The Honor Code
The Honor Code

Most colleges and universities in the United States have established honor codes or statements of rules students are expected to follow in their academic work. These rules relate primarily to academic honesty and originality as they are defined by U.S. educational institutions. Many international students have discovered that U.S. academic rules are much different from the ones they followed at home.

U.S. educational institutions take these rules very seriously, and ignorance of the rules usually is not accepted as an excuse for breaking them. Even if a particular academic practice is accepted in your country or is part of your culture, it will not be an acceptable explanation for violating the rules at a U.S. college or university.

The university honor code, or the university code of conduct, is usually distributed to new students at the very beginning of the semester and is frequently a topic for discussion during new student orientation.

If you have any questions about what to do regarding any of these issues, talk to your instructor, your academic adviser, or the international student adviser. There is a U.S. idiom that applies here: "It is better to be safe than sorry."

Cheating is considered to be a failure of honesty in U.S. colleges and universities. It means getting unauthorized help on an assignment, quiz, or examination. You must not receive from anyone, nor give to anyone, any information, answers, or help during an examination or any kind of test. You must not take notes or books to the examination if this is forbidden, and you must not refer to any books or notes while you are taking the test unless you are instructed otherwise. Sometimes students who speak a foreign language during an examination are perceived by others to be cheating, even though they may simply be asking a fellow student in their native language for a piece of paper or an eraser. You should be aware of this and try to avoid suspicion.


Plagiarism is another kind of cheating. It is the failure to do your own original work in written assignments. Instead, you use someone else's words or ideas as though they were your own, without crediting the source. Plagiarism is considered literary and intellectual theft and is vigorously condemned in academic work. When quoting words or ideas from books, magazines, websites, recordings, films, or other sources of information, always make sure you give appropriate credit to the author in your text. Many U.S. universities have specific guidelines to follow when quoting an author and some of them publish guides for papers. Make sure you are aware of the university policies on quoting words and ideas to avoid being accused of plagiarism.