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Academic Integrity for Students

How is Contract Cheating Different than Plagiarism?

The differences between contract cheating and plagiarism may seem confusing and are the source of debate within the academic integrity community.

In some ways, contract cheating could also be viewed as plagiarism in Policy A25:

  • "Using another's words, ideas, theories or images without crediting the source" (Assiniboine Community College, 2013). 

This would, after all, apply to situations where students are handing in something completed by another person.


The key differences between contract cheating and plagiarism are severity and intent. 




  • Students have been accused of plagiarism because they have either missed a citation or a reference.
  • A student who does correctly cite and reference the majority of their sources, but forgets one, could be accused of plagiarism.

In both of these cases, the student has interacted with their sources and worked on their assessment.


Contract Cheating

  • A student simply has another person complete the assessment for them.

In this case, there is no learning at all, hence contract cheating being a more serious form of academic misconduct.



We can see the differences in intent by looking at the two situations below:

  • A student actively seeks to have their assessment completed by someone else.


  • A student has plagiarized - either accidentally or intentionally - in an assessment they've completed themselves.

In the first situation, the student intentionally had someone else complete their work. However, in the second situation, the student plagiarsed, but completed their own work.

As Newton (2018) describes, contract cheating is “deliberate, pre-planned and intentional”, regardless of whether a formal contract or payment is involved.