I hear students are more likely to cheat in their online Master’s courses. Is that true?

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The Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics surveyed 43,000 high school students in public and private schools in 2010 and found that:

  • 59% of high school students admitted cheating on a test during the last year.
  • 64% cheated on an exam during the school years
  • 34% reported doing it more than two times.
  • 33% of high school students admitted that they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment

Cheating is pandemic. It exists at all levels of education.

A survey of over 63,700 US undergraduate and 9,250 graduate students conducted for three years (2002-2005) by Donald McCabe of Rutgers University–revealed the following:

  • 36% of undergraduates admit to “paraphrasing/copying a few sentences from Internet source without footnoting it.”
  • 24% of graduate students self-reported doing the same
  • 3% of graduate students used another’s students work
  • 4% of master’s students copied word for word from another source

What do the studies reveal about the long-term implications of cheating?

Teen cheaters as adults are almost four times as likely to deceive their boss (31% v. 8%)

Cheaters are more than twice as likely to lie to their spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner about something significant (48% v. 18%).

The upward trend in cheating continues over the decades.

Approximately 20% of college students admitted to cheating in high school during the 1940s. Currently, between 75 and 98 percent of college students surveyed each year report having cheated in high school.

In 2015, The Atlantic published an article stating the campus enrollment had reached a plateau, but online college education rose by more than 570,000 in 2014. More recent data in 2016 from the Babson Survey Research Group showed that 28% of higher education students take an online course. More than 5.8 million students take classes online!

Online cheating at the master’s level may be more pervasive than learning institutions want to admit. Distance learning could be more challenging to detect. For example, 42% of college respondents had purchased a custom-written paper online. There are individuals hired by graduate (and undergrad) students to prepare a paper for them. These ghostwriters can make a decent living off their charges.

Consider the following scenario…you receive an assignment to complete a paper on a specific topic related to your area of graduate study. You have procrastinated for weeks until you realize the paper is due in seven days. You panic. The anxiety squeezes the desire out of you even more. What are you going to do?

You confer with your friends, and one tells you about customwritings.com. It is not cheap at $26 per page, but desperation takes control of your wallet. You go online and provide all the pertinent details about your writing assignment. Their website boasts that they are “lifesavers” for university students around the world. Perfect! You resolve your problem and reduce anxiety. You feel relieved and perhaps not the least bit guilty.

Google ghostwriters for college papers and you will find numerous sources to hire. These entities write term papers, research papers, essays, and reports. Prices vary. Most advertise that the material is 100% non-plagiarized. Some offer a money-back guarantee. One site assures you will get a high grade, leaving time for more important activities (which are?). Obviously, for some graduate students, doing your own research, compiling information, and writing the paper or essay yourself is not essential.

Whether you take classes online or on campus, you must adhere to the institution’s regulations. Students might find said rules in the Policy Register or similar document. Typically, there is a section referencing school policy regarding student cheating and plagiarism. The consequences of cheating during a master’s program vary by the severity and the school’s policies on this matter.

The student caught cheating might receive a failing grade on the exam or paper, or receive a failing grade on the entire course. At the graduate level, if the incident was discovered after awarding the degree, it can be revoked.

The temptation can be higher for online students due to the relative anonymity of the format. When there is no or minimal face-to-face contact, this might contribute to thinking you can fool the educator. Also, the chances of cheating escalate for online exams, as the student could hire someone to take the exam for him/her.

Certain factors make cheating worth the gamble. Your professor may have a stack of graduate papers to grade. He/she may allow only 10-15 minutes each. The quicker the assignment is graded may increase your chance of not being caught. Also, the teacher might delegate the grading to another master’s or doctoral student. This person may not be as diligent in detecting plagiarism or other forms of cheating. When grading is done expeditiously, the advice is to avoid cheating in the first paragraph and the conclusion. The educator may focus on these two areas of your graduate paper or report.


Does cheating occur more online? Possibly. Do online master’s students cheat? Absolutely. The consequences could lead to expulsion. Moreover, detection for plagiarism is as easy as running your paper through a software program. One example is Grammarly Premium. A worthwhile investment for the ethical student enrolled in a master’s program.

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