Chapter 5: Ethics of Using and Creating Information

5.1 Being an Information User

Ethical Use of Information

The research process helps us learn and use information to build on what has come before. An important component of information literacy is understanding economic, legal, and social issues relevant to finding and using information. Issues of privacy and ethical behavior are relevant in all areas of your life, not just in the classroom.

Academic integrity

It’s easy to copy content from virtually anywhere and paste it into your paper, especially when you’re facing a deadline. Sometimes students feel overworked and end up cutting corners. Other times they’re just unfamiliar with how or when to cite sources properly. This can lead to unintentional cheating. Other students might intentionally cheat, feeling that their professors will never find out, or that the misdeed is small and “not that bad.” Whatever the circumstances might be, you need to know that the penalties for cheating at Iowa State and in the typical workplace are severe and it’s very likely those who cheat will get caught, sooner or later.

Academic dishonesty is defined at Iowa State as: “Academic dishonesty occurs when a student uses or attempts to use unauthorized information in the taking of an exam or assignment; or submits as their own work themes, reports, drawings, laboratory notes, or other products prepared by another person; or knowingly assists another student in such acts; or plagiarism.”[1]

Examples of academic misconduct are:

  • Attempting to use unauthorized information in the completion of an exam or assignment;
  • Submitting as one’s own work, themes, reports, drawings, laboratory notes, computer programs or other products prepared by another person;
  • Knowingly assisting another student in obtaining or using unauthorized information or materials; or,
  • Plagiarism.

Cheating can be very hazardous to your academic or professional career and reputation. The consequences for academic misconduct at Iowa State can be found here: https://www.studentconduct.dso.iastate.edu/academic-misconduct/armstu

How to make sure this doesn’t happen to you

  • Visit the ISU Academic Success Center to learn ways to improve your study habits, time management skills, or get tutoring support. They also have online handouts to help with writing, taking better notes, dealing with procrastination, learning to organize your class work, and they have a lot of good tips on test taking strategies in general.
  • Strengthen your writing skills at the Writing & Media Center. They can help whether you’re new to writing papers or an experienced writer; they can also help you with citing sources.
  • If you’ve got a quick question about how to find or cite a source, stop by the main desk at the library and ask.
  • Notice that helping others cheat is also cheating! Sharing papers or old assignments, or allowing others to copy your work doesn’t help your friends, and it makes you guilty of academic dishonesty.

Time management

Time management is frequently a problem for students and faculty alike, making it hard to meet deadlines. Being overwhelmed with college life, illness, and having family or personal problems are also common factors that may lead students to make bad academic choices, such as cheating or missing deadlines. Here are a few ways you can get help with time management:

  • Develop a plan for your project by working backward and estimating how much time each step will take. One tool that can help you do this is the online Assignment Calculator from the University of Minnesota. It helps you put your assignments and research projects into a timeline.
  • The Academic Success Center recommends developing a weekly, monthly, and/or semester-long study schedule that accounts for everything you need to get done.
  • Find ways to reduce distractions. Some things that can help include muting phone notifications, using time management apps, and finding quiet places to study.

If you feel overwhelmed, you should talk with your professor, or with your adviser, or with Dean of Students office staff. You can also contact the ISU Student Counseling Services for help. They can help with issues as varied as depression, loneliness, eating disorders, substance abuse problems, and so on. They can help you get counseling for family or personal problems, and also help with career planning.

Everyone knows that university students are busy with class assignments, papers, managing finances, and leading busy social lives, but cheating is unacceptable and is a huge risk. A better choice is to learn more about how to manage the various demands of student life, and to take care of yourself. Learning how to do this as a student will help you prepare for life after college.


  1. Iowa State University. (2018). Student disciplinary regulations, Code of conduct. Retrieved from https://www.policy.iastate.edu/policy/SDR#4.2.1

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LIB 160: Information Literacy Copyright © 2019 by Iowa State University Library Instruction Services. All Rights Reserved.

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