Contract cheating is a relatively new form of academic misconduct. Unlike typical plagiarism where students copy someone else’s ideas and claim them as their own, it involves a third party – a person or agency that does the work on your behalf. Whether you pay money to have your assignment done for you, or your cousin helps you out for free, it is considered contract cheating and is a form of academic dishonesty.

Given that essay mills – agencies claiming to hire professionals who write plagiarism-free papers – have become popular worldwide, it might seem identifying this sort of academic misconduct is an impossible and daunting task. General plagiarism checkers cannot reveal academic dishonesty in this advanced form because it is not plagiarism as we know it. A common plagiarism detection tool breaks down documents into small phrases and then compares each phrase using in-built algorithms against its internal and external databases, recognizing any matches. 

The technology is quite similar to the one behind Shazam –  a song identification app – where each song is divided into small audio fingerprints. But, unlike songs that have the same pattern of sound, plagiarized works rarely contain large chunks of text copied word for word. The good news is that today a good academic plagiarism checker can easily detect a paraphrase or even translated text. When it comes to contract cheating, though, educators 

have a really difficult time detecting it. Traditional methods are useless here since the works churned out by essay mills are deemed to be 100% plagiarism-free. So then, is there a successful way to detect contract cheating?

Fortunately, technology always forges ahead. A simple yet effective way for educational establishments to fight contract cheating is to use online proctoring services. These services allow you to lock down the browser for face-to-face class exams. They also record student activity and geographic location for online assessments. Once the assessment is complete, the program generates a report for the instructor, revealing any potential cases of cheating. Miami University, in the U.S., and Deakin University, in Australia, adopted similar tech solutions, and have successfully cracked down on plagiarism among their students. 

Another effective yet old-school method of decreasing contract cheating is to give authentic assessments that require locally gathered data or stats. This approach makes it hard for students to hire a contract cheating company to do the work and lowers the chances of plagiarism.  

Innovations in plagiarism detection are also on the rise. Emma, by Unicheck, is an AI assistant aimed at contract cheating prevention. While Unicheck’s software detects the percentage of text similarity and originality, its embedded assistant Emma studies each student’s writing style and checks the authorship of various materials submitted by the same author. 

Armed with Natural Language Processing and stylometry, Emma effectively analyzes each text and categorizes it into linguistic and stylistic silos. To identify the person’s writing style, the AI assistant needs three original texts, between 300 and 1,000 words, to study for similarities. Emma will then verify authorship to make accurate assumptions. The work must be proven authentic and authored by a particular student.

Emma does not require additional text databases, as it relies solely on the students’ unique writing styles and can evaluate up to 50 parameters at a time. All these factors make Emma an indispensable assistant to educators, helping them save time when grading papers and place more focus on the student’s success. Even more, it strengthens the efforts of institutions in fighting the corrupt phenomenon of contract cheating.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to maintaining a proper level of academic integrity, the proliferation and popularity of essay mills are a challenge for educational establishments. Students constantly find new, trickier ways of cheating, so plagiarism detection software must become more sophisticated and innovative to keep up. Emma by Unicheck, that relies on Artificial Intelligence to fight academic dishonesty, is a great example of such software. By using Emma to identify students’ unique writing styles, educators can be on the winning side of plagiarism and one step closer in shutting down essay mill operations.