What is Contract Cheating?

Contract cheating is dishonesty in academics by taking help in assignment completion either by paying someone or by taking the help of any friend or family member. Generally, it appears as essay completion only but it can be referred to as any kind of written work such as science lab projects, computer-based projects and assignments, or any other technical work. All these types of written works that are done by someone else rather than a student are considered contract cheating. 

The term “Contract Cheating” was first given in 2007 by Clarke and Lancaster in their study after knowing the cheating in higher studies. Completion of school assignments with the help of third parties but without the knowledge of the teacher or without the teacher’s permission is not something new. But nowadays, such kind of activities are increasing tremendously. 

Contract cheating can be of various types, some of the examples are given below.

  • Taking help from friends and family members without paying them. In this type, the student takes help just by requesting his or her known people to complete the task in place of them. 
  • A paper downloaded by the internet or taking exact document or essay from any website and using it as it is. 
  • An academic assignment or article done by any third party in return of money. 

The latter way of cheating is the most harmful way of completing the assignments as it encourages more such businesses known as “Essay mills” which is commercializing education. This kind of cheating in academics is intentional and the student just needs to pay any third party for this. This type of work changes the student’s mentality and allows them their way to purchase a degree. This type of activity devaluates the work of students who did it by themselves without any cheating. 

Contract cheating is completely against the principles and integrity of education. Finding ways to stop the contract cheating in higher education as well as k-12 is the top priority of all the educators. 

A Brief Overview Of The Contract Cheating Market

Websites that sell ready-made papers came on the internet in the early days. It was a great problem for educators until the tools like plagiarism checkers didn’t came. With the help of a plagiarism checker, educators can evaluate the work did by the student to the already available similar content on the different websites with the help of deep research technology. Unfortunately, it only helped on a temporary basis and didn’t helped in the complete resolution of the problem. 

But due to such software, people have found another way of doing this business and that is custom assignment service. Now, contract cheating businesses provide custom papers to students who want higher grades without effort. These service providers using new ways to earn more money such as mimicking the handwriting of students so that no one can doubt them or their work. Several years back, one study was conducted in the United States according to which Content Cheating was a business of around $100 million and exceeding day by day. 

Essay mills have turned contract cheating into a business model and using persuasive techniques to get the attention of potential customers. They are doing marketing openly such as advertising on social media, reaching influencers for promotions, or using websites where students visits while surfing the internet. 

In one of the articles of BBC, it was found that YouTubers are getting paid to use contract cheating services. Writers who work for such companies are aware of academic integrity guidelines, hence work with concentration so that they don’t get caught. Some of these companies offer Money back guarantee to students if get less marks. This surety helps the student to take their services without any fear of bad work. 

Besides such attractive offers, there is another side of such businesses. Students cannot do anything for their poor services or bad quality paper, other than giving a bad review. In case a student found guilty of using such services, all the responsibility will be of the student as companies tell that the student misused their services. In terms of legality, there is nothing directly to address as these companies have disclaimers on their websites according to which all the content is just to take reference in academics. Even if someone somehow legally shut down such companies they will reemerge as some are offshore firms. 


Assessment design strategies can help in the prevention of cheating activities. Institutions have started taking measures against such companies by blocking access to their website from the campus. 


In 2007, Clarke and Lancaster proposed a systematic six-stage process for tutors to detect students who have used contract cheating services for the completion of the assignment. Contract cheating website generally says that their services are undetectable and tutors can’t detect whether you have used their services or not. But such claims have been refused by the empirical research team as according to them tutors can detect it. There are many resources available to make the tutor understand how to check whether the student’s work is his/her own or any paid service has been used. 

There was a proposal that tutors can compare existing assignments with the invigilated assignments to check the pattern of the data submitted by the student and then they can decide whether it is contract cheating or not. At the 2015 Plagiarism in Europe, it was detected that with the help of pattern analysis it was easier to find cases of contract cheating. 

Although plagiarism detection tools were not successful in finding the contact cheating but somehow they were able to detect the source from where the article has been taken. 

Policy and Penalties

The way higher education institutions are reactive towards contract cheating is random. Uk and Australia have created a powerful and systematic way of addressing contract cheating through policies, quality assurance guidelines, and penalties for students. Whether in countries like Canada research are going on to educate institutions on how to detect contract cheating in education. Contract cheating is considered the most offensive academics misconduct in some institutions and students who found culprits are penalized accordingly. In 2010, the Academic Misconduct Benchmarking Research Project (AMBeR) developed a plagiarism tariff in the UK in an attempt to standardize penalties for all forms of academic misconduct. According to reports, it was noted that contract cheating should be considered as a serious offense and institutions should take serious action against the students such as the expulsion of the student from the institute. However, In 2015, UK took a survey by asking students what should be the penalties for plagiarism or contract cheating. Then students suggested that there should be leniency in the punishment for this offense and this was quite shocking. 


The legality of these services varies from nation to nation. Australia has proposed new law in 2020 according to which it is illegal for third parties to provide academics work to students. A similar law is also there in New Zealand according to which no one can provide third-party assistance or cheat sheet to students. In the united kingdom, the Quality Assurance Agency generated a report according to which the use of legal ways is one of the ways to tackle contract cheating The legality of these services varies from nation to nation. Australia has proposed new law in 2020 according to which it is illegal for third parties to provide academics work to students. A similar law is also there in New Zealand according to which no one can provide third-party assistance or cheat sheet to students. In the united kingdom, the Quality Assurance Agency generated a report according to which the use of legal ways is one of the ways to tackle contract cheating and advised that existing fraud laws may well be used, since the activities of such services, and their purchasers might be fairly understood to suit with definitions of fraud, as they involve false illustration and failure to disclose data.  Resultant research compared the united kingdom fraud laws with the terms and conditions utilized by contract cheating services and all over that such services would be unlikely to fall foul of fraud law as a result of the disclaimers, terms, and conditions the services offer usually state that any custom wrote merchandise are to be used solely as “study guides” or “revision aids”, thereby putting responsibility and bent on the coed shopper. Despite this, media stings have shown that corporations may be complicit in the inappropriate use of those merchandise. an analogous analysis in Baltic State all over that contract cheating services was unlikely to fall foul of existing laws, though AN analysis of Australian law all over that fraud, likewise as forgery and conspiracy, may well be legal avenues via that contract cheating might be targeted. All 3 studies required the introduction of recent legal approaches to tackle contract cheating. Contract cheating isn’t bootleg in North American countries.

A follow-up analysis study projected new laws, supported the principle of strict liability, to minimize the necessity for prosecutors to demonstrate those contract cheaters supposed to assist students to cheat, instead of holding contract cheaters accountable for prosecution merely for giving services that would be fairly understood as being employed for contract cheating.

More broadly speaking, despite the apparent potential of a legal challenge to contract cheating corporations, prosecutions are presently rare, for the most part, due to the constraints of existing laws. additionally, the easy act of outlawing a service wouldn’t essentially cut back demand for it; the aforesaid analysis studies all require a holistic, multi-pronged approach to confronting contract cheating.

Reasons Behind Contract Cheating

There can be many reasons due to which students take someone’s help in academic work either paid or unpaid. No doubt, it looks really easy to get good grades without actually doing the hard work. But students forget the risks behind doing this. 

Following are the reasons identified by many researchers due to which students like to take contract cheating services. 

  • The pressure of completing the assignments before the given deadlines. 
  • Family pressure to get better results than other students and to achieve good grades. 
  • A lack of motivation towards assignment completion without anyone’s help. 
  • A misleading thought that cheating will help to achieve a good score.
  • A poor understanding of “what is considered as cheating and what is not. “
  • Leniency by gving just warnings to students and not giving actual punishment to students. 
  • The normalization that other students are doing it successfully and getting good marks.

Regardless of the above reasons, contract cheating is considered as a crime that is academics misconduct. 

Contract Cheating In Numbers

There is a huge increase in the market of contract cheating services in the last 5 years. This is an unfortunate result of increasing globalization and online resources that can be easily accessible to any student anonymously. In 2014, the self-reported contract cheating rate was average 3-4%. But according to the recent stats, around 31 million students have admitted that they purchased the previously completed university assignment. This is almost 15% of the university students who intentionally cheated one or the other ways. This was definitely a shocking report when it comes to academics misconduct. Fortunately, there are some students who are ready to fight against this contract cheating culture by revealing the name of third party companies that helped these students. 

Even though contract cheating is a threat to the future of students especially in higher studies, no one seems to have clear vision of market tendencies. Most academics journal and media people agrees that contract cheating is on the rise across all disciplines. But there is no reliable or trusted evidence of the information. One thing is clear, essay writing companies will continue to get work till students will need these services. Students will be kept paying to get grades easily and essay services keep growing. 

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