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Contract cheating and plagiarism in technical disciplines: A conceptual reflection from multidisciplinary perspectives

CONTEXT Academic misconduct in the form of contract cheating and plagiarism is not a new phenomenon. However, academic misconduct is often challenging to detect in technical disciplines like engineering, information technology (IT), finance, and accounting, where solutions to many problems have unique answers. Thus, it may be challenging to determine if a student has indeed prepared and submitted their own work. Literature, however, has remained mostly silent about contract cheating and plagiarism in the technical disciplines. PURPOSE This paper addresses the following research questions: - How are plagiarism and contract cheating issues perceived by academics across technical disciplines such as engineering and IT? - What strategies can be adapted across these technical disciplines to mitigate instances of academic misconduct? APPROACH The article uses autoethnography, a qualitative strategy, for combining the perspectives or commentaries of academics from multiple technical disciplines concerning plagiarism and contract cheating. The different views are then summarised to provide new insights. OUTCOMES The analysis shows that academics from multiple technical disciplines adopt various strategies to mitigate cases of academic misconduct. Among these strategies, asking students to defend their response through oral presentations appears to be a commonly adopted and successful approach. Additionally, multiple academics have indicated their preference to randomise questions or problems to reduce the chances of plagiarism. Interestingly, contrary to the existing literature that emphasises standardising academic misconduct prevention practices, the way academic misconducts are perceived and addressed by the multidisciplinary academics vary noticeably. Academics have also expressed views that standardisation of marking criteria itself may open the door to instances of contract cheating. CONCLUSION A one-size-fits-all recommendation to prevent plagiarism and contract cheating may not be suitable for all technical disciplines. Instead, there is a need to rethink these issues beyond standardisation and from discipline-specific perspectives.


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Engineers Australia

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Peer Reviewed


Open Access


Era Eligible


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31st Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2020)

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Proceedings of the AAEE2020 Conference