6.0 Ethical Expectations: Integrity in Research & Professional Conduct


When you enter the Rhetoric & Writing program at MSU, you enter an intellectual community in which integrity in professional, research, and creative activities is highly valued. Faculty in the program believe that the best way to insure the integrity of our collective efforts is to create an ethical climate in which graduate students are taught, advised, mentored, and supported in their teaching and research activities.

That climate includes several components:

  • a shared understanding of what constitutes appropriate professional conduct, and explicit criteria for dismissal of students who violate those professional standards;
  • a shared understanding of what constitutes unethical or dishonest behavior, and explicit criteria for dismissal of students who practice unethical or dishonest behavior while engaged in research, scholarly, and creative activities;
  • a shared understanding of what constitutes ethical mentoring and advising, and explicit guidelines and policies for mediating conflicts and handling grievances/appeals between students and mentors, and between students and students.

Appropriate Professional Conduct
As faculty in an academic program, we share some common standards about what constitutes appropriate professional conduct, and it is our responsibility to share these standards with graduate students. Our collective understanding of these professional standards comes from our own practices as respected professionals in the disciplines and fields which constitute Rhetoric & Writing, and from our common belief that humans in general should treat each other decently, with respect and generosity.

In general, we believe that appropriate professional conduct includes:

  • honest and accurate representation of one’s identity, credentials, and professional background (e.g., no inflation of status or experiences in one’s c.v., and accurate representation of contributions to committee work or to collaborative projects and publications);
  • respect for others’ personhood, including the diversity of personhood, including but not limited to race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, style of dress, manner of speaking, political viewpoint, etc.;
  • acknowledgement of the collaborative and social nature of the scholarly enterprise, which extends beyond use of formal scholarly citations to an acknowledgement of how fellow scholars have helped one to form ideas, review drafts, suggest revisions, etc.;
  • respect for one’s intellectual ancestors, especially for those who created the discipline within which we all work;
  • respect for human subjects involved in research;
  • actively listening to and engaging with people, their ideas, and how they experience (and represent) cultural and intellectual institutions with respect;
  • awareness that appropriate professional conduct does not entail the transfer or appropriation of the work of others without shared decision-making, credit, and benefits–a standard for how to work appropriately within a community and to collaborate professionally;
  • a shared commitment to basic values such as fairness, equity, honesty, and respect;
  • explicit training of graduate students in sound disciplinary practices (including appropriate methodological instruction) in core courses and in the interactions that we have with one another as colleagues.

To report inappropriate professional conduct, contact the Rhetoric & Writing graduate program director.

Unethical or Dishonest Scholarly and Research Practices
Faculty in the Rhetoric & Writing program believe that any of the following constitute unethical and/or dishonest scholarly and/or research practices:

  • violation of policies outlined in the current MSU Graduate Programs catalog and in the MSU Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities (GSRR);
  • violation of policies outlined in the Guidelines for Integrity in Research and Creative Activities published by the MSU Office of Research Ethics and Standards in the Research Integrity Newsletter (7.2, Spring 2004, pp. 12-14);
  • violations of the provisions of the MSU Human Research Protection (HRP) Manual, available on the Human Research Protection Program website at http://www.humanresearch.msu.edu/hrpmanual.html;
  • violation of policies outlined in the University Committee on Research Involving Human Subjects (UCRIHS) Handbook;
  • violation of ethics and research integrity guidelines developed and published by professional organizations such as NCTE, CCCC, AAA, ASA, AHA, STC, as applicable according to stated field of study;
  • violations of the above that include but are not limited to misrepresentation, falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism;
  • violation of the above-mentioned standards of appropriate professional behavior.

To report unethical or dishonest scholarly and research practices, contact the Rhetoric & Writing graduate program director.

Consequences of Unethical or Dishonest Scholarly and Research Practices & Inappropriate Professional Conduct
For dishonest scholarly practices in a course, the instructor will follow the university regulations found in the Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities (GSRR) Handbook. The instructor will also inform the graduate director and the guidance committee.

The student’s guidance committee and the graduate director will determine the severity of any scholarly/research infraction and will meet with the student to help her/him understand the situation and learn from the event; an informal annotation of the event will be kept on file by the student, the guidance committee, and the program director.

Severe violations will result in immediate dismissal. First instances of some practices may be dealt with as a learning moment. Second instances will result in a formal letter of warning placed in the student’s permanent file; this letter will outline the violation, cite it as a second instance of such behavior, and warn that continued inappropriate behavior could result in dismissal from the program. Repeat instances will trigger the dismissal process.

Ethical Mentoring
Mentors are faculty members who takes a special interest in helping students develop into successful members of the profession by helping them optimize their education experiences, assist their socialization into disciplinary culture, advance their personal growth as professionals, and help them find a job when their degree is finished. Effective mentoring is characterized by mutual trust, understanding, and respect for students’ professional and personal needs. A successful mentor is prepared to deal with population-diversity issues, including those peculiar to ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.

Good mentoring practices include the following:

  • careful, patient listening,
  • building a relationship with a student beyond the classroom,
  • using authority ethically,
  • nurturing self-sufficiency,
  • establishing focused time for one-on-one mentoring engagement,
  • sharing work and professional ethics with a student,
  • providing introductions to important scholars in the field,
  • offering constructive feedback, and
  • providing personalized training and advice about the formation of a professional profile and the formation of a professional ethos in the student’s chosen field/discipline.