Don’t Be a Contract Cheat
It’s late on a Friday night after a long, difficult week. You’ve worked hard, you’re exhausted, and all you want to do is lie down.
There is an essay due for class on Monday that’s been hanging over your head for days, but the weekend is completely booked and you have no idea when you’re going to be able to work on it. You like the course, the essay is really no big deal, and you’re confident that if you had even a second of free time you could write something great.
You know the material, you just need the finished product. Just something to hand in. Just so it’s done.
You Google the name of the topic and the word “essay” and are surprised at how many results come up. You know it’s technically cheating to use something you find, but it would be just this once and it’s just so easy…
Nope, stop right there! You are definitely cheating—contract cheating.
What Is Contract Cheating?
Contract cheating is a more formal way of describing the academic crime of outsourcing your course work and turning it in as your own. This can be the exchange of assignments for money like paying for work from an online essay mill. However, contract cheating also encompasses downloading free essays or trading assignments with students in other classes with no payment involved.
Unlike plagiarism, which includes using the words and ideas of others in your work without proper attribution, contract cheating means you have done no work at all. Even worse, while plagiarism is often accidental, contract cheating is premeditated and entirely intentional.
A sneakier way that contract cheating happens is what the Academic Integrity Office at UC San Diego calls “toxic help.” Toxic help can be given and received and can involve posting course materials and completed assignments online, the use of professional ”homework help” sites, or having friends and family do your work for you. Toxic help can feel well-intentioned, but if “tutoring” or “editing” help turns into work you did not do yourself, you’re still contract cheating.
5 Tips to Avoid Contract Cheating
It goes without saying that contract cheating is a bad idea. You shouldn’t do it. If you do, and you get caught, you’ll face consequences that could range from failing your course to being expelled from your degree program. Academic institutions are increasingly aware of this type of cheating and have ways to search for work they suspect is not a student’s own. This does not mean the idea of contract cheating doesn’t pose a temptation. Here are five tips to help you stay honest.
Students are moved to cheat by a lack of confidence in their own time or talent to do the work themselves. If you’re feeling this way, tell your instructor! They are here to help talk through your concerns and find solutions so you can feel prepared and ready to do your best work. Your instructor would much rather help you improve your own original work that have you submit a lie.
It can feel good to be the “expert” or the “smart one” everyone goes to when they need help with schoolwork, and it can feel equally as easy to just give out answers or write a whole assignment for a student in need. Recognize when helping turns toxic. You’re cheating your friend and yourself in the process.
When even confident, successful students feel pressured by the demands of work and life, contract cheating can start to look like a safety net. Examine what causes the most stress around your assignment due dates and find ways to reduce it before it turns desperate. Remember why you’re in school in the first place and focus on your goals. Schedule dedicated schoolwork time, away from distractions, that’s just for you.
The internet has a way of telling on itself. If you see your course materials or suspiciously specific information about your courses’ exams and assignments start showing up online, let your school know and you could be helping to stop contract cheating before it starts.
Maintain your awareness of academic integrity from assignment to assignment and throughout the year. The International Center for Academic Integrity has resources for students and educators to spread awareness of academic integrity and collaborate on solutions for solutions on contract cheating and related issues.