A less common form of academic misconduct is contract cheating. This can apply to a wide-range of academic assignments but most often refers to written papers from short essays to doctoral theses. Contract cheating is not new, but technology has enabled it to propagate.
“Contract cheating occurs when a student contracts with a provider to have the provider produce an academic product when it was reasonably known that the product would be submitted for academic credit.” – Definition by Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant
- A student pays a classmate to write her computer code for her
- A graduate student utilizes an online company to write his thesis
- A student buys a pre-written essay online
The Office of Student Conduct & Community Standards chooses not to show examples or the names of companies who engage in contract cheating, because we believe this would equate to free press for them. These companies can be found around the globe and blatantly advertise their services as tools for student cheating. There are also independent contractors who advertise online as well. Currently there are no laws in the US that prohibits these types of interactions. The International Center for Academic Integrity is exploring options on how to best tackle these companies.
What faculty can do
Contract cheating can be difficult to detect, because it often involves original work that does not involve plagiarism. However, there are ways to decrease the incentives to cheat and increase the likelihood that it will be caught.
Before the Process Begins
- Employ the usual best integrity practices
- Make the assignment more individualized, include self-reflection
- Make the assignment interesting and unique, so they want to write the paper
- Relate the assignment to in-class discussions
- Conduct an in-class writing exercise
While the Writing Process is Occurring
- Require students to document every step
- Annotated bibliography
- Rough draft
- Require multiple drafts
- Review in person with the student
- Assign peer-review or using the Writing Center
- Google the assignment prompt to see if it is posted anywhere
When Meeting with a Student Who’s Paper Seems “Off”
- Ask them about their writing process
- Ask them to explain a concept or word in their paper
- Ask them why the writing is different or better than previous papers/assignments
- Remember to engage with students as educators not detectives
Adopted with permission from Bertram Gallant, T. (April 22, 2015). The cultural implications of contract cheating [Webinar]. In Plagiarism Education Week 2015.