Universities unite against the academic black market

October 17, 2017

The ConversationOn the TV show Suits, Mike Ross’s character charges a hefty fee to students to take the LSAT (law school admission test) for them. Ross has a stellar memory and a remarkable ability to take tests without getting crushed by stress — he is the perfect “contract cheater.” Later, Ross builds a career as a lawyer based on fake credentials, presumably from Harvard.

Mike Ross may be fictional, but his business is only too real within universities globally. “Contract cheaters” such as Ross complete academic work on a student’s behalf — for a fee. This work includes test taking and homework services. It includes essay-writing and even PhD thesis-writing services, also known as “paper mills.”

In my role as interim associate dean of teaching and learning at the University of Calgary, and as a researcher who specializes in plagiarism prevention and academic integrity, I have been writing about contract cheating since 2010. Since then, it has become rampant at high school and post-secondary levels.

This black market for academic work is vast and little understood. Universities in Canada, and around the world, are having a very hard time trying to police it.

On Oct. 18, 2017, many universities have committed to the second International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating. This aims to tackle the issue head on — by raising awareness and sharing prevention strategies.

Read the whole article in The Conversation (originally published on Oct. 16, 2017).

Related posts:

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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2nd International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating

October 16, 2017
International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating: Graphic created by University of California at San Diego.

Graphic created by University of California at San Diego.

Contract cheating is an umbrella term used to talk about individuals or businesses that provide academic work for a fee. From imposters who take tests on behalf of others, to professional homework services and paper-writing services or “paper mills”, contract cheating is big business. This black market for academic work is becoming more prevalent, is hard to detect and harder to prove. No one knows exactly how many of these services exist, or how much money they make, but their very existence is troubling. Post-secondary educators, as well as those who aspire to a career in education, need to take action against contract cheating.

U of C logo - 2015In my role as Interim Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning at the Werklund School of Education, I have the chance to organize key events that bring people together over key issues related to teaching and learning in our school. When I heard about the 2nd International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating, I knew we had to join.

We’ll be hosting a Brown Bag Interactive Conversation for faculty and staff about what contract cheating is and what we can do about it. We’ll be sharing the Institutional Toolkit to Combat Contract Cheating and this 3-page handout that gives practical strategies on how to combat it.

More than 40 institutions from more than a dozen countries will be hosting events all over the world on October 18. I am so pleased that the University of Calgary will be among them.

We are using the hashtags #defeatthecheat and #excelwithintegrity on social media. Join the conversation on October 18!

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This blog has had over 1.6 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


25 Strategies to Prevent Plagiarism

March 17, 2017

As part of the workshops the research team and I have been offering on plagiarism, we give participants a copy of this handout, with 25 strategies on how to prevent plagiarism in their classes.

25 Strategies to Prevent Plagiarism

We talk about some of these strategies during the workshops. Participants report that they do not know how to prevent plagiarism. Sometimes, participants tell us that it has never occurred to them that they could incorporate prevention strategies into their teaching practice, but instead, they have only thought about — and struggled with — how to address plagiarism after it has occurred. In the workshops, we talk about how instructors can implement plagiarism prevention strategies in their own courses. The discussion becomes more productive and more positive when we focus on what we can do to help students cultivate their understanding of academic and research integrity, as part of developing their reputation as emerging professionals.

Workshop participants report back that they have appreciated having these strategies on a single-page handout. So, I am sharing the handout here with you, so you can use it, too. The audience for our workshops is instructors in higher education institutions, but many of the strategies can be adapted for K-12 and other contexts, too.

Funding for this study was provided by  the University of Calgary Werklund School of Education Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Grant.

Here are some other posts related to this research project:

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This blog has had over 1.6 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Workshop for Educators: Academic Integrity – Opening Up the Conversation Around Plagiarism

March 15, 2017

Today my research assistants, Jenny and Ian, collaborated with me to facilitate a workshop to faculty members and grad students in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, on plagiarism. This workshop is part of the knowledge sharing and mobilization for a research project on plagiarism in our school of education.

Here’s a photo of the group discussing their experiences with plagiarism in their professional practice in higher education contexts.

2017-03-15 - Worshop photo 1

We brainstormed ideas about why students plagiarize:

2017-03-15 - Workshop photo 2

Then, we talked about the reasons why students plagiarize, as informed by the research literature, and compared participants’ responses to what is evident in the literature. There were numerous parallels between participants’ experiences and what we found in the literature.

2017-03-15 - Workshop photo 3

Finally, we shared strategies about how to prevent plagiarism and also how to address it if you encounter it in a student’s work.

You can find a copy of our slides from the workshop here:

You can download a copy of the supplementary materials guide that we gave out to participants here: http://hdl.handle.net/1880/51859

Funding for this study was provided by  the University of Calgary Werklund School of Education Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Grant.

Here are some other posts related to this research project:

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This blog has had over 1.6 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Plagiarism Workshop for Hokkaido University of Education Exchange Students

March 13, 2017

Today I co-presented a workshop on plagiarism for exchange students from Hokkaido University of Education who are at the University of Calgary for a one-month stay to improve their English language skills.

My co-presenter was Benedict “Kojo” Otoo, a graduate research assistant working with me on the academic integrity research project.

You can find a copy of our slides online here: https://youtu.be/zBnqdGM36P0

Related posts:

Here are some other posts related to this research project:

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This blog has had over 1.6 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


New article:Comparative Analysis of Institutional Policy Definitions of Plagiarism: A Pan-Canadian University Study

January 18, 2017

interchange I’m pleased to share the news with you about my latest article, published in Interchange. The title is: “Comparative Analysis of Institutional Policy Definitions of Plagiarism: A Pan-Canadian University Study”.

Here is a link to the online version of the article: http://rdcu.be/oCx2

Funding for this study was provided by  the University of Calgary Werklund School of Education Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Grant.

Here are some other posts related to this research project:

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This blog has had over 1.6 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


New project: Investigating Academic Integrity in the School of Education

January 9, 2017

I’m excited to tell you about a new research project I am working on.

This project investigates how instructors, teaching assistants (TA’s) and administrators perceive and act upon cases of plagiarism or in the Werklund School of Education (WSE) at the University of Calgary. Academic dishonesty continues to present a major problem in higher education.

Research team for

Research team for “Investigating Academic Integrity”

The WSE “Process for Reporting and Responding to Plagiarism” will be used as a tool to engage participants in focus groups and interviews to facilitate dialogue on the topic of academic integrity.

I have the privilege of working with four fabulous research assistants on this project. To the right is a photo of our research team.

Recommendations will be provided as part of the final report.

Here’s a research brief I wrote on the project:

Eaton, S. E. (2016). Investigating academic integrity in the Werklund School of Education: Process, policy and perceptions: Research Project Brief. Calgary: University of Calgary. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1880/51764

Funding for this study was provided by  the University of Calgary Werklund School of Education Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Grant.

Related posts:

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This blog has had over 1.6 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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