In high school, cheating meant getting caught with the answers on your hand during a math test. Cheating rings were defined as groups that somehow found a way to get the SAT tests illegally and schemed to get the best scores in the school, or country. But now that you are a college student, cheating has evolved into any work which you do not complete on your own, unless otherwise stated by your professor. Even then, sometimes you elicit the help of friends but only to a certain extent and your answers cannot be copied, whether it be on tests, homework assignments, projects, etc.
In short, cheating is a word of the past. Academic dishonesty is the word you need to respect and be weary of anytime you are turning in an assignment. It can and will ruin your life and-in extreme cases- effectively end your college career. The no tolerance policy most universities and colleges have in place will send you running straight back home if you are caught. So here are some caveats to be aware of, listed by category:
• Homework: Work alone whenever possible. If you get stuck on a problem, then ask classmates for assistance, but be sure to address specific questions rather than offering up general statements such as, “Can you show me how to do this problem?” This could lead to them having to do the problem for you. When working in groups, avoid all copying down the same work, unless your professor has asked for one assignment to be turned in with all of your names on it. Also, remember that you have teaching assistants and professors available to you. Refrain from using the Internet to buy homework sets from previous years or getting solution manuals, because professors know these exists, and can bust you for this, too. Using the Internet, however, for tutorials on a subject like learning momentum or algebra, is usually okay.
• Tests: You have no choice but to work alone. In lecture halls, people will try to get creative by using cell phones, hiding answers on their shoes, or taking bathroom breaks and then asking a friend or something, but don’t do it. It’s not worth it. If you cannot pass a test without cheating, then you have bigger problems regarding your degree than whether or not someone will catch you with the equations written on the palm of your hand. Sometimes, you will be able to use cheat sheets , where you have been allowed to prepare a sheet beforehand (filled with helpful equations or notes for the test), but since time can be an issue, be sure that you construct it wisely and only use the amount of sheets allowed and only write the information allowed.
• Take-home exams: Follow directions and do not use a friend or any resources not allowed (i.e. textbooks, any Internet pages, exams from previous years, another professor, hiring someone to take the test for you, etc.). And show your work in as much detail as possible. Sometimes if you arrive at an answer which has not been sufficiently corroborated, then professors also become suspicious.
• Projects: Follow instructions and make sure to do your part of the work assigned by your group members. If it’s a project you need to do on your own requiring a paper, an exam (oral or written), and other components, then put all these rules to use!
• Academic papers: Cite your sources properly, give credit to your adviser and other researchers, and do not steal ideas from the Internet if you are not sure how to reference it or do not want to reference the source. For essays, follow the same format, and do not allow others to write any parts for you. Do your own work!
If you are struggling, and feel that it is difficult to keep up with these suggestions, then consider hiring a tutor. Tutors know how to help cater to your weaknesses and may be able to provide the guidance you need without giving you answers outright. This is a good step to take, because you will be prepared for exams, when your friends and teaching assistants won’t be there to use as a resource.
In general, it seems that honesty is the best policy. Or at least, it’s better than the no tolerance policy which could very well decide your fate, if a professor sends you to the academic board.