Cheating in schools: 5 ways to avoid cheating

Recently, we released an infographic highlighting the ways the lines on plagiarism are being blurred as a result of the digital age. According to recent research, 71% of today's students do not believe copying from the Web constitutes “serious cheating.” Shocking? Maybe. But there's no denying that the Internet makes it that much easier to copy and paste. Perhaps that's why some students are falling victim to cheating and plagiarism.

To help steer you in the right direction academically, we've put together a list of 5 tips that will help you beat the cheat.


Avoid cheating in school by citing properly.

1. Use citations.

The word “plagiarism” has varying definitions, but the main idea is that you can’t take someone else’s ideas or words without giving them proper credit for their work. One easy solution? Give them proper credit.

Whether you use footnotes, a bibliography, or in-text citations, just give the original author credit and you are instantly clear of any potential plagiarism.

There are cases when an idea or fact is so widely known it might not need to be specifically attributed to one person and therefore won’t need a citation. If you are concerned about whether or not you need to cite a certain fact, cite it. When dealing with something as serious as academic fraud, better safe than sorry.

Avoid cheating in schools by taking good notes.

2. Take notes.

One of the reasons plagiarism is so widespread and difficult to identify is that it is nearly impossible to write an intelligent opinion or research paper without doing some background research of your own first. It’s inevitable that your background research will include other people’s ideas and conclusions.

You will be using a lot of information from a lot of really smart people. It’s okay to use their conclusions to bolster your argument. But make sure you remember where you got the information. One way to do that is by using highlighters and sticky bookmarks. If you find a paragraph in a particular report that you want to use information from, use these tools to remember where the info came from and give credit where credit is due.

Avoid cheating by being wary of online sources.

3. Be wary of online sources.

The easiest way to get caught plagiarizing is to cite a statistic, fact, or study that is obviously wrong. If the information is incorrect, it will be easy for a knowledgeable teacher to spot it instantly and nail you for plagiarism.

Most of these misinformed ideas and inaccurate facts are the result of students carelessly using the Internet and assuming all the information they obtain is true. It’s not that websites like Wikipedia and About.com can’t be excellent sources of information, but if you plan on using Wikipedia, make sure you double-check your stats.

Remember that Web is a double-edged sword: it can help make a paper great, or, if used lazily, it can get you into trouble.

Avoid cheating in school by knowing your voice.

4. Be comfortable with your voice.

A common mistake that students make is assuming the professor is looking for the most intellectual language, which causes them to try to use someone else's voice. Well, believe it or not, using someone else’s voice can be considered plagiarism.

And besides, teachers don’t care how many big words or fancy concepts you use in your paper as long as it's clear that you are learning and using your own words to draw conclusions and identify themes. Papers aren’t assigned as torture; they are meant to help students learn and understand new ideas.

So next time you are doing a philosophy paper and like the way Thomas Hobbes writes about the social contract, pause, digest, and then try to simplify the idea using your own voice.

Avoid cheating in schools by learning writing skills.

5. Trust your writing skills.

Let’s face it: if someone could plagiarize without getting caught, it might appear to be an easy way to get a good grade. No long research or agonizing over words.

But aside from the immorality of it, plagiarism is ill-advised because the student who plagiarizes is also the one who isn’t learning to write. Writing is an essential part of not just college, but also professional life. Email, proposals, contracts... you will inevitably have know how to string together a coherent, intelligent piece of writing at some point.

And the best way to hone that craft is – surprise! – writing more. You only learn how to punctuate properly and piece together ideas by struggling, practicing and learning from your mistakes. Try it!