Honesty is important for its own sake—it should be a central pillar of your character—and it's vital for your education. You can't learn how to write if you simply download your papers from the Internet. You can't learn calculus if you copy your problem sets from a friend or an answer book. You can't learn French or computer programming if you don't complete the assignments yourself.
The only way to learn from your papers, readings, and problem sets is to do the work yourself. Later, you'll build on what you learned as you face more advanced assignments. If you didn't do the earlier work yourself, you simply won't be prepared for the later assignments.
Even your mistakes can be valuable (and, believe me, we all make them). They'll show you and your teachers where you need more help and more practice. Correcting your missteps is a vital part of learning. That's as true in Spanish as it is in sociology or biology.
Cheating denies you all that. It denies you a chance to learn. Even if you aren't caught (and you may well be!), you'll still miss what is most valuable about college: getting a real education. The only way to get that education is to work honestly. It's the high road to developing your own best values, too.
What does it mean to do honest work? The answer boils down to just three core principles:
Of course, there are plenty of detailed rules about academic honesty. College handbooks and writing textbooks are filled with them. But ultimately they boil down to just three core principles. These principles are easy to remember, and they apply to everybody in the university, students or teachers alike. Follow them and you'll do fine.
In talks with students, I explain what these principles mean, why they matter, and how they affect student papers, tests, and lab assignments. I highlight the proper use of the Internet, a major source of potential problems. In Q&A, we talk about issues that affect students directly, from writing papers to working in study groups, from handling lab assignments to dealing with the pressures of college life.