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Studying with Integrity

The courses we take to earn our academic credentials require lots of studying from us, but studying doesn’t stop at the end of our degree. As future scholars, industry professionals or researchers, we will continue to review new publications and study new ideas to stay up-to-date for our work – studying is part of life-long learning.

As students, in the context of completing our educational requirements, we must engage with course material and library resources to support our learning. When we are studying (and by studying, I mean completing assigned readings, getting informed for a paper we’re writing, or reviewing and preparing for a test – all the work that we put in outside of class time), we want to make sure that we’re learning with integrity. It’s important that we’re engaging in our studying in ethical and principled ways.

How to Study with Integrity

When we’re trying to reinforce our learning (so we can recall and use information well), one of the best things that we can do is to make the information meaningful to ourselves in unique and individual ways. Rather than simply trying to memorize – and then repeat back – other people’s words, when we study in our own authentic voices, we attach personal meaning and understanding to the material and better equip ourselves to use that information with integrity.

When we sit down to engage with our course or assignment materials, we want to ensure that we are acting in honest, responsible, and fair ways. Let’s look at some examples of effective studying and the skills involved:


The best way to approach learning from texts is to use active and critical reading strategies. It’s important to think deeply about what we’re reading while we’re reading. If we’re just passively skimming through a text, it can be hard to recall important information or details. However, when we take the time to really consider what we’re reading and deliberately identify what we think is important, we can be much more successful learning that content. Here are some approaches to try:

  • Underlining/highlighting: If you’re someone who likes to underline or highlight while reading, stick with it – but make sure that you are underlining or highlighting strategically! Isolating carefully chosen details means that you’ve been active in thinking about what’s important and are engaging with the text in a useful way to support your studying!
  • Marginal notes: Jotting down notes in the margins (or on sticky notes or using an annotation tool for e-reading) is a great way to learn while reading. Try to capture key concepts in your own words (using the Noting for Gist technique) or make note of any questions you have or connections to other concepts that you make. These annotations (in your own words) are great study tools!
  • Scan, read, review: This technique is also known as PQR4 or SQ3R. It is very useful for textbooks and provides a method for identifying important information efficiently.
  • Close reading: When reading a novel, a poem, or even thinking about a visual text like a piece of art, engaging in close reading can help you think about how meaning is being made.
  • Assessing sources: If you are reading books and articles to get informed for an assignment, be sure to think about what you’re learning. It’s important to think critically as you read. Try the Critical Reading worksheet as a framework to help you.

Using an active and critical approach to reading is a key part of studying well. You will be able to make use of course material effectively in a variety of assessments.


Note-taking occurs in many different learning contexts. In addition to taking notes during lecture, some students like to take notes on a separate page while reading, some like to take notes while reviewing online content, and some like to create study notes as a way to prepare for an upcoming test or exam. The important thing to know about note-taking is that we best support our learning when we’re selective about the notes we make.

Here are some note-taking resources that may be of interest:

  • Active listening: If you’re recording notes from a live or recorded presentation, you’ll want to listen carefully to identify important information. If you’re trying to capture everything verbatim, you’re likely not giving yourself the chance to process information and decide what’s important. Research shows that when you note-take selectively, you better support your learning.
  • Find what works for you: Note-taking is an individual experience. There are a number of strategies that people can use. It make take some trial and error before you find an approach that works best for you.

Test/Exam Preparation

When preparing for an upcoming test or exam, it’s beneficial to engage in an active review process. There are a number of study strategies that research shows improve learning and retention of information. It’s also important to move beyond rote memorization. Questions on tests and exams may be designed to measure how well we understand or can apply concepts and not simply just our ability to recognize familiar content. Try using Bloom’s Taxonomy to support an effective review for a test. For each key concept you want to learn, see if you can answer a question for each level of the taxonomy:

  • Remember: what is the definition of the concept in the course material?
  • Understand: what does that mean in your own words?
  • Apply: can you come up with an example of this concept or an example of when to use the concept in a situation?
  • Analyze: how do the parts contribute to the meaning? Or why is this concept important?
  • Evaluate: how is the concept similar or different to other concepts?
  • Create: what argument would you make about this concept?

Why Does This Matter?

When we’ve used study strategies that encourage us to think about what we’re learning in our own words, we’ve set ourselves up to use what we’ve learned with integrity. We represent our knowledge and ability in honest and responsible ways that use course material and readings fairly.


When we work with the material we’ve read and the notes we’ve made, if we’ve used critical thinking and our own words to process and represent information, we’re well equipped to relay what we’ve learned in an authentic way. We’re able to easily acknowledge where information has come from and join the scholarly conversation in a constructively collaborative way through both our individual and group work.

You demonstrate your integrity in the way you summarize, paraphrase, or quote ideas and information and practice citation in the assignments you produce.


To approach test-taking with integrity, it’s important to be informed about the assessment beforehand. It’s helpful to know the answers to the following questions:

  • Am I allowed any aids during the test/exam? If so, what kind of aids are permitted?
  • How is the test/exam being administered? In-person? Online? If it’s online through MyLearningSpace, are there any integrity tools being used? (These tools could include things like forced order questions, Lockdown Browser, or webcam monitoring.)

Make sure that you’re prepared to focus on the test or exam during the allotted time. Have everything you need at your fingertips and remove anything that you are not permitted to use. Eliminate distractions so that there’s no risk that you could be suspected of trying to cheat. Do not share questions or answers with anyone else. Your best effort during the test should reflect your commitment to the ethical and moral principles of honesty, responsibility, and fairness.

Avoiding Academic Misconduct

We know that when students feel more confident about what they know and are able to recall and use information more easily, they are less likely to resort to coping strategies such as plagiarism, cheating, or other forms of misconduct.

If you’ve engaged in an active review and have used study strategies that help you prepare effectively, you’ve set yourself up for more positive test-taking experiences and should not worry about misconduct concerns – you’ll be golden!