Journal of Academic Ethics

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 115–124 | Cite as

How Prevalent is Contract Cheating and to What Extent are Students Repeat Offenders?

Article

Abstract

Contract cheating, or plagiarism via paid ghostwriting, is a significant academic ethical issue, especially as reliable methods for its prevention and detection in students’ assignments remain elusive. Contract cheating in academic assessment has been the subject of much recent debate and concern. Although some scandals have attracted substantial media attention, little is known about the likely prevalence of contract cheating by students for their university assignments. Although rates of contract cheating tend to be low, criminological theories suggest that people who employ ghostwriters for their assignments are likely to re-offend, and little is known about re-offence rates in this form of academic misconduct. We combined previously-collected datasets (N = 1378) and conducted additional, and previously-unreported, analyses on self-report measures of contract cheating prevalence. We found that few students (3.5%), on aggregate, ever engaged in contract cheating but this varied substantially among samples (from 0.3% to 7.9%). Of those who ever engaged in contract cheating, 62.5% did so more than once. The data also suggested that engagement in contract cheating is influenced by opportunity. These figures may help policy makers, and researchers who are creating contract cheating detection methods, to estimate base rates of contract cheating and the likelihood of re-offence.

Keywords

Contract cheating Ghostwriting Prevalence Plagiarism Academic integrity 

References

  1. Afroz, S., Islam, A. C., Stolerman, A., Greenstadt, R., & McCoy, D. (2014). Doppelgänger finder: Taking stylometry to the underground. In: 2014 I.E. Symposium on Security and Privacy (pp. 212-226). IEEE. doi:10.1109/SP.2014.21
  2. Bailey, J., Tomar, D., & Chu J. (2012). Paying for plagiarism. http://go.turnitin.com/webcast/paying-for-plagiarism Accessed 24 August 2016.
  3. Budd, T., Sharp, C., & Mayhew, P. (2005). Offending in England and Wales: first results from the 2003 Crime and Justice Survey. London: Home Office.Google Scholar
  4. Clare, J. (2016). Rational, motivated students and suitable units: Detecting suspected ghost-writing of unsupervised written assignments. Paper presented at the 29th Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology conference, Hobart, Australia.Google Scholar
  5. Clarke, R., & Lancaster, T. (2006). Eliminating the successor to plagiarism: Identifying the usage of contract cheating sites. Proceedings of the Second International Plagiarism Conference. Gateshead: United Kingdom.Google Scholar
  6. Cohen, L. E., & Felson, M. (1979). Social change and crime rate trends: A routine activity approach. American Sociological Review, 44(4), 588–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cornish, D. B., & Clarke, R. V. (1986). The reasoning criminal: Rational choice perspectives on offending. New York: Springer-Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Curman, A. S. N., Andresen, M. A., & Brantingham, P. J. (2015). Crime and place: A longitudinal examination of street segment patterns in Vancouver, BC. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 31(1), 127–147. doi:10.1007/s10940-014-9228-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Curtis, G. J., & Popal, R. (2011). An examination of factors related to plagiarism and a five year follow-up of plagiarism at an Australian university. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 7(1), 30–42. doi:10.21913/IJEI.v7i1.742.Google Scholar
  10. Curtis, G. J., & Vardanega, L. (2016). Is plagiarism changing over time? A 10-year time-lag study with three points of measurement. Higher Education Research & Development, 35, 1167–1179. doi:10.1080/07294360.2016.1161602.
  11. Curtis, G. J., Gouldthorp, B., Thomas, E. F., O’Brien, G. M., & Correia, H. M. (2013). Online academic-integrity mastery training may improve students’ awareness of, and attitudes toward, plagiarism. Psychology: Learning and Teaching, 12(3), 282–289. doi:10.2304/plat2013.12.3.282.Google Scholar
  12. Farrell, G., Phillips, C., & Pease, K. (1995). Like taking candy: Why does repeat victimization occur? British Journal of Criminology, 35(3), 384–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Felson, M., & Clarke, R. V. (1998). Opportunity makes the thief: Practical theory for crime prevention, Police research series, paper 98. London: Home Office.Google Scholar
  14. Koppel, M., & Winter, Y. (2014). Determining if two documents are written by the same author. Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, 65(1), 178–187. doi:10.1002/asi.22954.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. MacDonald, G., & Nail, P. R. (2005). Attitude change and the public-private attitude distinction. British Journal of Social Psychology, 44(1), 15–28. doi:10.1348/014466604X23437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Maxwell, A. J., Curtis, G. J., & Vardanega, L. (2006). Plagiarism among local and Asian students in Australia. Guidance & Counselling, 21(4), 210–215.Google Scholar
  17. Maxwell, A. J., Curtis, G. J., & Vardanega, L. (2008). Does culture influence understanding and perceived seriousness of plagiarism? International Journal for Educational Integrity, 4(2), 25–40. doi:10.21913/IJEI.v4i2.412.Google Scholar
  18. McCabe, D. L. (2005). Cheating among college and university students: A north American perspective. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 1(1). doi:10.21913/IJEI.v1i1.14.
  19. McNeilage, A., & Visentin, L. (2014, November 12). Students enlist MyMaster website to write essays, assignments. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au Accessed 13 October 2015
  20. Stamatatos, E., Daelemans, W., Verhoeven, B., Stein, B., Potthast, M., Juola, P., ... & Barrón-Cedeño, A. (2014). Overview of the Author Identification Task at PAN 2014. In CLEF (Working Notes) (pp. 877–897).Google Scholar
  21. Townsley, M., Homel, R., & Chaseling, J. (2003). Infectious burglaries: A test of the near repeat hypothesis. British Journal of Criminology, 43(3), 615–633. doi:10.1093/bjc/43.3.615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Visentin, L. (2015). MyMaster essay cheating scandal: More than 70 university students face suspension. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au Accessed 23 August 2016
  23. Walker, J. (1998). Student plagiarism in universities: What are we doing about it? Higher Education Research and Development, 17(1), 89–106. doi:10.1080/0729436980170105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Walker, M., & Townley, C. (2012). Contract cheating: A new challenge for academic honesty? Journal of Academic Ethics, 10(1), 27–44. doi:10.1007/s10805-012-9150-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wallace, M. J., & Newton, P. M. (2014). Turnaround time and market capacity in contract cheating. Educational Studies, 40(2), 233–236. doi:10.1080/03055698.2014.889597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Zafarghandi, A. M., Khoshroo, F., & Barkat, B. (2012). An investigation of Iranian EFL masters students’ perceptions of plagiarism. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 8(2), 69–85. doi:10.21913/IJEI.v8i2.811.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychology and Exercise ScienceMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia
  2. 2.School of LawMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia

Personalised recommendations