Contract Cheating & Academic Integrity

What is Contract Cheating?

Contract cheating is an umbrella term that describes all forms of outsourced academic work, whether text-based or non-text-based, and multiple providers (eg, Chegg, Course Hero, various essay mills) of outsourced academic work. Coined by Robert Clarke and Thomas Lancaster in their 2007 study "Assessing Contract Cheating Through Auction Sites – A Computing Perspective” contract cheating includes the following actions:

  • unpaid help from friends, casual note sharers, peers in campus organizations, or family members who are asked to complete the task in the student’s place;
  • work downloaded from a free website or or other digital resource to be submitted as student’s own work; and
  • paying for an academic assignment or other academic material that will be or has been written by third-party services such as Chegg, Course Hero, and scores of other for-profit tutoring services that allow students to upload and download course materials.

For further insights regarding contract cheating, review the article of the article of “Contract Cheating: Reasons Behind It and Ways To Stop It” and a parallel slide deck “Contract Cheating: What is it and What can we do about it?” The authors showcase the multiple sites selling contract cheating services, and offer strategies for combating or countering their impacts on teaching and learning.

Setting a base for developing a proactive integrity plan begins with two key questions: What is originality (in realms of content, design, and method)? What pathways might we follow in implementing integrity practices and selecting appropriate technology tools (trust, verification, and observation)? Thomas Tobin addresses each of these questions in “The Online Administrator’s Semi-Painless Guide to Institution-Wide Academic Integrity.”

What is Academic Integrity?

Equally important work for us as instructors is to frame academic integrity clearly, positively, and proactively; in this, we make room for clarifying discussions with students about principles and practices, difficulties and strategies. To aid in this framing we offer three resources:

  • Framing Academic Integrity, this curated selection of resources links to 
    • clear, actionable definitions of academic integrity, 
    • resources for students experiencing stress and uncertainty that can prompt acts of academic dishonesty,
    • links to academic integrity offices on each UMN campus.   
  • Designed for students, the Academic Integrity at the University of Minnesota online short course focuses on defining academic integrity and scholastic dishonesty, and contextualizes these values in situations to help undergraduate students better understand what it means to be and how to create academic work as a scholar. The two-module short course is offered as an interactive textbook combining narrative, case studies, and application scenarios so that learners have the opportunity to practice their skills with citation as well as paraphrasing, summarizing and quoting.
    • The first module in the short course focuses on the broad idea of academic integrity and applies it to real-life situations. 
    • The second module focuses on how to use sources through attribution and citation. After completing both modules, learners have the opportunity to take a quiz in Canvas for a certificate of completion.
    • While the short course is designed for early-undergraduate students, it is also a good resource for students who may not be familiar with academic integrity in the North American context or as a refresher for instructors. 
    • An instructor guide includes both instructions on how to integrate the modules into courses as well as offering lesson plans and discussion questions to support talking with students about academic integrity within a discipline.
  • Instructors might also opt to leverage the system-supported TurnItIn tool to teach students how to analyze their text for originality and possible plagiarism. 6 Principles to Guide Use of Plagiarism Detection Software and Tools outlines the ways instructors can use detection software to support students in creating scholarly work in line with principles of academic integrity.