I am a CS PhD student in my final year in North America and I will be applying for academia jobs starting Fall 2020. As far as I know, there will be some sort of background check during the hiring process.

As for my past background, I had an incident during my undergraduate year where I submitted a project with citations at the end, but omitted in-text citations and so I was charged with plagiarism. The committee decided that it was unintentional and allowed me to redo the assignment with a 30% grade reduction penalty and the incident didn't show up on my transcript. So how should I report this incident with my prospect employers? Is this considered a crime or misdemeanor conviction?

Any suggestion is appreciated. Thanks!

  • 4
    Crimes and misdemeanors are given out by the criminal justice system. Were you ever prosecuted for anything by your country’s legal authorities? It sounds like you were disciplined by a university disciplinary committee, that’s a totally different system and has no connection to the legal system.
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 26, 2020 at 19:08
  • They decided it was unintentional so there was no 'crime', no?
    – user111388
    Mar 26, 2020 at 20:37

2 Answers 2


The purpose of the background check is to find out if you are likely to abuse children on campus, assault your colleagues, or steal from the university. It is not related to academic integrity.

Academic integrity is evaluated by reference checks and transcript checks.

Convictions are decided by law courts, not university committees. You have a conviction if a judge or jury convicted you in a court. This does not include university honor courts that are not part of the legal system.

So how should I report this incident with my prospect employers?

You should report it if you are asked to do so. You probably will not be.


Mistakes of this nature, when handled appropriately at the time, are part of the learning process and you can move beyond them without additional penalty. I assume you don't make such errors now, intentionally or otherwise.

There are a few exceptions, however, as when applying to a national intelligence organization and being asked specific questions. You need to answer them honestly and openly. But an old offense such as you describe is unlikely to be a problem if you are honest about it when asked. Lying is a crime in such situations, but the old offense is not.

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