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Identifying academic misconduct

While some forms of plagiarism and cheating may be easy to spot, others may be more difficult. Language styles, inconsistent references and outdated resources can be clues indicating that a paper or assignment has been plagiarized. Sometimes it is the feeling that you've read this work or part of it somewhere else. Students often think that a professor can't remember 250 papers. An experienced faculty member can recognize copied or similar work, even within large classes; the use of Turnitin.com or other plagiarism detection tools makes that job much easier.

Clues that could indicate plagiarism and/or cheating include:

In Lab and homework activities …

  • In calculations, no or few processes are used, but the answer is correct;
  • Marks on quizzes suddenly increase (i.e., students may be copying the quiz and handing it out to others in the class or program).

In examinations …

  • Whispering or talking;
  • Looking around the room;
  • Peeling label off a water bottle or playing with a water bottle (i.e., students can print cheat notes and glue it to a water bottle so that it looks like a label);
  • Taking a hat on and off (i.e., cheat notes might be hidden inside hat);
  • Glancing down at lap (i.e., phone or note hidden on lap or in sleeve);
  • Setting exam book or scantron card on edge of desk (i.e., may be trying to allow another student to copy).

For information on protocols and policies related to exams, see the Policies and Forms section of this website.

In essays and written assignments …

  • Citation and bibliographic reference styles are inconsistent, mixed or not used;
  • The paper is clearly written at a level beyond the student's usual abilities;
  • The paper contains a mix of language styles, spellings, fonts, font colours and sizes, etc. (i.e., material has been copied and pasted from a website;
  • The same error appears on many student papers;
  • Unique phrasing used by an expert appears in papers by a variety of students;
  • Inconsistencies from one submitted assignment to another (i.e., the final essay or exam is a far superior piece of work than has been previously submitted by the student);
  • References are made to tables, diagrams, pieces of text or citations that are not used in the paper;
  • The topic of the paper is inconsistent with the one assigned, or with course content (i.e., it could be a paper previously handed in to another course).

In meetings with a student …

  • When asked, the student cannot produce any research notes for the paper or summarize the main points in the paper;
  • A chat with the student reveals the student does not have the depth of knowledge exhibited in his/her assignments;
  • Lack of eye contact between the professor and the student (but remember that some disabilities, such as autism, may affect a student’s ability to make eye contact with anyone).

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