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International students are often surprised by the differences between their classes and learning at home compared to what they encounter in the United States.

Academic standards and practices also vary by culture. Please read the information about academic honesty and conduct standards at the University.

The American Classroom

In the United States, lectures are the primary form of instruction, especially at the undergraduate level. Although attendance may not be recorded, you are expected to attend. Attendance could count toward your final grade or towards classroom participation. Lectures are often supplemented with:

  • Classroom discussion
  • Recitations
  • Reading assignments
  • Written assignments

Students are expected to contribute to the discussion in the classroom. American professors want students to respect their knowledge and opinions, but they generally prefer discussion and debate to respectful silence. Questioning or challenging the teacher is viewed as a healthy sign of interest, attention, and independent thinking. Silent observation is often assumed to indicate that you are not interested in what is being said in class, or that you do not understand.

Although most faculty members encourage critical thinking from students, the manner in which criticism is expressed is important. You can show respect by acknowledging your professor’s point of view and then offering yours for consideration.

The teaching style of the professor often determines the amount of student participation in each class. Some instructors prefer a more formal style of lecture with a question-and-answer period at the end. Others prefer a more conversational style and encourage interaction throughout the class. Get the ‘feel’ of the classroom expectations during the first few weeks of class or discuss classroom etiquette with your classmates or professor.

Academic Honesty and Conduct Standards

Because academic standards and practices are influenced by culture, what is considered appropriate behavior in your home country may be viewed as inappropriate academic behavior in the United States.

It is important to understand and follow the University’s standards and practices to avoid serious repercussions.

Plagiarism and University Policies

Some students, especially those experiencing language difficulties, may be inclined to quote a faculty member or published author, rather than feeling comfortable using their own words. Unless the quote is properly cited, this practice may be viewed as plagiarism and a violation of the University’s Academic Honesty policies.

Plagiarism, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means to “steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own” by failing to cite your source material. Plagiarism may be an unfamiliar concept in some countries, but it is strongly monitored in the United States.

Students who are found to have plagiarized another’s work are strictly penalized. Always ask your professor in advance if you are not sure how to cite sources or give credit for someone else’s ideas in your writing or presentations.

Detailed information on academic honesty policies at the University are available for:

Avoiding Plagiarism

When writing essays, presentations, or other assignments:

  • Name your sources in the text
  • Use quotations around words or phrases you are using from a source
  • Use footnotes or endnotes, especially when paraphrasing
  • Include a bibliography or list of reference for your work

Group work is often encouraged for homework assignments, but collaboration on examinations is strictly forbidden (unless otherwise stated on the course syllabus). Students must not copy or discuss answers with each other during an exam, which is considered cheating and another form of plagiarism.