talking with students about cheating May 9

Cheating: Can We Be Doing More to Promote Academic Integrity?

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The most common approach to cheating involves trying to prevent it—multiple versions of a test, roving observation during tests, software that detects plagiarism, policies that prohibit it.  However, if we look at cheating across the board, what we’re doing to stop it hasn’t been all that successful. Depending on the study, the percentage of students who say they’ve cheated runs between 50% and 90% with more results falling on the high side of that range. Can we be doing more? Here are some ideas.


why do students plagiarize April 16

Three Keys to Stopping Plagiarism

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Although there are software-based services that can help instructors check the originality of student writing and discourage students from deliberately copying the work of others, many instances of plagiarism stem not from a willful disregard of the rules but from simple ignorance of them.

Elizabeth Kleinfeld, an English instructor and director of the writing center at Metropolitan State University of Denver, has studied plagiarism and students’ use of sources for the last seven years, mostly among students in first-year writing courses. She has found that many students don’t understand the differences between paraphrasing, summarizing, and plagiarism.


cheating in college classroom April 11

Activities that Promote Awareness of What Is and Isn’t Cheating

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Although some behaviors are pretty much universally identified as cheating (copying exam answers, for example), we’re not in agreement on everything. Particularly significant are disagreements between faculty and students (for example, students don’t think cheating occurs if they look something up on their phone and can’t find it; faculty consider cheating in terms of intent). In many cases, there is the question of degree (when, for example, collaboration crosses the line and becomes cheating). The effectiveness of cheating prevention mechanisms can be increased by clarifying upfront what is and isn’t cheating. Here’s a collection of activities faculty can use to ensure that students understand the behaviors that constitute cheating.


copy and paste keyboard - cheating in college April 5

Fact Sheet on Cheating in College

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Cheating and its related issues have been studied extensively for decades. There’s an overwhelming amount of literature. However, results from the past and the present confirm that cheating has been and continues to be a serious problem in higher education.

Here’s an overview of what’s been studied and is known about cheating. The answers provided are broadly supported by the research and illustrated here with brief highlights from a few sample studies. This overview focuses on work published since 2000. Plenty of good research was done before then and is well summarized by McCabe, Trevino, and Butterfield (2001). The findings reported previously continue to be supported by more recent research.

How widespread is cheating? It depends on the study but most report the percentage of students who cheat in the 50-90% range.

Cheating in classrooms

  • 75% of 824 students in 14 different graduate and undergraduate business classes. (Chapman, David, Toy, and Wright, 2004)
  • 5% of all students at a small liberal arts institution. Cheaters were defined as students who more than once engaged in any one of 17 cheating behaviors. (Kidwell, Wozniak and Laurel, 2003)
  • 92% of students surveyed in an online business course had cheated or knew someone who had (Jones, 2011)
  • 86% of a 268-student cross disciplinary sample reported they had cheated (Klein, et. al. 2006)

Cheating in online courses

  • Almost 75% of a cohort of 121 undergraduate business students believe that was easier to cheat in online courses than in traditional classrooms (King, Guyette, Piotrowski, 2009).
  • When 84 MBA and undergraduate business were asked, 47% of MBA students and almost 38% of undergraduates thought it was easier to cheat in online courses (Larkin and Mintu-Wimsatt, 2015)

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cheating in college March 13

Students as a Forgotten Ally in Preventing Cheating

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I’m still wandering around in the literature on cheating. It’s hard not to get depressed. It’s such a pervasive problem and one that compromises all that education could and should be.

Faculty are pretty much focused on preventative measures, which are essential, but there are a couple of other issues rarely mentioned in the literature or in our discussions. Students who don’t cheat usually aren’t on our side when it comes to enforcing cheating policies. In one study, almost 93% of the students said they had witnessed another student cheat, but only 4.4% said they had ever reported a cheating incident (Bernardi, et. al., 2016) Students are in a bind—they don’t want to rat out fellow classmates, some of whom may be friends. If they do and word gets out, they are labeled as “snitches” and “tattletales” — told to mind their own business and otherwise berated. With serious social consequences like these, it takes real courage to do the right thing.


copy-paste September 2, 2016

Plagiarism vs. Originality: Why I [heart] Melania Trump

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When I first I started teaching, I knew what plagiarism meant and how it related to schoolwork. But student “cheaters” challenged my beliefs. I also assumed graduate students would submit original work. So it took me by surprise when I noticed a mysterious improvement in one student’s writing capacity, well beyond the skill level he’d demonstrated earlier. When a Google search proved more than 20 percent of his paper was copied, he explained it as a computer error—he’d accidentally dropped the footnote when cutting and pasting. I lowered his course grade, but assumed it really was a snafu—not subterfuge. The (now) obvious question went unasked: Why was so much of his assignment based on other people’s insights?


January 13, 2015

Plagiarism: An Interesting Disconnect between Students' Thoughts and Actions

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Almost 800 business, engineering, education, and health services students completed a fairly typical plagiarism survey. They were asked how strongly they agreed with a statement defining plagiarism as copying text and inserting it in a paper without citing the source. They were asked how often they engaged in this specific behavior. As in many other survey studies, 75 percent of these students agreed or strongly agreed that copying text without referencing it was plagiarism. Eighty-one percent said that the behavior should result in strong punishment, and 84 percent said that they never or rarely engaged in this practice. None of those results are new or particularly surprising.


August 16, 2012

An Assignment that Prevents Plagiarism

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A qualitative study of plagiarism reported that although students know that plagiarism is wrong, most are quite confused about what actually constitutes plagiarism. The availability of so many online resources has exacerbated the problem. Cut-and-paste features expedite using the material of others. Studies are also showing that students do not think the principles of ownership apply to online resources the same way they do to published material. Finally, many faculty are still struggling to master the rules of referencing that apply to Web-based resources, which does not excuse but certainly explains why students find referencing these materials so confusing.


March 12, 2012

A Lesson in Academic Integrity as Students Feel the Injustice of Plagiarism

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In an effort to make my lessons about plagiarism and the appropriate citation of sources more personal for the students in my rhetoric and research classes, I now use an assignment that forces them into the role of victim rather than thief. The results of my most recent experience with this approach were encouraging.


November 28, 2011

The Writing Process: Step-by-Step Approach Curbs Plagiarism, Helps Students Build Confidence in Their Writing Ability

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I’ve long been an advocate of student-centered learning and approaching material from a variety of perspectives. We hear so many buzzwords describing the ways we should teach or the ways our students learn, and we deal increasingly with issues of plagiarism and academic dishonesty. In a classroom of adult learners who frequently view themselves as consumers, we balance the need to meet their demands with the need for them to meet ours. Getting back to the basics can intrinsically incorporate kinesthetic, collaborative learning and nearly eliminate plagiarism while promoting critical thinking.