Detecting Cheating

Learn how to detect cheating in writing, exams and more

It’s often surprisingly easy to identify Academic Integrity Policy violations if you know the common indicators of plagiarism and cheating. We’ve compiled a list of signs which may help you detect plagiarized papers and cheating on exams and problem sets with ease. These were adapted from the University of Minnesota’s Scholastic Dishonesty.

Writing assignments

Common indicators of plagiarism:

  • Change in style or tone from the student’s other written work
  • Unusual citation styles or formatting
  • Last minute changes in topic
  • Unusual word choice, including overly technical terminology
  • Typographical errors from scanning or cutting and pasting a paper (e.g., the “%” sign in place of an apostrophe) 
  • Presence of a URL printed on the paper or dark lines that indicate one was covered up 
  • References to illustrations or tables not in the paper
  • Reference to a course or assignment that is not accurate

Ways to verify:

  • Ask the student. (See Discussing Academic Integrity Policy Violations.) 
  • “Google” within quotes mark a distinctive phrase that seems out of place. 
  • With the name removed, for privacy and to avoid possible bias, ask a colleague to review the paper against samples of the student’s work. 
  • Use an online prevention/detection program such as SafeAssignment. (See Plagiarism Detection Software.)

Exams and problem sets

Common indicators of cheating:

  • Wrong answers match between two students’ assignments. 
  • Labels given to diagrams, etc. are identical but not common to the class. 
  • A faculty member, TA or student observes a student behaving oddly during an exam, such as sitting at an odd angle, repeated glancing at a particular spot, rustling papers, whispering, etc. The student’s test has answers that match those of an adjacent student’s test.

Other resources

Cheating 101: Detecting Plagiarized Papers, Coastal Carolina University