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Detecting Academic Misconduct

The onus is on the University to establish that misconduct has occurred. The standard of proof is the balance of probabilities. This means that, for a finding of misconduct to be supported, based on the information presented, it is more likely than not that the student engaged in academic misconduct.

Tools & Resources

Listed below are some tools you can use to help detect plagiarism, track down the origin of the questionable paper, or locate information contained within the paper.    

  • Verify the properties of the paper.
  • Determine date created, author and date last modified to ensure the authenticity of the paper and the author (please note: not always reliable).

While Google is currently the search engine of choice for many people to search for information on the Web, use other search engines as well. A comprehensive list of these search tools is available through the Library.

Try searching Ask.com, external linkEncyclopedia.com, external link, opens in new window, and eLibrary, opens in new window. These sites offer links to other Websites, newspaper and magazine articles, pictures and books on selected topics.

Your Subject Librarian, opens in new window may have other suggestions relevant to the subject area or the topic of the essay.

The library has access to hundreds of databases , opens in new windowcovering all subject areas and holds subscriptions to thousands of journals, external link in full-text electronic format.

Contact your Subject Librarian, opens in new window to assist you in using these resources to locate suspect information on a student's paper.

These services provide pre-written term papers, book reports and dissertations through the internet for a fee. Students can search the paper mill’s database by topic and choose a paper from a list and in some cases students can request specific topic information.

Some students are using file sharing sites and setting up Facebook pages for courses. Check out Course Hero, external link.


“Contract cheating occurs when one person completes academic work (e.g. assignment, exam, paper, test, quiz, exam) for another who then submits it for academic credit.” (academicintegrity.org/day-against-contract-cheating, external link)


Examples include:

  • Getting or giving "help" on file sharing websites
  • Purchasing and/or using other people's work
  • Having an unauthorized person/service edit work without permission


Contract Cheating is a concern for all

  • Provides an academic advantage to the student who contract cheats over their peers
  • Students who contract cheat do not gain the knowledge and skills that they need to be successful in university and in the workforce
  • Devalues the education of other students who followed academic integrity expectations
  • Contributes to a culture of dishonesty and the commercialization of education
  • Damages Ryerson’s reputation and the value of Ryerson degrees and certificates

If you need assistance with copyright and intellectual property, please see Copyright at Ryerson.

While some cases of plagiarism are easy to detect, others prove more difficult to identify. The following are cues that may signal the student paper should be examined closely or investigated further.
 
  1. Citation styles and bibliographic citations are inconsistent and mixed or non-existent. The style guide used is not the one used for the course.
  2. The paper is clearly written at a level beyond the student’s usual abilities and may include advanced vocabulary, jargon or combined formal and informal language.
  3. The paper contains a mix of Canadian, American and British spellings (e.g. tire/tyre) or regionalisms.
  4. Inconsistencies from one submitted assignment to another, for example, the second essay is far superior.
  5. The references used throughout the paper are dated (e.g. all more than five years old). Such cases may indicate that the paper was purchased through an essay writing service or written by another student.  An excessive number of inactive web sites may also indicate that the paper is old.
  6. References are made to tables, diagrams, pieces of text or citations when none of this content exists in the paper.
  7. References are made to obscure journals or books not readily available in local libraries.  (Be cautious here — through its electronic databases, the Ryerson Library and other universities throughout Ontario subscribe to thousands of international journals that may be obscure.) Check the Ryerson Library Journal List, external link.
  8. The topic of the paper is inconsistent with the one assigned, or with course content.
  9. Parts of the paper are inconsistent with each other and the writing style changes from section to section.
  10. When asked, the student cannot produce any research notes for the paper or summarize the main points in the paper.

Ryerson University has a contract with Turnitin Feedback Studio. It is an evaluative and feedback tool. One of the many ways it can be used is to ensure the originality in student papers. It can assist Faculty/Instructors in determining the similarity between student work and work of other students who have submitted papers to the site, internet sources, and a wide range of journals and other publications. No decisions are made by the service; it simply generates an “originality report,” and faculty must evaluate that report to determine if something is plagiarized. Turnitin is integrated into D2L Brightspace, the instructions for which are available on the Ryerson Courses website.

If Turnitin.com, external link is to be used in a course, the following wording is required:  “Students who do not want their work submitted to this plagiarism detection service must, by the end of the second week of class, consult with the instructor to make alternate arrangements.” For more information on Turnitin Feedback Studio, please see the Turnitin resource page, external link.

Turnitin assistance for Ryerson Faculty/Instructors

Key links from the Turnitin website:

Preparing Students for Success

Turnitin Student Quickstart Guide, external link, opens in new window:
Helps students understand and navigate the Turnitin website