Copying and Other Forms of Cheating

While guidelines on the acceptable level collaboration vary from class to class, all MIT instructors agree on one principle: copying from other students, from old course “bibles,” or from solutions on OCW sites is considered cheating and is never permitted.

Collaboration works for you; copying works against you.


If you copy, you are less prepared.

MIT Professor David E. Pritchard, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics, has said,“Doing the work trumps native ability.” Those who invest the time working through the problem sets are better prepared to answer exam questions that call for conceptual thinking.

If you copy, you aren’t learning.

Research done in 2010 by Professor Pritchard and others showed that those who copied more than 30% of the answers on problem sets were more than three times as likely to fail the subject than those who did not copy.

(Source: Pritchard, D.E. What are students learning and from what activity? Plenary speech presented at Fifth Conference of Learning International Networks Consortium 2010. Retrieved from http://linc.mit.edu/linc2010/speakers.html)

If you copy, you violate the principles of academic integrity.

Copying is cheating. When you fail to uphold the principles of academic integrity, you compromise yourself and the Institute.


If you collaborate, you learn from your peers.

Every student brings a unique perspective, experience, and level of knowledge to a collaborative effort. Through discussion and joint problem solving, you are exposed to new approaches and new perspectives that contribute to your learning.

If you collaborate, you learn to work on a team

Gaining the skills to be an effective team member is fundamental to your success as a student, researcher and professional. As you collaborate with your peers, you will face the challenges and rewards of the collegial process.


Beyond Copying

Whether because of high demands on your time or uncertainty about your academic capabilities, you may be tempted to cheat in your academic work.  While copying is the most prevalent form of cheating, dishonest behavior includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Changing the answers on an exam for re-grade.

  • Misrepresenting a family or personal situation to get an extension.

  • Using prohibited resources during a test or other academic work.

  • Forging a faculty member’s signature on a permission form or add/drop form.

  • Falsifying data or claiming to have done research you did not do.

  • Claiming work of others as your own by deliberately not citing them.

  • Assisting another student in doing any of the above.

(Adapted from: Jordan, David K.  (1996).  “Academic Integrity and Cheating.”  Retrieved from http://weber.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/resources/cheat.html, on July 31, 2012.)

If you are tempted to cheat, think twice.  Do not use the excuse that “everybody does it.” Think through the consequences for yourself and others. Those who cheat diminish themselves and the Institute. Cheating can also negatively impact other students who do their work honestly.

If you observe another student cheating, you are encouraged to report this to your instructor or supervisor, the Office of Student Citizenship, or reach out to the Ombuds Office for advice.