Deterring contract cheating through early writing intervention (2023)

What are students thinking and feeling at the moment in which they seek out external, unauthorised help to complete their assignment? We can speculate on their headspace when deciding to engage in contract cheating, but it’s not a moment that educators and their institutions are actually privy to. What might it tell us about the motivations and justifications of students amidst therising problem of contract cheating?

As the higher education sector in particular grapples with attempted solutions to curb the practice, we mainly rely on students’ after-the-fact testimony and educators’ own observations to inform our view of contract cheating. Predictably absent from this equation is the perspective of the cheating service provider, and specifically the enlisted writer, who remains anonymous outside of their shadowy business entity. You might be thinking: so what? They’re providing an illegitimate service - at least according to Australian law, which in 2020prohibited essay mills- and have no stake in meaningful educational outcomes, so what is there to gain from their insight?

It’s certainly true that commercial contract cheating is a highly transactional business that does not have students’ best interests at heart, but players within it nonetheless have a unique experience and window of sorts to the student mindset. One such individual who possesses this insider view, or at leastdidduring his stint in the contract cheating industry, is Dave Tomar, author and Managing Editor ofInfluence Networks.

Why the contract cheating industry thrives

Dave Tomar is a former ghostwriter who spent 10+ years helping students cheat, including direct communication that granted him visibility of their struggles. In 2019, Turnitin tapped into Dave’s experience to get the candid story of anessay mill insider. Since the release of his new book,The Complete Guide To Contract Cheating in Higher Education, he spoke with us again in order to shed additional light on the problem of contract cheating, and what he refers to as the ‘desperation of students’ that he believes is not being fully addressed in the education system. It should be noted that Dave’s contract cheating experience is centred on North America, however there are discernible similarities to Australia and Asia Pacific more broadly, in terms of how essay mills operate and the underlying student motivations.

(Video) Detecting and Investigating Contract Cheating Cases and Supporting Students Through the Process

Whatever your opinion on Dave’s self-described ‘quest for redemption’ owing to his previous role in the commercial cheating cycle, one can’t deny the compelling perspective he brings and willingness to share his first-hand insights. He’s seen students at their most vulnerable within their academic careers, been exposed to their overall thought process in outsourcing work relative to its perceived risk, and even observed how they feel about the assignments given to them as reflected in the writing brief that they provide. So when institutions ask: ‘how do we disincentivise students from contract cheating?’, Dave has some theories on why the demand is going unabated.

In line with prevailing academic thought, Dave agrees that it is not possible to eliminate contract cheating; just as eliminating the very temptation to cheat is impossible. That being said, he’s confident we can reduce students’ perceived need to cheat and thus disempower the commercial cheating industry. The caveat? He says it will require a mindset shift on the part of educators and institutions in how we approach the problem. Dave notes that there is a tendency to view contract cheating as often the realm of undisciplined or lazy students. Another assumption is that apathy and disinterest in a given assignment is a strong precursor to contract cheating. However, in his experience spanning 10 years and across a diverse student clientele, Dave says these scenarios were not as common.

Students not receiving enough meaningful writing instruction

Far from the image of a cool, calm and calculating student gaming the system, Dave reveals that for the majority of students that approached him to write their assignments, a mixture of fear and desperation was the common denominator. Of course, this is not to downplay the intersecting motivations that lead students down the path of cheating, such as those identified byAmigud and Lancaster (2019), and the opportunism arising from pandemic-ledupheavals in education.

According to Dave, many of the students outsourcing their work were operating on the assumption that they were not capable of doing the task, seeing no other way of passing their unit or course. Although Dave was not formally qualified to evaluate the writing skill level of these students,lack of support and/or skillwas rife amongst international students for whom English was not a first language. He recalls some of their email requests were littered with grammar and spelling errors, testifying to their inability to perform at the level of their peers and to the standards required of them. Herein lies the problem, and according to Dave,

(Video) Confronting academic dishonesty and contract cheating in learning environments

“we need to disabuse ourselves of the assumption that students have the ability to write, research or read analytically just because they are enrolled in college/university. The reality is that students carry those deficiencies into higher education.”
— Dave Tomar

It may be a bitter pill to swallow for institutions, but Dave contends that in many cases, students are not receiving enough instruction on their writing to demonstrate their knowledge for the concepts being taught and the writing standard which has been set, and that it manifests in contract cheating. And although students ultimately bear responsibility for their actions, getting caught up in matters of righteousness or moralising of contract cheating is of little help. For instance, by fixating on the fact there is no excuse for contract cheating in light of the assignment writing help on offer at institutions, Dave counters: “No, it’s not an excuse, but it is an explanation. Ignore it at your peril.”

Encouragingly, institutions are extending their writing support for students, whether it’s in the form of preparatory courses within the curriculum, or more casual drop-in sessions to give extra help to struggling students. However, there is much more work to be done in identifying any barriers in the delivery of this training, including whether it’s elective or mandatory, its convenience amidst competing student demands, and how ‘hands-on’ it is, to ensure that at-risk students don’t slip through the cracks.

Layers of protection for commercial cheating risks

The need for renewed focus on writing scaffolds within teaching and learning practices is not to overlook the additional measures to stop commercial cheating providers from targeting students. A comprehensive contract cheating strategy will balance internal, educative institutional policies and external protocol that applies to the sector as a whole. Australia’s Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) is a perfect example of a coordinated national approach to limit the cheating industry’s operations through legislation and provide guidance for institutions. Their legislation that bans contract cheating providers from operating in Australia and theirrecent strides in blocking website accessthrough partnership with telecommunications providers, is an important layer of a multi-pronged strategy to undermine contract cheating’s scope and student reach.

(Video) Week 7: Contract cheating

That being said, it is not a solution in and of itself. Dave himself applauds TEQSA’s efforts to prevent user access, but maintains that addressing the will or intention to cheat in the first place is the cornerstone of a meaningful reduction in contract cheating rates. Unregulated social media and the availability of freelancer platforms are yet more outlets to sustain the supply and demand of contract cheating. Similarly, TEQSA’s purview does not cover contract cheating that bypasses large-scale file sharing sites or essay mills, in favour of help that is closer to home. Bretag et al.’s seminal work surveyingstudent attitudes to contract cheatingfound that friends, family members and fellow students were the preferred third party source for unauthorised help, and in fact, the primary form of contract cheating that takes place.

These scenarios conjure Dave’s ‘whack-a-mole’ metaphor for contract cheating. Referencing the popular kids game, he points to the persistent nature of contract cheating, and that measures to suppress it will only work for so long until it pops up again. He reinforces that supply will always find ways to meet the demand unless you can stop that demand at the source, pointing to academic deficiency as the core predictor of contract cheating by a student. Similarly, for anyone under the misapprehension that there is some ‘silver-bullet solution’ to contract cheating, Dave’s experience points to a definitive ‘no’, though encouragingly, he concludes: “The solution is educational, which is good news for teachers”.

Building more confident writers

Improving literacy, and particularly digital literacy, in an era where online, hybrid and asynchronous learning cancomplicate matters of academic integrity, is akin to playing the long-game in stopping contract cheating. It means building students’ capacity to complete assignments on their own merit using original thinking as a baseline for ideas and ethics, and empowering students to take pride in their written expression.

Truth be told, incoming tertiary students are oftenunderprepared for writing at a university level. The uneasy transition between the sectors is not easy to remedy, but as an advocate for early intervention, Dave says our best hope of nipping student cheating in the bud is to double down on writing initiatives:

(Video) Essay mills: 'Contract cheating' to be made illegal in England

“If we want these students to enjoy a meaningful and successful higher education experience, we must implement ungraded writing intervention at the college/university level.”
— Dave Tomar

Dave raises another key point here regarding graded tasks, ergo high-stakes environments that apply extra pressure on students to perform and feed into the desperation of students that he saw day-in and day-out as a ghostwriter. There is a strong case for making lower-stakes environments more feasible, to ease the pressure on students and allow them to ‘fail safely’ as they learn how to approach and execute academic writing. It’s a parallel to academic Cath Ellis’ view, who posits that the transactional element of the summative assessment model may separate students from learning goals andincrease the likelihood of misconduct.

So, what is our yardstick upon which to gauge students’ writing skill and how can we measure progress? It’s a particularly important consideration for grounding educator suspicions of contract cheating and detecting when it does happen. Dave proposes greater attention to the concept of ‘student voice’, which tends toget lost in a higher education settingwhere assignments are marked by a revolving door of educators, lecturers and TAs. Of course, in knowing what a student is capable of at a given moment in time and what is likely to be another author, scalability at institutions is a huge factor. This brings us to technology and how it could facilitate the writing intervention and contract cheating detection process.

Looking to uphold academic integrity and identify possible contract cheating in student work?

(Video) Reducing Contract Cheating - Challenges And Solutions

Want to improve students’ academic writing and research skills and develop more confident writers?


How can instructors mitigate contract cheating? ›

Include an Academic Integrity statement in your syllabus and require students to sign an anti-cheating pledge, creating a culture of integrity with your classroom. Assign in-class writing as a baseline writing assessment at the beginning of the term, to which one can compare a student's later work.

How do you deal with contract cheating? ›

Instead, here is how professors can help prevent contract cheating and deal with the issue if it occurs:
  1. Discuss it early. ...
  2. Revamp assignments. ...
  3. Know what your students can do. ...
  4. Get more information. ...
  5. Escalate the matter if necessary.
Mar 17, 2020

What is contract cheating in writing? ›

This is called contract cheating: contracting someone else to do the work you should be doing, often in exchange for money or favours. This can include, but is not limited to: Buying a paper (or a portion thereof) online.

Which of these situations represents an example of contract cheating? ›

You can be accused of contract cheating if you: buy a completed assignment from a tutoring or ghostwriting company. ask a partner, friend or family member to write part or all of an assignment for you. pay a private tutoring company to coach you on how to complete an assignment.

What is the best solution to eradicate cheating among students? ›

  1. Talk About Honesty & Integrity. ...
  2. Teach Digital Responsibility. ...
  3. Create an Anti-Cheating Pledge. ...
  4. Make Different Versions of Your Assessments. ...
  5. Switch Up Seating on Test Day. ...
  6. Use Multiple Assessment Styles. ...
  7. Manage Access to Personal Devices. ...
  8. Check the Settings on Digital Study Tools.
May 10, 2022

What can professors do to decrease academic dishonesty in their class? ›

Engage students proactively

One way to accomplish this is by dividing the class into small groups to discuss questions and concerns about academic dishonesty. Students should be encouraged to ask for clarification when necessary. Faculty can also engage students in developing an “honor code” for each course.

How do you confront possible cheating? ›

Use good listening skills to provide an objective hearing. Maintain a neutral stance. Don't plan on confronting a cheater by stating your belief or by pointing the finger in an accusing way. Simply lay out the facts that seem to point to a situation that involves cheating, and wait to hear what the suspect has to say.

Can contract cheating be detected? ›

Contract cheating can be tricky to detect. Here are some strategies to help you: Use Metadata (Properties) in Word – Check to see if the name of the author matches the name of the student. Look for quotations or citations from journal articles that draw from the abstracts, rather than the main article.

What is another word for contract cheating? ›

Contract cheating (also known as assessment outsourcing or ghost writing) can be defined as submitting written or creative work which has been drafted or produced by another – including Gen-AI software, friends, family, or a paid contracting service, and claiming authorship for it.

What is the most common form of academic dishonesty? ›

Cheating. The most common form of cheating is looking at someone else's work during an exam or test, but it can also involve most of the other types of misconduct listed here.

What is contract cheating to be wrong and why it constitutes academic misconduct? ›

All in all, contract cheating is a serious form of academic dishonesty, and it can only have negative effects on students' academic performance that can even lead to course failure and expulsion. It will also ultimately prevent students from creating their own original work by not using their critical thinking skills.

What are 3 things considered cheating? ›

Simply put, cheating is being unfaithful to your partner.

There are different types of cheating in a relationship, and it doesn't only involve physical affairs. Instead, cheating seeks sexual intimacy, emotional attachment, or gratification from someone other than your partner.

What are the three main causes of cheating? ›

Here, are nine of the most common reasons why people cheat.
  • Lack of Emotional Connection. ...
  • Lack of Sexual Connection. ...
  • Bad Boundaries With People Outside the Relationship. ...
  • Fighting Unfairly. ...
  • Making Assumptions About Your Relationship Status. ...
  • Unresolved Childhood Issues. ...
  • Sex Addiction. ...
  • Addiction.
Aug 29, 2022

What are three examples of common breaches of contract? ›

In this article, we set out the three major breaches of contract that commonly occur.
  • Material Breach. The first and most severe type of breach is a 'material' breach (also known as a 'fundamental breach'). ...
  • Minor Breach. ...
  • Repudiation. ...
  • Key Takeaways. ...
  • Frequently Asked Questions.
Nov 17, 2022

Can cheating be prevented? ›

To stop cheating, you have to recognize and avoid attraction

They focus on their partner and how wonderful they are, which means consistently investing in the relationship through date nights and other forms of intimacy, said O'Sullivan.

What are the main reasons students cheat? ›

Common Reasons Students Cheat
  • Poor Time Management. ...
  • Stress/Overload. ...
  • Wanting to Help Friends. ...
  • Fear of Failure. ...
  • "Everyone Does it" Phenomenon. ...
  • Temptation Due to Unmonitored Environments or Weak Assignment Design. ...
  • Different Understanding of Academic Integrity Policies.

What is the solution for academic dishonesty? ›

Distance yourself from others, including your friends, to reduce any temptation to cheat. Plan ahead for assignments and exams. Students who feel more prepared are less likely to be insecure about the information and less likely to be dishonest. Do not share your assignments.

How to lessen the occurrences of dishonesty among learners? ›

Preventing Academic Dishonesty
  1. Switch up the seating. Don't let study buddies or good friends sit next to each other.
  2. Walk around and be visible. ...
  3. Make multiple versions of tests, with the questions in random order. ...
  4. Make up new tests each semester.
  5. Don't allow temptations - breaks, hats, cell phones, etc.

What are 3 consequences for academic dishonesty? ›

Answer: The consequences of academic dishonesty can be far-reaching. You could fail a class, be dismissed from your major, or even be expelled from your school.

How does an innocent person react when accused of cheating? ›

Innocent people can react to false accusations of cheating can in a variety of ways. Common reactions include surprise and disbelief, denial of the accusation, anger and frustration, a desire to prove their innocence, and a willingness to cooperate with any efforts to investigate the situation.

How do cheaters react when confronted? ›

Anger or Aggression

Anger and aggression are two other common initial reactions to accusations of cheating. Cheaters often use anger as a form of deflection to turn the situation around and make accusations against you instead, like that you don't trust them enough.

How to be accountable after cheating? ›

Here are 7 things you must do to make amends and move forward.
  1. Personal Accountability. You must take complete accountability for your actions. ...
  2. Empathy. Cheaters lack empathy, at least while they're cheating. ...
  3. Be Patient. ...
  4. Follow through. ...
  5. Be vulnerable. ...
  6. Set limits. ...
  7. Detach from the outcome.
Nov 9, 2017

What is Microcheating? ›

Micro-cheating is a term used to describe small, seemingly harmless actions or behaviours that may indicate a partner is emotionally or physically involved with someone else.

Can cheating be forgiven? ›

Forgiveness is the antidote and a way for you to move on. However, it's a personal choice whether to do so. Can you forgive a cheater? In short, yes, but learning how to forgive someone for cheating means understanding what forgiveness actually means — only then can you achieve it.

How do you rebuild trust after cheating and lying? ›

Building Trust After Cheating
  1. Let Yourself Be Raw With Your Emotions. ...
  2. Don't Ignore What Happened. ...
  3. Don't Be a Helicopter Partner. ...
  4. Stay Present and Future-Oriented. ...
  5. Go to Counseling. ...
  6. Trust Yourself. ...
  7. Communicate About Communication.
Apr 22, 2019

How common is contract cheating? ›

Dr Guy Curtis from the University of Western Australia, who edited the soon-to-be-published book “Contract cheating in higher education”, said his research found about 10% of students submit assignments written by someone else, and more than 95% of them are not caught.

How do cheaters cover their tracks? ›

A cheater may install and use a VPN on their computer if they want to ensure that any internet searches or online activity related to their affair is completely hidden. Once they are done using the internet, they can turn off the VPN, fully concealing their activities.

How do you say cheater without saying it? ›

Synonyms of cheater
  1. cheat.
  2. dodger.
  3. shark.
  4. swindler.
  5. sharper.
  6. skinner.
  7. chiseler.
  8. scammer.

What is worse than cheating? ›

Lying to your partner

Lying to or hiding things from your partner is a sure-shot way to ruin your relationship. Even if you're doing it to protect them, keeping little things from the person you love can grow into huge problems and cause trust issues.

What is it called when someone goes against a contract? ›

A breach of contract is a violation of any of the agreed-upon terms and conditions of a binding contract. The breach could be anything from a late payment to a more serious violation, such as the failure to deliver a promised asset.

Is sharing notes considered cheating? ›

Another common form of cheating involves exams. Copying from someone else's paper, using notes (unless expressly allowed by the teacher), altering an exam for re-grading, getting an advance copy of the examination, or hiring a surrogate test-taker are all flagrant violations of University policy.

What is collusion cheating? ›

Collusion is a type of cheating, and it occurs when people work together to develop an assignment which is intended to be an individual effort. It involves copying someone else's work or allowing someone else to copy your work.

Does academic dishonesty go on your transcript? ›

Although these sanctions do not appear on your transcript, they will be noted in your educational record. Anyone for whom you give the Office of Academic Integrity & Student Conduct permission to disclose information regarding your academic records may be notified that you have a conduct or academic integrity record.

What is an example of contract cheating in academic integrity? ›

TEQSA defines contract cheating as: '… when students outsource their assessments to a third party, whether that is a commercial provider, current or former student, family member or acquaintance.

What is an example of cheating academic misconduct? ›

Copying from another student during an examination or allowing another to copy your work. Unauthorized collaboration on a take home assignment or examination. Using notes during a closed book examination. Taking an examination for another student, or asking or allowing another student to take an examination for you.

Is cheating a violation of academic integrity? ›

When we fail to excel with integrity, it may be called cheating, academic misconduct, academic dishonesty, or an academic integrity violation. Cheating occurs when a student attempts to get academic credit in a way that is dishonest, disrespectful, irresponsible, untrustworthy or unfair.

How do you mitigate contract risks? ›

Legal teams mitigate contract risk by incorporating specific language such as: indemnification, insurance, cyber security, limited liability, governing law, termination, and warranty clauses.

How can we as teachers ensure that students are not tempted to cheat or plagiarise? ›

Provide ongoing feedback to reduce the temptation to cheat.

Students may be tempted to cheat when they don't know how to approach a task. Requiring students to turn in smaller chunks of a paper or project for feedback and a grade ahead of the final deadline can lessen the risk of cheating.

What are three consequences that a professor might enforce if you engage in academic dishonesty? ›

Academic consequences within a class or research project

Such action may include: requiring the student to redo the assignment for a reduced grade. assigning the student a failing grade for the assignment. assigning the student a failing grade for the class.

What is contract duty to mitigate? ›

Duty to mitigate damages is a contract concept that simply means that the party who did not breach the contract cannot take advantage of the breach. This duty protects a breaching party from unfair liability. This duty also prevents recovery of any damages that could have been reasonably avoided.

What are the four 4 risk mitigation strategies? ›

There are four common risk mitigation strategies. These typically include avoidance, reduction, transference, and acceptance.

What are the five risk mitigation strategies? ›

Five risk mitigation strategies with examples
  • Assume and accept risk. ...
  • Avoidance of risk. ...
  • Controlling risk. ...
  • Transference of risk. ...
  • Watch and monitor risk.
Mar 10, 2023

What are the 6 steps that are used to mitigate risk? ›

  • Step 1: Hazard identification. This is the process of examining each work area and work task for the purpose of identifying all the hazards which are “inherent in the job”. ...
  • Step 2: Risk identification.
  • Step 3: Risk assessment.
  • Step 4: Risk control. ...
  • Step 5: Documenting the process. ...
  • Step 6: Monitoring and reviewing.

What is the best way to avoid academic dishonesty or cheating? ›

What Actions Can You Take to Avoid Academic Dishonesty?
  1. Start your assignments early and stay on track with due dates.
  2. Ask for help from your professor.
  3. Take careful notes as you do your research and organize your sources.
  4. Work with a Librarian or the Writing Center to integrate and cite your sources and avoid plagiarism.
Jan 19, 2023

How do you explain to your teacher that you didn't cheat? ›

I recommend these steps:
  1. Tell the professor that you did not cheat.
  2. Tell them that right now you need to focus on studying for your exams.
  3. Tell them that you look forward to straightening the matter out after the exams.
  4. Request to take the exam at the normal time. ...
  5. Go back to studying.
May 3, 2020

How to convince your teacher that you didn t plagiarize example? ›

Provide your teacher with the outlines, notes or drafts, which were made for this particular paper as the proofs that you have made efforts to write the paper on your own. Provide the evidence that highlights your knowledge or skills (for example, previous essays) to prove that you didn't plagiarize in the past.

What to do if a professor accuses you of cheating? ›

What to do if you are accused of cheating
  1. Don't panic. When you read the letter, you will be distraught and will want to act immediately. ...
  2. Seek help. ...
  3. Think evidence. ...
  4. Think tactics. ...
  5. Write your statement. ...
  6. Prepare for interview/hearing. ...
  7. Hearing. ...
  8. Consider appeal.
May 31, 2019

What are the three root causes of academic dishonesty? ›

Common Reasons Students Cheat
  • Poor Time Management. ...
  • Stress/Overload. ...
  • Wanting to Help Friends. ...
  • Fear of Failure. ...
  • "Everyone Does it" Phenomenon. ...
  • Temptation Due to Unmonitored Environments or Weak Assignment Design. ...
  • Different Understanding of Academic Integrity Policies.

What are the 5 possible consequences for academic dishonesty? ›

Possible sanctions include:
  • Resubmission of work without penalty;
  • Resubmission of work with penalty;
  • Warning letter/written reprimand;
  • Failing grade (F) for assignment/exam/test or course;
  • Disciplinary probation;
  • Suspension from attendance in a course, a program, a faculty, or the university;
  • Permanent expulsion;

What is unjust enrichment in contract law? ›

Overview. Unjust enrichment occurs when Party A confers a benefit upon Party B without Party A receiving the proper restitution required by law. This typically occurs in a contractual agreement when Party A fulfills his/her part of the agreement and Party B does not fulfill his/her part of the agreement.

What is an example of mitigation in a contract? ›

For example, if a tenant abandons their lease, a landlord has duty to mitigate damages caused by the breaching tenant. In this case, the mitigation of damages doctrine imposes a duty on the landlord to try to find a new tenant and re-rent their property.

What is the burden of proof for mitigation of damages? ›

Burden of proof

A defendant has the burden of proving that the plaintiff failed to take reasonable steps to minimize damages, that the damages could have been avoided, and that the avoidable damages can be measured with reasonable certainty.


1. Week 7: Preventing contract cheating and essay mills: Legal challenges
(Salim Razı)
2. Contract Cheating in Canada: Exploring Legislative Options
(Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning)
3. Essay mills offering incentives to cheating students, experts warn | Headliners react
4. Taking Action Against Contract Cheating
5. UKA: Essay Writing Services Documentary - BBC Fake Britain
(UK-Assignments . com)
6. ASCILITE Live! Contract cheating, e-cheating, academic integrity and ensuring digital equity
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