” searches to detect exact phrase matches
  • Make use of, the plagiarism detection software service to which the University subscribes, but contact the Office of Academic Integrity first for account details and instructions
  • Adopt a consistent style when marking (i.e. use a distinctly coloured marker or distinct initial or visual identifier). This may deter students from altering grades and/or comments after the fact
  • Require that written work be submitted in stages and that drafts be handed in along with final essays, research papers and reports. Consider having students include a brief reflective piece about the research process as part of the final assignment. This makes manifest the student’s intellectual progression and may serve as a deterrent against copying papers, paragraphs or portions from other sources
  • Require that print copies of works located on the Internet and used in the assignment be submitted along with it. This affords you a quick opportunity to check citations even as it compels students to keep track of source materials used in their research

Tests and Exams

  • Ensure that all personal belongings – including electronic devices – be left at the front of the room
  • Require students wearing baseball hats to turn brims to the back
  • Have a seating plan. If you notice students collaborating, establishing where they sat is an integral part of the evidence and establishing the charge of academic dishonesty
    • If the room does not allow for numbered seating, create your own seating plan
    • Have students sign in. A signed attendance sheet precludes them from claiming that they missed the test/exam
  • Establish student identity to your satisfaction. For large classes, require that students bring their Mac IDs and have invigilators check carefully for potential impersonators by examining both the photo and the signature
  • Keep track of the number of test copies made, the number handed out, and the number returned. This enables you to detect whether one or more have been removed without authorization


  • If you suspect a student of having tampered with his or her test after it was marked and re-submitting it for a higher grade, photocopy the next test before returning it
  • When marking tests, draw a line through blank spaces that follow an answer so as to preclude students from adding material and asserting that someone omitted to mark it
  • Protect all test material, answer keys and assignment solutions carefully


  • Circulate throughout the room during the examination and be mindful of the fact that often the best place to detect academically dishonest behaviour is from the back
  • Scrutinize authorized exam aids (i.e. calculators, water bottles, etc.) for possible cheat sheets
  • Confiscate and do not return unauthorized aids with writing on them (i.e. calculators) since these constitute important evidence. If the student has written on his or her physical person or item of clothing, copy what is written before it can be rubbed or washed off
  • Document suspicious behaviour in as much detail as possible and report it using the McMaster University Invigilation form located at:
  • Do not prevent students suspected of cheating from completing the test. Rather, have them physically move and allow them to finish. The investigation and decision regarding the suspected cheating may be conducted following the test
  • For students who ignore time limits, make a note on the test and inform them that nothing further will be marked

Finally, if you suspect academic dishonesty

Notify the instructor, as a specific protocol exists to deal with such instances