Tips and Tools for Detecting Misconduct
Here are some tips, tools, and resources available for instructors to help detect plagiarism or cheating in student’s work.

We would like to note that as instructors encourage academic integrity through their course design, many of those same methods will assist instructors in detecting incidents of academic integrity violations. Therefore, we would recommend that instructors first review the Encouraging Academic Integrity through Course Design page. 

Verify the properties of the student’s submitted work and look for visual cues of possible academic misconduct. Having a record of student’s work, by asking them to submit smaller lower-stakes assignments, will aid instructors with this method.

Some examples of properties to keep a lookout for include:  

    • Usual formatting (inconsistent fonts or styles, unusual highlighting or font color, multiple page numbers on a single page) 
    • Mixed citation styles 
    • Reviewing the student’s citations (information on what to review available HERE)
    • Usual mix of spelling styles (for example the use of both American, UK, or Canadian spelling styles ex. Both color and colour) 
    • Strange grammar or syntax (can be the result of translation services or of over-use of a thesaurus to hide direct copying) 
    • Does the student’s work line up with the assignment? 
    • Is the language consistent (both with the rest of the assignment, as well as their previous work)? Does it stay at a consistent level, or change throughout the student’s assignment? Has the student’s language-level suddenly improved or decreased in quality? 

Instructors may choose to take portions of a student’s assignment or exam answers and search directly in a browser if plagiarism is suspected. 

Instructors may try searching popular databases, such as Ask.com, Encyclopedia.com, and the Langara Library website.  

There are multiple file-sharing sites available online for students to upload their own material, or to use material uploaded by other students. These files may be specifically tagged with an instructor’s course or maybe a similar topic to an assignment that a student must submit.  

Uploading of these materials online for other students to view is prohibited under Langara’s Academic Integrity Policy, specifically:  

    • Violating procedures prescribed to protect the integrity of an assignment, test, or other evaluation 
    • Failing to take measures deemed reasonable to the instructor or invigilator to prevent the use of one’s answers by other students in assignments or examinations 
    • Offering for free or for sale or distributing electronically essays or other assignments, in whole or in part, to another student 
    • Preparing work, in whole or in part, with the expectation that this work will be submitted by another student to meet course requirements 
    • Enabling, aiding, conspiring with, or causing another student to do or attempt to cheat or plagiarize is an academic integrity violation 

Some of these sites may assist in an investigation into who posted the material, however many sites will not and a copyright notice is required to have the material removed.  

If instructors find materials from their courses online, they may contact the Office of Student Conduct & Academic Integrity. The office will walk instructors through their reporting and investigative options, as well as how to have the material removed from the third-party site.  

There are many of these sites, however some of the most popular sites include: 

These services provide pre-written or personally prepared papers, book reports, and dissertations through the internet for free. These services may also work with students during their exams to provide answers to exam questions.  

Contract cheating is of increasing concern and is a serious violation of Langara Academic Integrity Policy and Student Code of Conduct.  If there are concerns that contract cheating may have occurred, we recommend reviewing paper properties (notes included above) and reviewing the student’s citations for evidence (if the assignment is a paper or a written assignment with citations). 

The LSEAIN Contract Cheating Working Group has also created a contract cheating detection for markers checklist, which provides a checklist of strategies and features commonly found in work that is completed by contract cheating. 

If instructors suspect possible outside collaboration on student work, please contact the Office of Student Conduct & Academic Integrity for direct support. 

Further Reading: 
Instructional Toolkit to Combat Contract Cheating 
Pens for Hire: How Students Cheat, and How They Get Away With It 

While some cases of plagiarism or cheating may be easy to detect, others may be more difficult to identify. Here are some cues that may indicate that a student’s work should be examined or investigated further:  

    1. Citation styles or citations themselves are inconsistent, mixed, or non-existent. Alternatively, the citation style guide may not be the one required for the course. 

       

    2. The assignment is written beyond the level of the student’s usual abilities, vocabulary, or combines informal and formal language. Additionally, the student may use formulas, grammatical elements, or theories not taught in the course. 

       

    3. The assignment contains a mix of grammatical levels, types of spelling (ex. American, Canadian, or British), or regionalisms.

       

    4. The student’s work may be inconsistent from one assignment to the next (ex. one student’s essay is far superior to past or future assignments).

       

    5. The references used in the student’s work are dated (ex. all older than five years) or there is a number of inactive web sites in the student’s citations.

       

    6. References made to arguments, tables, pictures, diagrams, or citations, which do not actually appear in the student’s work.

       

    7. References are made to obscure journals or books not readily available at local libraries, the Langara Library, or databases available through the Langara Library.

       

    8. The topic of the student’s work is inconsistent with the one assigned, or the content taught in the course.

       

    9. Parts of the student’s work is inconsistent with other parts of the work, or there is a change of writing styles.  

       

    10. When asked, the student is unable to provide drafts, research notes, or to summarize the main points of their work.  

Turnitin is an evaluative and feedback tool that can be enabled on an instructor’s course through Brightspace. The Turnitin tool can be used to ensure the originality of student work, and will review the student’s work with other submitted papers to the site, internet sources, and a wide range of journals and other publications. When a student’s work is run through Turnitin, an originality report is generated and instructors must review the report to see if there is evidence of plagiarism.  

Instructors can contact EdTech (edtech@langara.ca) if they have any questions regarding enabling Turnitin.  

Setting up Turnitin in your Brightspace Assignment  

If you have conducted an assessment through Brightspace, and suspect possible collaboration between students, we recommend instructors contact EdTech (edtech@langara.ca).  

EdTech may be able to review course log-ins, IP address information, or additional information to see if there is any evidence that corroborates an instructor’s concerns. 

EdTech Help Hours and Information  

If instructors suspect possible academic misconduct, students are provided with a chance to respond to concerns before an academic integrity report is submitted. This may be a helpful time to meet with the student to review their knowledge of the work that they have submitted, in order to detect possible academic misconduct. For example: 

    • Can the student summarize the main points of their work? 
    • Can the student provide copies or links to material that they have cited ? 
    • Can the student explain why they used specific formulas or grammar (for second-language courses) ? 
    • Can the student provide drafts of their work or detailed research notes?