On campus or online, many students find advertisements with services designed to assist with academic work. These services may include essay writing, test-taking, or answer banks, among others. In addition, some students search for these items directly. No matter the service, students who agree to use companies and individuals providing these resources may find themselves committing a form of academic misconduct known as contract cheating. Contract cheating is the practice of purchasing or providing academic work for purchase from a third party (website, company, or individual). Although your university policy may not use these exact words, contract cheating violates academic misconduct policy. Depending on the course or assignment, it can be considered plagiarism, academic fraud, forgery, or data manipulation. As a college student, it is your responsibility to understand how the purchase or provision of services may impact your academic record.
Contract cheating was initially described by Robert Clarke and Thomas Lancaster in 2006, defining the term as the process through which students can have original work produced for them, which they can then submit as if this were their own. As the authors noted, this usually involves the payment of a fee, and this can be facilitated using online auction sites.
Contract cheating shows a lack of academic integrity in several ways. First, choosing to misrepresent work completed by a third party is dishonest. Dishonesty is present in purchasing or acquiring completed assignments; submitting the work for credit is a misrepresentation that can have lasting consequences. Imagine demonstrating understanding or mastery of a subject without providing assigned evidence. Would you feel comfortable if a physician pretended to understand a diagnosis? If an auto mechanic told you that a vehicle was safe without understanding what to look for? Choosing to be dishonest rather than learning the material is not only unhelpful but often harmful.
As described in prior skills, academic integrity is defined as a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility. Paying for assignments threatens the academic community. If faculty cannot trust students to turn in honest work, they cannot measure understanding. Likewise, if students cannot trust faculty to measure understanding adequately, students run the risk of being unprepared for qualifying exams, upper-level courses, internships, and the workplace. In addition, if students know that other students choose to purchase assignments and exams, the perceived value of coursework diminishes. Honest students are frustrated, and dishonest students disrupt the learning process.
Issues of unfairness are significant. Contract cheating has the potential to devalue degree programs, academic reputations, and future earnings. Students acting with integrity suffer the consequences. Grading and teaching are impacted and unfair when students choose to outsource work. It is unfair for instructors to spend valuable course time to ensure that students do not purchase assignments, but it is unfortunate. Time and resources are spent to enforce and prevent contract cheating instead of supporting students.
Academic communities thrive when they are committed to mutual respect: Students respect instructors, instructors respect students, the academic community respects each other, and the community respects training necessary to create a qualified and capable workforce. When respect is diminished, support and goodwill follow. Contract cheating takes away the value of learning and disrespects student talent, faculty expertise, and the experiences of individuals who feel they have little choice but to support themselves by providing illegal content. While companies and individuals are culpable, ultimately, personal responsibility for academic work lies with students.
Responsibility as a fundamental value demands independent work. Responsible students take ownership of their decisions and shortcomings. Contract cheating is irresponsible; the model is built to hide deficiency in understanding, challenges with time management, and lapses in judgment. Individuals who are unwilling to take responsibility are unlikely to accept responsibility for course performance, grades, or their behaviors’ impact on others. Students who use third parties to complete assignments fail to acknowledge their challenges and cheat rather than seek assistance.
This skill will help you understand what contract cheating is, how it is perceived by colleges and universities, how to keep your information safe from use, the risks involved in contract cheating, and how to prevent becoming involved in contract cheating.