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What Is the Connection between Cheating and Plagiarism?

By David Bishop
Updated May 23, 2024
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Cheating and plagiarism are common forms of academic misconduct. Cheating is a more general term that can cover a wide range of malfeasance, including plagiarism, but it also specifically refers to trying to use outside materials to answer questions on an examination or copying from another student’s test paper. Plagiarism refers to the specific act of someone submitting another person’s work as his own. Plagiarism can occur in the academic or professional world and is sometimes claimed to be unintentional. Both cheating and plagiarism are considered serious breaches of conduct codes and may result in academic suspension, probation or expulsion.

Students engage in cheating at all levels of education, from elementary school through college. While many students cheat because they haven’t studied for an exam, the pressure to succeed has pushed many hardworking students into using cheat sheets on important tests. Some students may be pressured or bullied into letting others see their exam or giving signals for the correct answers. As more technology has entered the classroom, students are using smartphones, calculators and other devices to store or share information. In the United States, several teachers have been found to be involved in cheating scandals, hoping to raise the standardized test scores of their students.

Plagiarism can be a more subtle breach of academic rules and is often hard to detect. The simplest form of plagiarism would be a student copying directly from an encyclopedia or Internet site, and then turning in the article or essay as his own work. Another example would be a girlfriend or boyfriend writing a paper for her or his partner to turn in. Even though this is original work, it is not being performed by the student and is still considered to be against the rules. Other students may purchase work online or pay someone else to do the work for them.

Some college professors attempt to deal with the problems of cheating and plagiarism by having the class write a large amount of material early in the semester so they can learn each student’s individual style before assigning more important work. This makes it easier for the instructor to detect plagiarized work but requires more time from both the student and the teacher. If an instructor catches a student engaged in cheating and plagiarism, he can deal directly with the student or report the incident for consideration by an academic review board.

Plagiarism continues to be a problem beyond graduation. Any writing profession has to deal with a lack of attribution and outright theft of content. Fields such as journalism have developed their own ethics and standards to address this issue. Despite this, writers in the public and private spheres continue to be found to have lifted material from previous works without giving proper credit.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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