Research update: Highlights from some current projects

February 9, 2021

It seems I have a lot of academic Integrity research projects on the go these days, so I thought I’d do a post about some of this exciting work and the amazing people I’ve been collaborating with.

Academic Integrity and Mental Well-Being

As part of my Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity role, I wanted to connect some of my research to the University of Calgary’s Campus Mental Health Strategy.

I’ve been working on with two terrific graduate students, Helen Pethrick and Kristal Turner on a new project, Academic Integrity and Mental Well-Being.

So far, we have one publication from this project. Exploring academic integrity and mental health during COVID-19: Rapid review was published in the Journal of Contemporary Education Theory & Research in December 2020.

Our second paper is under peer review, so stay tuned for details on that later.

Academic Integrity: Faculty Development Needs for Canadian Higher Education

This is the inaugural project associated with the D2L Innovation Guild. This project is the first of its kind in Canada. There has never before been a multi-institutional project, with representation from across multiple provinces, that has also partnered with industry in pursuit of a common unified goal with regards to academic integrity.

This collaborative, multi-institutional project included researchers from four Canadian provinces:

  • Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, Principal Investigator, University of Calgary
  • Katherine (Katie) Crossman, PhD, Co-Investigator and Study Coordinator, University of Calgary
  • Brenda M. Stoesz, PhD, Co-Investigator, University of Manitoba
  • Kim Garwood, PhD, Co-Investigator, University of Guelph
  • Amanda McKenzie, MA, Co-Investigator, University of Waterloo

We have publicly registered our project on the Open Science Framework. You can check out details about our project here.

You can check out our project brief, which is available as an open access report (Crossman et al., 2019). This project is now complete and we submitted our final reports to the D2L Innovation Guild Board on February 8, 2021.

Contract Cheating in Canada: National Policy Analysis

 This is an exciting project that I began developing in 2018. I wanted to create opportunities for Canadian researchers to do scholarly inquiry into contract cheating. I received mentorship from Dr. Tracey Bretag in the early stages of this project. She had led a team in Australia to conduct academic integrity policy research there. She coached me on how to conduct a similar project in Canada. As a result, I launched Contract Cheating in Canada: National Policy Analysis.

The specific objectives of this project are to:

  • Identify existing components of academic integrity policies and procedures related to contract cheating;
  • Identify gaps in existing academic integrity policies and procedures related to contract cheating;
  • Evaluate the policies and procedures against existing standards for post-secondary education policy (i.e., Australian Government: Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), 2017; Higher Education Academy [HEA], 2011) with a focus on supports that have been developed for students and other campus stakeholders (Bretag et al., 2011);
  • Compare supports available for undergraduate students and graduate students; and
  • Develop and communicate recommendations for policy reform.

This national project is sub-divided according to regions of Canada and types of post-secondary institutions (e.g., colleges and universities). Different teams have been involved with each of the smaller sub-projects, with individuals from a particular region studying the policies from their own regions.

We’ve already had some great publications out of this project, the most recent of which was published in Educational Policy.

Degrees of Deceit: A Study of Fake Degrees, Diploma Fraud and Counterfeit Credentials

I am working with Jamie Carmichael at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, on a project to better understand fake degrees and fraudulent credentials in Canadian higher education.

Check out our webinar recording about this work. Some very cool resources we have already produced out of this work include:

A slide deck from our webinar session.

Counterfeit Credentials: Top 13 Recommendations for Higher Education Professionals (Infographic)

Scholarships without Scruples (Infographic)

We are also working on an edited book on this topic. More details on that will be coming soon…

These aren’t all the projects I have on the go, just a few I wanted to highlight here. Feel free to get in touch about any of these projects. You know where to find me!


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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.

New book Series: Ethics and Integrity in Educational Contexts

February 1, 2021


I am pleased to announce a new book series, Ethics and Integrity in Educational Contexts by Springer.

About this series

The aim of this series is to provide an authoritative series of books on topics relating to ethics and integrity in educational contexts. Its scope includes ethics and integrity, defined in broad and inclusive terms, in educational contexts. It focuses on higher education, but also welcomes contributions that address ethics and integrity in primary and secondary education, non-formal educational contexts, professional education, etc. We welcome books that address traditional academic integrity topics such as plagiarism, exam cheating, and collusion.

In addition, we are particularly interested in topics that extend beyond questions of student conduct, such as

  • Quality assurance in education;
  • Research ethics and integrity;
  • Admissions fraud;
  • Fake and fraudulent credentials;
  • Publication ethics;
  • Educational technology ethics (e.g., surveillance tech, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, as they are used in education);
  • Biomedical ethics in educational contexts;
  • Ethics in varsity and school sports.

This series extends beyond traditional and narrow concepts of academic integrity to broader interpretations of applied ethics in education, including corruption and ethical questions relating to instruction, assessment, and educational leadership. It also seeks to promote social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The series provides a forum to address emerging, urgent, and even provocative topics related to ethics and integrity at all levels of education, from a variety of disciplinary and geographical perspectives.

Editorial Board

I am delighted to work with an international group scholars and experts as members of the Editorial Board:

Tomáš Foltýnek, Department of Informatics, Faculty of Business and Economics, Mendel University, Brno, Czechia

Irene Glendinning, Coventry University, Coventry, UK

Zeenath Reza Khan, University of Wollongong, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Rebecca Moore Howard, Syracuse University, New York, USA

Mark Israel, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia

Ceceilia Parnther, St. Johns’ University, New York, USA

Brenda M. Stoesz, The Center for Advancement of Teaching and Learning, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Forthcoming and New Books

The first book to launch the series will be Academic Integrity in Canada (Eaton & Christensen Hughes, eds., forthcoming). I will share more details about this first book when we are closer to publication, which should be in mid to late 2021.

Proposals for a number of other books to join the series are underway, with authors and editors from a variety of countries.

If you have an idea for a book to be included as part of this series, please contact me.


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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.

Why Superboards Could Signal the Dismemberment of Alberta’s Higher Education System

January 23, 2021

A recent CBC News article by Janet French highlights the Alberta government’s plan to establish superboards to oversee higher education in the province. It is imperative for Albertans to understand the possible implication that superboards might have on our post-secondary system.

French’s article worth a read. And pay attention to every word.

Similar to California?

Someone asked me recently whether there were other examples of this type of superboard governance that we could refer to get a concrete idea of what it might mean for Alberta. My response at the time was that to the best of my knowledge there were no such similar systems in the Commonwealth.

Canadian higher education shares much in common with its Commonwealth cousins, as it is based largely on the British system of education. It is a long history lesson, but suffice to say that the American higher education system differs from ours in some fundamental ways. Although the Canadian and American systems started out in a similar vein, the American Revolution caused some fundamental shifts that led to a bifurcation of the educational trajectories of both countries. The resulting Constitution of the United States, enacted after the revolution, provides for a far more open and entrepreneurial approach to education.

This is one reason that there are literally thousands of private universities and colleges in the United States that operate with much less oversight or quality assurance than Canadian universities and colleges. Overall, the quality of higher education across Canada is generally more consistent and steady and we do not have the drastic differences in institutional reputation that affect our neighbours to the south. This is also due, in part, to differences in how higher education is governed in both countries. Although Canadian and American universities share much in common in some ways, in other ways, they differ dramatically. One of those ways is governance.

MRU political science professor and political commentator, Duane Bratt sparked a lively conversation about this topic on his Twitter feed. One of the comments that came up is that a unified university system seems to work for the University of California (UC), so maybe it could work here. The UC system includes ten universities such as UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, etc. (As an aside, the University of Calgary’s own president, Ed McCauley, worked at UC Santa Barbara before returning to the University of Calgary in 2011, so he is no doubt well versed on the UC system.)

A system similar to the UC system could be one possible outcome if one or more superboards for post-secondary education in Alberta were to be implemented. However, I would point out that although the University of California has an excellent reputation in many respects, it exists as one institution within a larger state context.

The state of California has some of the most flexible (lax?) laws around the operation of educational entities. Retired FBI Agent, Allen Ezell and his colleague John Bear, write extensively about this in their book, Degree Mills. To paraphrase some of their key ideas, just about anyone can open a business in the state of California and call it a school. This has led to a proliferation of private entities offering so-called educational programs of questionable quality, or in some cases, outright fraudulent credentials. Although the University of California may be a reputable school, it is situated in a state where, without exaggeration, literally hundreds of other alleged universities and colleges dole out parchments with little to no credibility behind them. In my opinion, the larger higher education system that exists in the state of California is not one to which Alberta ought to aspire.

Lack of clarity regarding a possible superboard

In his remarks to the General Faculties Council (GFC) on December 10, 2020 President McCauley commented that the University of Calgary has been advocating for “the continuance of bicameral University governance and autonomy” (p. 2). The minutes of the GFC meeting are a matter of public record and can be found here.

These remarks at GFC, as well as commentary made by our executive leaders since then should not be taken lightly. They signal that our university president, along with other university presidents in Alberta, are concerned about the possibility of the dismantling of the bi-cameral governance model that currently exists at our institutions (i.e., at the University of Calgary, this means the Board of Governors and General Faculties Council) if a superboard to oversee universities is established. This website provides a brief overview of the University of Calgary’s governance and leadership.

It is not clear at the moment how an Alberta superboard for post-secondary governance might be structured or what powers they might have. It is also not clear if there would be one board for universities and another for colleges or if each system would be overseen by its own superboard. Right now there are more questions than answers. What is clear is that the possibility of establishment of one or more superboards to oversee higher education in Alberta poses the greatest potential for change to post-secondary governance that the province has seen in more than half a century – or perhaps ever.

A governance perspective: The potential dismemberment of Alberta’s higher education system

At this point, no one knows for certain what the superboards for higher education might mean. At the risk of sounding alarmist, if superboards are established, the possibility of the bicameral governance structure being dismantled is a real possibility. In turn, this could lead to a radical restructuring of Alberta’s post-secondary institutions.

I believe this is something we must pay close attention to. Funding cuts are one thing. The possibility of the dismemberment of our university governance structure is something else entirely. I use the word “dismemberment” here intentionally – and quite literally. To dismember is to sever the limbs from the body. The Board of Governors and the General Faculties Council are our university’s governing bodies. If the university does not have its own governing bodies, it would very likely lose its autonomy and its ability to function in the way it has for decades. This could be the case of every post-secondary institution in Alberta. Without bi-cameral governance, every single one of Alberta’s universities could be crippled in terms of their ability to make decisions for themselves.

When people hear that I study ethics and integrity in higher education, they often think that I study matters related to student conduct. Although that is true, it is not the entire story. The word “integrity” comes from the Latin, integritas, meaning to integrate or to make whole. A breach of integrity means that something that was previously whole has been compromised. In my opinion, the establishment of a superboard to govern higher education in our province could represent a direct threat to the integrity of our university system.

These superboards have not yet been formed, but now is very much the time for advocates of higher education to pay attention and become educated. At the very least I recommend spending some time on the Alberta 2030 Initiative website to find out more about some of what is planned for post-secondary education in Alberta.

I encourage you to learn as much as you can about how and why bi-cameral governance is a hallmark of Canadian higher education and how the autonomy it provides to individual institutions promotes ethical governance and decision-making in a variety of ways. Governance work is not values-free and nor is it agnostic. As Jenny Ozga so eloquently points out in her book, governance and policy work can be a form of advocacy. The very values that the University of Calgary – and other post-secondary institutions in Alberta – hold are lived out not only in the decisions that we make, but through the structures and systems in place that allow us to make those decisions in the first place.


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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.

Plagiarism in Engineering Programs: An Annotated Bibliography

January 13, 2021

Engineering Annotated Bib coverExcited to share this long-overdue annotated bibliography. We started working on this one a while ago and then COVID hit. We are excited to have completed this and be able to share this with you. We hope it will be particularly helpful for those studying academic integrity in STEM fields.

Eaton, S.E., Crossman, K., & Anselmo, L. (2021). Plagiarism in Engineering Programs: An Annotated Bibliography. Calgary, University of Calgary.


This report documents research and related materials concerning plagiarism in STEM and engineering programs to inform and guide future work in the field. It provides an overview of the literature up to and including 2019 related to plagiarism in STEM and engineering programs.


Two research questions guided this literature review: 1. What scholarly, research, and professional literature explores and examines plagiarism in STEM and engineering programs? 2. What major themes emerge from scholarly and research literature about plagiarism in engineering? To this end, a methodical research of databases was undertaken, relevant research was compiled, and articles were summarized and categorized.


Our review and search of the literature resulted in more than 30 sources, which we organized into 7 categories: (a) Background: AI in engineering; (b) student perceptions and attitudes; (c) faculty perceptions and attitudes; (d) cheating and collusion; (e) text-matching software and plagiarism detection; (f) international students and (g) interventions and reparations.

We found that plagiarism in STEM and engineering, as in other fields, is widespread among students and faculty, while policies and their implementation are often inconsistent. Calls for clearer guidelines and greater support for students and faculty resound as a consistent theme in the literature.


Plagiarism in STEM and engineering research has been slow to develop, but is a continuing field of growth. As more stakeholders become aware of the scope and complexities of plagiarism, many researchers are making recommendations for policy, policy implementation, and support through technology, education, and intervention programs.

Additional materials: 36 References

Keywords: Academic integrity, academic dishonesty, academic misconduct, plagiarism, cheating, engineering


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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.

New article: Plagiarism: A Canadian Higher Education Case Study of Policy and Practice Gaps

January 8, 2021

AJER Screen ShotWe are excited to share this new article:

Eaton, S. E., Fernández Conde, C., Rothschuh, S., Guglielmin, M., & Otoo, B. K. (2020). Plagiarism: A Canadian higher education case study of policy and practice gaps. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 66(4), 471-488. Retrieved from

This was a project that I undertook with some of our excellent graduate students at the Werklund School of Education. Our findings corroborated other studies that found faculty do not report academic misconduct, and adds to the body of evidence from Canada. Our findings showed that although pre-service teachers engage in academic misconduct, sometimes their instructors choose not to report them for it. Instead, faculty deal with such instances privately, as a “teachable moment”, without following institutional policy. This was a fascinating study to conduct and I am hoping it will be useful to other Canadian researchers, as well as others studying academic misconduct in teacher training programs.


This mixed methods case study investigated faculty perspectives and practice around plagiarism in a Western Canadian faculty of education. Data sources included interviews, focus groups, and a survey. Findings showed that participants (N = 36) were disinclined to follow established procedures. Instead, they tended to deal with plagiarism in informal ways without reporting cases to administration, which resulted in a disconnect between policy and practice. The emotional impact of reporting plagiarism included frustration with the time required to document a case, and fear that reporting could have a negative effect on one’s employment. Recommendations include approaches that bridge the gap between policy and practice.

Key words: Academic integrity, plagiarism, Canada, higher education, faculty

Cette étude de cas à méthodes mixtes s’est penchée sur les perspectives et les pratiques du corps professoral relatives au plagiat dans une faculté d’éducation dans l’ouest du Canada. Les sources de données ont inclus les entrevues, les groupes de discussion et un sondage. Les résultats indiquent que les participants (N=36) étaient peu portés à suivre les procédures établies. Ils avaient plutôt tendance à employer des moyens informels pour traiter le plagiat, sans signaler les cas à l’administration, ce qui entrainait un écart entre la politique et la pratique. L’impact émotionnel découlant du signalement du plagiat comprenait le temps nécessaire à documenter un cas et la peur que le signalement puisse avoir une incidence négative sur son emploi. Les recommandations proposées incluent des approches visant à combler l’écart entre la politique et la pratique.

Mots clés : intégrité académique, plagiat, Canada, enseignement supérieur, faculté


  • Sarah Elaine Eaton, University of Calgary
  • Cristina Fernández Conde, University of Calgary
  • Stefan Rothschuh, University of Calgary
  • Melanie Guglielmin, University of Calgary
  • Benedict Kojo Otoo, University of Calgary

Check out the entire issue here:

For more information about this article please contact me directly.


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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.

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