Dealing With Contract Cheating: A Question Of Attribution

Lancaster, T & Clarke, R (2012). Dealing With Contract Cheating: A Question Of Attribution, 1st Annual Higher Education Academy Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Imperial College, London, April 2012.

The issue of attribution, identifying the institutions which students who attempt to outsource work are from, poses a major difficulty for detectives monitoring online sites used for contract cheating. This form of academic misconduct occurs when students get other people to complete assessed work for them. Previous studies on contract cheating have focused on student use of Internet-based outsourcing services. The studies have demonstrated that those sites primarily provide students with work for subjects falling within the computing spectrum.

This paper focuses on a study of 627 sample postings made on EssayBay, a commercial site aimed at providing assignment writing solutions for students. The study identifies that students across a range of academic subjects and levels of study, far beyond the computing field, are using EssayBay for purposes of contract cheating. Only 23.7% of the postings investigated are found to be attributable, that is, they can be traced back to the academic institution to which the assignment specification belongs. This suggests that there are issues across the sector with the way that assignments are set and made available for detectives.

Based on the study, two factors for measuring the attributability of a posting on a contract cheating are proposed, namely searchability and individuality. Searchability measures how easily a posting can be found using a search engine. Individuality measures how unique an assignment specification is. Generally, both searchability and individuality are necessary to allow assignment specifications to be attributed. The paper concludes by making recommendations detailing how academic departments can combat contract cheating by improving the attributability of the assignment specifications that they release.

Dealing With Contract Cheating: A Question Of Attribution

Dr. Thomas Lancaster is an international expert in academic integrity, best known for raising awareness of contract cheating through leading research and other activities. He regularly provides expert seminars and media commentary. Thomas is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Computer Science practitioner. To discuss opportunities to work with Thomas, please contact
  1. Broken Link to Dealing With Contract Cheating: A Question Of Attribution – it returns a 404 not found. from page

    1. Thanks for letting me know. It looks like the paper is no longer on the HEA site (they only have a copy of the slides). I’ve put up an alternative link to the page where the paper is archived.

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