How to Deal with Contract Cheating: A Collection of Resources

June 1, 2020

Last updated: 01 October 2020

I have been getting a lot more requests lately about how to determine if a student has outsourced their academic work. I am noticing a need for more practical hands-on tools, particularly for educators who work at institutions that do not have an academic integrity office or staff with roles dedicated to academic misconduct investigations.

Resources for educators and administrators

Here are some of my favourite free, open-access resources to help educators and administrators:

  1. Bretag, T., & Harper, R. (n.d.). Impossible to prove? Substantiating contract cheating. Retrieved from https://cheatingandassessment.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EDUCATOR-RESOURCE-Substantiating-contract-cheating.pdf
  2. Deakin University: CRADLE. (2018). How to detect contract cheating. Retrieved from https://www.deakin.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/1853881/01-cradle-detect-contract-cheating.pdf
  3. Eaton, S. E. (2020). 15 Strategies to Detect Contract Cheating. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1880/112660
  4. Eaton, S. E. (2019). U Have Integrity: Educator Resource – How to Lead a Discovery Interview About Contract Cheating. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1880/111077
  5. Ellis, C. (2015). Know the signs of contract cheating (Fact sheet). Retrieved from http://www.apfei.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Contract-Cheating-Factsheet-UNSW-2015.pdf
  6. Sambell, K., Brown, S., & Race, P. (n.d.). ENhance QUICK GUIDE: Combatting Contract Cheating. Retrieved from https://staff.napier.ac.uk/services/dlte/Documents/14%20Combatting%20Contract%20Cheating.pdf
  7. UC San Diego. (n.d.). Detecting Contract Cheating in Narrative Assessments. Retrieved from https://academicintegrity.ucsd.edu/_files/Detecting%20Contract%20Cheating.pdf
  8. University of California – San Diego. (n.d.). Excellence with Integrity: Combating Contract Cheating. Retrieved from https://humber.ca/staff/sites/default/files/sub-attachments/Combating%20Contract%20Cheating.pdf
  9. University of New South Wales. (n.d.). Have you contact cheated? Retrieved from https://www.arc.unsw.edu.au/uploads/Yellow%20poster_v2.pdf

Resources for Institutions

  1. International Center for Academic Integrity. (2016). Institutional toolkit to combat contract cheating. Retrieved from http://integrity.fiu.edu/pdfs/Contract%20Cheating.pdf

Resources for Quality Assurance Agencies

  1. International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE). (2020). Toolkit to support quality assurance agencies to address academic integrity and contract cheating. Retrieved from https://www.teqsa.gov.au/latest-news/publications/toolkit-support-quality-assurance-agencies-address-academic-integrity

I hope you find these helpful. It is important to have practical tools to be able to identify if a third party has completed work on the student’s behalf. I will update this post with more tool as I find them, review them and then assess their quality and utility, as I have done with all of the resources included in this post.

Related posts:

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Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.


What kind of sources to include in your literature review

February 27, 2018

Graduate students who are unfamiliar with what is expected of them in terms of higher-level research writing can easily get overwhelmed when it comes to their literature review. A literature review can form part of a larger project, such as a chapter in a thesis or dissertation, and it can also be a standalone project. Regardless of whether it is part of a project or a standalone work, we (your professors) expect certain kinds of sources.

We learned what kinds of sources to include in literature reviews when we were students, but we are not always so good at articulating what those expectations are. The result can be frustration for both students and professors. In this post, I have curated tips and information that I have been sharing with graduate students over the past several years.

These tips are intended to be a guideline, not a prescription. They are based on my experience and include a healthy dose of my own opinion. For example, I am adamant that students should avoid citing Wikipedia in their research writing. I am also unapologetically opposed to quotation websites where students have been known to cut and paste quotations from great thinkers such as Aristotle or Plato. In my view, quotations for research writing ought to come from original works (or in a pinch, a translation of an ancient text).

Your professors or research supervisors will have their own ideas about what kind of sources to include in your literature review, so be sure to consult with them. Here’s what I tell my students:

Most respected sources

Books, peer-reviewed scholarly or scientific journals from reputable publishers. Avoid predatory journals. At least 80% of the total number of sources in your literature review should be sources from this category.

Sources that are OK to use in moderation

Credible edited journals that may not be peer-reviewed, but are highly respected in a professional field; edited conference proceedings; papers from well-respected research institutes or think tanks. Usually, not more than 20% of your sources should come from this category.

Sources that should be used sparingly

Materials from highly reputable news agencies such as the BBC or the Washington Post or highly respected websites, such as the Mayo Clinic. It is not that these sources are not credible, but that you want your research literature review to be strongly focused on research materials. For that reason, I recommend that not more than 5% of sources come from this category.

Sources to avoid

I mentioned two of the big ones above: Wikipedia and online quotation sites. Also avoid predatory journals and any sites (including popular media) that is less reputable.

Here’s an infographic to help you make wise choices about what kind of material to include in your literature review.

Hierarchy of Sources for Educational Research (1)

If your topic has limited sources available in the research, find and analyze what you can, but avoid “padding” your literature review with non-scholarly sources.

When you are learning how to write a literature review, it can be tricky to figure out what kinds of sources to include. Remember, you want to focus on producing a review that is evidence-informed and research-based. The quantity of sources you consult may be important, but quality is definitely important.

Talk with your supervisor about their expectations and get guidance as you go along. The more you work with scholarly or scientific sources, the better you will get at writing literature reviews.

Here’s a longer essay I wrote on this topic if you are interested in reading more:

Eaton, S. E. (2018). Educational Research Literature Reviews: Understanding the Hierarchy of Sources. Calgary: University of Calgary. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1880/106406

Related posts:

How many sources do you need in a literature review?  http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Hu

5 Websites to avoid referencing in your research papers  http://wp.me/pNAh3-1IA

What’s the difference between a manuscript and an article? http://wp.me/pNAh3-1SV

How to provide peer review feedback http://wp.me/pNAh3-1qH

Template for a 10-page graduate research paper in social sciences http://wp.me/pNAh3-1s2

How to narrow down your research topic http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Xf

Dear students, It is not O.K. to cite Wikipedia as a source for scholarly articles. Sincerely, your prof. http://wp.me/pNAh3-1qx

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This blog has had over 1.8 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.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


How to develop your Knowledge Mobilization Plan

March 8, 2017

This week in one of my courses, I’m working with doctoral students to help them understand and figure out how to develop a Knowledge Mobilization Plan (KMP) for their research projects. The KMP is a required element of their project this term.

Here are some resources I shared to help them understand what KMPs are and how to build one:

https://research.usask.ca/documents/Knowledge_Mobilization.pdf

http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/research/UserFiles/File/Amanda%20Cooper%20Building%20KM%20Plans%20UT%20Final%20Post%20Version.pdf

https://www.edu.uwo.ca/research/documents/Thinking_About_Knowledge_Mobilization_Plans.pdf

http://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/funding-financement/policies-politiques/knowledge_mobilisation-mobilisation_des_connaissances-eng.aspx

http://www.slideshare.net/sreibling/how-to-write-a-knowledge-mobilization-plan

https://www.mta.ca/uploadedFiles/Community/Research_and_creative/Research_Office/Mount_Allison_Connects/Institute_events/Building%20a%20Knowledge%20Mobilization%20Strategy.pdf

I also shared my approach to knowledge mobilization for my own research. I use a multi-dimensional approach that includes four different audiences:

  1. Academic – Academic (peer-reviewed) articles, academic conferences
  2. Professional – Professional journal articles (edited); Professional reports; professional conferences (e.g. teachers’ conventions); professional development workshops
  3. Social media – My blog Twitter (@DrSarahEaton); LinkedIn; Research Gate & Academia.edu. (Note: Those last two are are like LinkedIn, but directed towards those working in research).
  4.  Community – This can include public presentations or workshops. The key is to tailor these to a broad general audience.

I am to get my work out to as many different audiences as possible and to create a digital footprint for the work, so that if someone comes across it years down the road and they are interested long after I have moved on to new projects, they can still find out about the project.

I also look for ways to link the “products” or “outputs” of my projects. For example, I just led a project on signature pedagogies for e-learning in Higher education. I had the report archived on the University’s digital repository, so the citation looks like this:

Eaton, S. E., Brown, B., Schroeder, M., Lock, J. & Jacobsen, M. (2017). Signature pedagogies for e-learning in higher education and beyond. Calgary: University of Calgary. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1880/51848

I then blogged about the report on this blog: Signature pedagogies for e-learning in higher education and beyond http://wp.me/pNAh3-1MP

I then Tweeted about the report, which then got Re-tweeted:

Brown RT.jpg

I also posted or submitted a copy of the report at:

  • Research Gate:
  • Academia.edu
  • LinkedIn.
  • ERIC (When there is a full report available).

Basically, I try to get the word out in any many ways as possible.

All this, by the way, took less than two hours to do. I have had these accounts set up for some years now and this has been a fairly consistent process for me when I want to mobilize knowledge about a project.

Here is an infographic I created to help you visualize how you might develop your own KMP. Not all the elements I talked about in this post fit onto the infographic, so don’t think of the visual as exhaustive:KMP.jpg

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This blog has had over 1.8 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.


5 Myths about being an independent language or literacy professional (and secrets of the trade you need to know)

June 18, 2014

Sometimes when I talk with contract language teachers, sessionals, adjuncts, freelance writers, editors and others who dedicate themselves to the language and literacy profession, I’ve learned that there are some myths about the profession that we need to debunk. Here are a few of them:

Myth #1 – The work is about the language

You absolutely need to understand the mechanics of language and the foundations of effective learning to succeed as an independent language professional, the real work is about the people you work with. Helping others to learn, grow and develop as human beings is at the heart of what we do. If you think the job is about being “the spelling police” or a “grammar guru”, you’ve missed the point.

Myth #2 – Being a professional means someone else does the admin work

Language teachers love being in the classroom, but that’s only part of the job. Submitting grades, writing reports and tending to administrative duties comes with the territory. In today’s world, being a professional means paying as much attention to the quality of your administrative work as you do to your teaching. Program and institutional staff are not your personal secretaries. They are professionals in their own right and deserve to be treated as such.

Myth #3 – Being an independent professional means you have no boss

Sometimes people say to me, “You are so lucky!  You have no boss!” Nothing could be further from the truth. You get a minimum of one new boss with every contract you take one. Sometimes you have more than one person you report to. If you’re very lucky, those people will like each other and see eye to eye. If they don’t, you are the one who will get pulled in different directions. Learning to figure out, understand and navigate the reporting requirements of each job is likely to require an immense amount of energy. You invest time and effort at the beginning of every new job. But make no mistake, you will always report to someone, even if it’s not always clear who it is. The trick is to clarify who you report to and understand that your job implicitly involves making that person’s life easier in whatever way you reasonably can.

Myth #4 – The last day of the contract is the end of the job

In many contract situations, there is follow up work to be done after the contract end date. This work is often administrative. Some examples include written reports, expense claims and grade submission. Even though your contract may have officially ended on a particular date, the obligations and expectations of the job may extend past that. Be amenable to reasonable wrap-up duties and ensure you comply with deadlines set by your employer or client. This is important to preserve your positive relationships as you are wrapping up your work. Remember that the end date of a contract may signify the end of a particular job, but your relationships and reputation can outlive any contract.

Myth #5 – It is important to leave with a letter of reference

This is a partial myth. Getting letters of reference can be important, but they can also be formulaic and written according to a template. What’s more important than getting with a generic letter of reference on the last day of the job, is leaving the job with a reputation for excellence and sincere relationships that can last a lifetime. Recommendations that matter are likely to happen over the phone or during informal personal conversations that are more honest and open than a templated letter ever could be. The reality is that we’ll never know about most of the conversations that happen between our prospective employers and our previous employers who are more than likely connected in some collegial way we were never even aware of. Real recommendations don’t come from generic letter we tuck into our portfolios. They come from informal conversations that “never happened”.

There are more myths about the profession that need busting, but these are a few of the most common ones that I see over and over again, especially from folks who are new to the world of working independently either as contractors, freelancers or consultants. The most important thing to remember is that we are only as good as our last contract, our last course or our last project. Our love of language or dedication to literacy is what we do. The reputations we build along the way is how we do it. We need to pay as much attention to the how as we do to the what.

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This blog has had over 1.8 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.


How many sources do you need in a literature review?

February 19, 2014

Students often ask me how many sources they need in their literature review. The short answer is, “It depends.” It depends on your topic, the nature of your research project, your level of scholarship, and a number of other factors.

An article from Canberra University (http://www.canberra.edu.au/studyskills/writing/literature) suggests:

  • Undergraduate review: 5-20 titles depending on level
  • Honours dissertation: 20+ titles
  • Master’s thesis: 40+ titles
  • Doctoral thesis: 50+ titles

Another strategy I learned somewhere along the way that I now share with my students is this:

If your literature review is one section of a larger research paper, thesis or dissertation

 Minimum number of sources = number of pages in the body of your entire paper (exclusive of title page, abstract, appendices and references)

Example: A paper that has 10 pages of content (the body of the paper) needs at least 10 sources in its literature review. 

A thesis of 100 pages (in the body) includes at least 100 sources.

If your literature review is a stand-alone document

Minimum number of sources =  3 times the number of pages in the body of your paper (exclusive of title page, abstract, appendices and references)

Example: A stand-alone literature review that has 10 pages of content (the body of the paper) should examine at least 30 sources.

These are not hard and fast rules by any means. Also, it is worth mentioning that as students and scholars who care about the quality of our work, we want to aim to raise the bar, not simply meet a minimum suggested standard. What these guidelines are suggesting is that you don’t aim for any less. If you do, your search for relevant literature in your field may be incomplete and you need to keep digging. Of course, your sources have to be relevant to your topic, too.

Not every scholar or academic supervisor would agree with the guidelines I offer here, criticizing them as being too reductionist or simplistic. My point isn’t to offer a black and white rule or open theoretical debate for which there can be no clear solution, but rather to offer a straight forward and practical answer to a question that academics often respond to in an ambiguous way, leaving students frustrated, exasperated and anxious about how to go conduct their literature review. 

When in doubt, talk with your own instructor or supervisor, asking them what their expectations are. (Don’t be surprised though, if you get an answer that is vague, like, “It depends…”)

Remember: Aim for quality over quality… and to do a quality literature review, you need to have a substantive quantity of sources.

Here are some of my favourite resources to help you write your literature review:

University of Toronto – http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/specific-types-of-writing/literature-review

U Conn – http://classguides.lib.uconn.edu/content.php?pid=239974&sid=1980274

University of Leicester –  http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/resources/writing/writing-resources/literature-review

Queensland Univeristy of Technology – http://www.citewrite.qut.edu.au/write/litreview.jsp

Birmingham City University – http://library.bcu.ac.uk/learner/writingguides/1.04.htm

Related posts: Why APA formatting matters http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Hc

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This post had had over 52,000 views since I wrote it. Why not share it?: How many sources do you need in a literature review?  http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Hu

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 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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