Questions worth asking yourself if you're thinking of cheating.

This should not be taken as an exhaustive list by any means.

  1. Has your instructor warned you that course policy rewards cheating and plagiarism with a failing grade for the course, and with the filing of academic integrity violation reporting forms with the relevant administrative offices? If so, cheating might be kind of risky.
  2. Have you been asked to indicate your explicit agreement to a statement that particular sources of information and help are not allowed for this assignment? If so, consulting one of those sources for information and help is not allowed (i.e., it will probably be viewed as cheating), and the instructor who secured your agreement to the ground rules may well pursue sanctions against you if you do it.
  3. Is the assignment on which you're considering cheating one of the requirements for an ethics course? If so, being caught cheating is likely to demonstrate something like a lack of comprehension of the course content. This may well undercut any plea for leniency you're inclined to make.
  4. Are you betting that the instructor evaluating your work will not detect the cheating? If so, you might want to entertain the possibility that he or she can distinguish typical student work from a Googled source, and that past instances of cheating on his or her watch have sharpened his or her discernment. You might also recall that professorial types generally have strong research skills and experience with search engines like Google.
  5. Do you need to pass the particular course in which you are considering cheating in order to graduate in your major? If so, there might be a principled reason that the people training you in your major subject think you should learn the content of this course -- and cheating (rather than actually mastering that content) might put you at a disadvantage in your future education or employment at that kind of major. Also, if you're caught cheating, it may delay your ability to graduate in your chosen major.
  6. Is there only one faculty member who teaches this course-required-for-your-major in which you are considering cheating? That means if you are caught cheating and you want to graduate in this major, you will have to take this course again with this same instructor who already failed you once for cheating. Is that possibility really less uncomfortable than buckling down and doing your own damn work in the first place?

I mean, seriously. Maybe it's time to "update your priors" or something, kids.

6 responses so far

  • Heh. "Update your priors." I laughed out loud.

  • AJS says:

    #3 actually happened to me. I developed and was the first instructor for a course in professional ethics, required for the major. I had a statement in the syllabus regarding plagiarism, which pointed to the university's undergraduate student policies regarding plagiarism and other forms of cheating. And the student copied a paper from the web, on a topic that had nothing to do with professional ethics, and turned it in as the rough draft of the essay for the course (the rough draft and the final draft of the essay together counted for something like 40% of the final grade for the course). In front of the committee on academic (mis)behavior, he asserted that it was just a rough draft and he would not have plagiarized the final version.

    ... and the undergraduates on the committee agreed with him!

    • Janet D. Stemwedel says:

      I am constantly amazed at that kind of judgment ("judgment"?).

      And simultaneously impressed that the faculty members who bear witness don't just lose it and start swearing and/or breaking stuff.

  • jb says:

    For kids in my class, answer is yes to questions 1,2, 4, 5 but those still do not deter cheating. I caught one who brought in an old data sheet from another student and I actually saw her copying from it. She claims she's only copying the format. Then she went crying to the director of the lab. She subsequently accused me of picking on her and harassing her. In subsequent meetings with the director, she upped it to "I attacked her" and she feels traumatized. She was angling for a transfer to another section. Given that I have proof of her attempted cheating, he wouldn't let her and thankfully, the little snit dropped.

  • cd says:

    When I was a TA I had a student email me and the instructor at the end of term asking for a higher grade because "my twin sister in a different section turned in all the same lab reports, and she got a higher grade." The instructor didn't care and I wasn't allowed to fail her.