Academic cheating, or academic dishonesty, is defined as an illegal change of a grade, the use of helping materials during a test without permission, or representing someone else's work as one's own. Academic cheating is also every other act of dishonesty on behalf of a student, a teacher or professor in an academic environment. It is believed that academic cheating is wide-spread across all levels of education while it usually begins among students at the age of 10 to 14.
There are a number of types of academic cheating. Two of the most common are cheating on an exam and plagiarism. Examples of the first type are the use of a cheat sheet during a test or the copying of answers from another student. An example of plagiarism is copying parts of someone else's work into a report or a paper without giving credit to the author of the original work.
Two other kinds of academic dishonesty are fabrication and deception. Fabrication refers to the practice of altering or falsifying data for the purposes of an academic exercise. Deception is when a student lies or bends the truth so that he or she can receive special consideration. A form of deception is faking an illness so that a deadline for a project can be extended.
Sabotage and bribery are two other forms of academic cheating. An example of sabotage is when a student illegally removes from the library reference material that another student or group of students need. A student may do this in order to prevent other students from completing an assignment or when a project is graded on a curve. Bribery refers to when a student pays someone else to complete an assignment on his or her behalf.
A number of factors that influence academic cheating have been identified by researchers. These factors include competition and pressures for good grades as well as peer pressure to support a friend. Instructional situations that are considered unfair or excessively demanding and faculty who are perceived as indifferent to their student's learning or their own teaching may also prompt cheating. Faculty's lax attitudes toward academic cheating and student's diminishing ethical values or sense of academic integrity are also considered factors that affect academic dishonesty.
According to researchers, students are often unaware of cheating because they do not know how much and when they can work with other students as well as what exactly is considered plagiarism. So teachers should make sure that students know what they are allowed to do, what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, what different examples of plagiarism there are, and how they can be penalised for academic violations.
Ways of combating cheating include assigning specific paper topics to students. Students tend to cheat when topics are too difficult, boring and uninteresting, or they are given too much freedom in the choice of topic. Topics or assignment should also be changed for each offering of a course so that students cannot appropriate an essay from someone who has already taken a course. Teachers should also help students with writing, giving clear instructions and providing advice when needed.
Exam questions should also be changed often or with multi-choice exams the order of questions or pages can also be changed. When it is appropriate, a teacher can also create individualised tests for students. Exams, materials and grade books should also be kept safe to prevent theft or fabrication. A teacher should also distinguish between fraudulent and legitimate excuses and should state clearly what he or she considers acceptable and unacceptable excuses.
Parents and teachers should also help students focus on building a sense of pride from their own honest achievements. They have been advised to talk about cheating and model positive non-cheating behavior. Parents and teachers should also emphasize a love of learning rather than just encourage students to have good grades. Students should be discouraged from getting involved in too many extracurricular activities in order to have time for homework.
It is also critical to make students understand that cheating is harmful because there is an attitude among teenagers that such practices are not wrong. Students should understand that people who often cheat in school continue doing so in higher education and as a result will not be adequately prepared to do their job. In fields such as medicine, business, government and others people who have attained their degree through cheating can cause harm later in life.