Have you ever thought of asking or paying someone else to write an assignment for you? This behavior is called contract cheating, and it is a form of academic misconduct. It can carry serious repercussions, which may include failing your class and having to resit or even expulsion from your school or university. As Hermione says, ‘’Now if you two don’t mind, I’m going to bed before either of you come up with another clever idea to get us killed or worse… expelled!!’’ (Heyman, D (Producer)., & Columbus, C. (Director). (2001). Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Warner Bros. Pictures).
If you as a student are confused about what is considered contract cheating, why you should avoid it, and how your university can help you, continue reading to find out.
What do we mean by contract cheating?
Clarke and Lancaster (2007) define the term contract cheating as ”the process through which students can have original work produced for them, which they can then submit as if this were their own work. Often this involves the payment of a fee, and this can be facilitated using online auction sites’’.
The most common forms of contract cheating are:
- Help from an individual such as a friend or family member, requesting them to write the paper for you
- Downloading a paper from a website with free essays online datbases and used as your own work
- Colluding with other students on a take-home exam or test
- Allowing another student to use your assignment for academic credit
- Outsourcing your academic assignment to third party subcontractors
Employing someone to write your assignment might be the most harmful form of academic misconduct, as it devaluates the work of other students who try and put their effort into creating their own piece of original work.
Why do students rely on contract cheating?
Many reasons may encourage students to ask someone to help with writing their assignments and essays. The most common one is that it seems to be a faster and more reliable way of receiving good grades. However, students are not always aware or do not understand the risks involved.
Some other reasons why students may resort to taking a short-cut include:
- Stress and time management
- Desire to succeed and perfection
- Peer and family pressure
- Finding academic writing intimidating and lack of confidence
- When studying something in a language other than their native language
- Allegiance to a parallel ethical value: Cheating to bring positive results
- Lack of knowledge and understanding of what counts as contract cheating
- Small or non-existent penalties from educators regarding contract cheating because of low levels of awareness on how to identify it. This can result in the normalization of this behavior.
Why contract cheating is not worth it: How does it affect original work?
For most educational institutions contract cheating is considered an act of academic dishonesty, and it can have severe consequences for the student engaging in it. As already mentioned above, failing courses and being suspended from the studies overall can be some of the academic consequences.
But besides academic repercussions, there are some personal risks for students when engaging in this kind of behavior. When students are assigned a task, it does not only test their learning but also provides them with the right skills to create their own original work. There is a continuous change in this era of the explosion of knowledge and technology, and having access to information can be a challenge.
Students should learn how to face these challenges creatively so that it can have a positive effect on society as well as on them as individuals. Change is essential for societies, individuals, and organizations to grow and decay. And having access to information is not enough. It is a student’s ability to be able to make sense of this information by evaluating and critically examining it that will help them convert their ideas into workable and original solutions. On top of that, learning to use different thinking patterns can help students produce new and unique ideas to deal with change while studying and later at their workplace.
Thus, when students avoid creating their own work and ask someone else to do it for them, they lose the chance to acquire crucial skills that will not only help them improve their academic performance but also later in real life.
Nowadays, most universities today have tools such as Ouriginal in place, which can run a text analysis comparison on submitted data to identify authorship and detect instances of contract cheating. This makes it easy to wean out content that may not be a student’s original work. Ouriginal Metrics has made authorship detection feasible and accessible than ever before.
How can educational institutions support their students?
Maintaining good academic practice standards is not always easy, and sometimes academic misconduct occurs unintentionally. As mentioned earlier, high stress and time pressure can lead students to make poor choices. However, there are many ways that Universities can support students and raise awareness about academic misconduct.
Universities can help students in the following ways:
- Educate students on what constitutes plagiarism and contract cheating by adding academic integrity material in the different courses.
- Provide academic writing services to all students. Students who may lack confidence in academic writing can participate in the different activities including writing groups, one-on-one consultations, writing workshops and access to recourses for academic writing.
- Library services are another crucial resource for students, as students can get access to scientific literature, journals, and databases in libraries.
- At these locations are usually also experts who can offer support on how to search, select, and critically examine scientific resources. Additionally, they can provide advice on how to write and manage references.
- Students experiencing anxiety and stress can seek help from their universities, which can offer Student counseling and Student Health Services.
- Encourage students to access the course information about academic misconduct and ask their teachers if they are uncertain about the information provided on the topic.
All in all, contract cheating is a serious form of academic dishonesty, and it can only have negative effects on students’ academic performance that can even lead to course failure and expulsion. It will also ultimately prevent students from creating their own original work by not using their critical thinking skills. Yet, if students don’t feel confident about their writing skills, they can always contact their university.
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