Case Studies

The following Case Studies may be useful for instructors in the classroom or students to do on their own.

You may or may not have been in one of these situations before. What type of breach is each of the below? What do you think is the best course of action for each?

Friendship Quiz

You and your best friend are in the same class where there will be weekly quizzes altogether worth 35% of your grade. While you study hard every week, your best friend does not appear to be studying at all. On the day of the quiz, she is nudging and whispering to get answers from you, and secretly peeking at your paper. She is one of your really good friends and you don't want to ruin that relationship.


Allowing your friend to copy from you would constitute as use of unauthorized materials (i.e. your exam) by your friend and facilitation of this on your part. If both of you were to get caught, not only would your friend be subject to being held responsible for breach of AI, so would you - for assisting her. Element of "courage" in the fundamental values of academic integrity is meant for such cases. Thus, the best course of action would be to not respond to her whispers during the exam and turn away when she tries to peek over to prevent her from copying. This can help you and your friend. A good friend would respect your decision and not base friendship on whether or not you help them cheat or not.


Sleep vs. Academic Integrity

It is late night and you wish you could go to sleep but you have a large term paper due the next day. You now have a feeling you may not have enough books and articles, and it is way too late for research at the library. For a second, you think about making up references or not citing everything so you can actually get some sleep. After all, what are the chances that the instructor will find out?


This would be a case of plagiarism, as you are not providing credit to the sources of information you use. You can take the risk that your instructor may never find out, but in the case that they do, sanctions for plagiarism can range from an oral/written warning, to as serious as rescinding your degree entirely. Think about the knowledge and skills that you need to gain in this specific course. Most of the time, a late but honest action is much better than a quick dishonest one. 

You can choose to either work later into the night to finish or submit your assignment late (subject to penalties), but you should always complete the assignment with appropriate references. Next time, prepare to schedule your assignments in a more timely manner and give yourself sufficient time to do the work. This way, you won't give yourself an excuse to not properly cite your sources.


Online Shopping

You have an essay due soon but you also have tons of other exams and assignments. Your friend tells you about how you can buy essays from online sites, sometimes even completely original, for just a small fee! It sounds like the perfect solution right now: who cares if it's not an A essay? You just want something to hand in amidst the madness.



This is evidently a case of contract cheating - you are contracting others to do the academic work for you. Instructors are knowledgeable about these sources, and when content and style that does not match the course's expectations, they can easily be identified when you submit something you purchased online. The consequences of contract-cheating carry on into the future and the stress with dealing with allegations are much greater than being able to temporarily relieve the workload you are trying to deal with. Sometimes, papermill companies start blackmailing students. In some cases, they have revealed those students' names, who refused to pay the ransom money, to the students' universities. Always submit your original work with proper referencing and credits.


Makeup Marks

When applying to some research jobs, you realize your marks may be below what is expected. You ask your tech-savvy friend to help you change up your marks on your transcript to get that position you really want. It is undetectable and the employer probably won't find out.



Altering your transcript is an example of falsification, and in some cases, it constitutes a forgery. What you think may be undetectable may hurt you in the end, for example, when the employer decides to confirm your credentials with the university. This can damage your future prospects on this career path, as what you thought was a small alteration can possibly lead to future employers not hiring you. Not only this, but there are other consequences with the university that you will have to deal with. Remember that jobs hire people to perform duties. The duties can not be done well if you do not have certain levels of knowledge and skills. So if a position requires certain skills more than others, it means that they need those skills for doing the job.

Instead, you could either talk to the employer to see if there are any areas you can make up for the poor grades, or work harder for the rest of the school year to bring those grades up. Although grades are important, it is not always the only thing that employers look for in their employees.


Twin Test

It is the day before a test, and Tammy is stressed out about her section of the lab and asks Sammy, her twin sister, to take her position to perform it. Sammy is reluctant, but Tammy seems to have a good argument: "Who will know? It won't hurt anyone. Plus, it will just be this one time."


As much as Sammy looks like Tammy, they are not the same person. By performing the lab for Tammy, Sammy and her sister will both be sanctioned for falsification, facilitation, and impersonation. As an alternative, Tammy could ask Sammy for help. For example, helping her review the night before may relieve her of the stress she is going through. Sammy should definitely not take the test in place of her sister. Remember it takes courage to act with honesty. 


My Words, By Me

You’ve received the marks back for your final paper in a course. It is a lot lower than expected, and you notice a note from the TA saying that because you’ve self-plagiarized, they have lowered your mark. The final paper was a culmination of all your previous work in the course, and although everything was cited, it had similarities to some of your other coursework. There were no specific guidelines given by the instructor not to reuse material so you’re not sure if you’ve actually done something wrong.


This could be an issue of self-plagiarism if the student reused their own specific words from previous texts. Self-plagiarism is any attempt to take your own work and use it in another context without citing that it was used previously There is another issue here. Students have the right to know what they are being accused of and the right to a meaningful response. A student needs to receive a written notice that there is an investigation of a possible departure from academic integrity underway. In addition, the primary instructor for the course should undertake the investigation of a possible departure of academic integrity, with plagiarism concerns in this case. Under no circumstances should issues of Academic Integrity be dealt with by a Teaching Assistant. The best practice is to clarify with the instructor whether or not you may reuse content from previous work, and how stringent the citations should be. If a TA suspects an academic integrity issue, they should notify the professor who will follow the proper avenues for dealing with such issues.