Detection of Online Contract Cheating Through Stylometry: A Pilot Study

David Ison


Contract cheating, instances in which a student enlists someone other than themselves to produce coursework, has been identified as a growing problem within academic integrity literature and in news headlines. The percentage of students who have utilized this type of cheating has been reported to range between 6% and 15.7%. Generational sentiments about cheating and the prevalent accessibility of contract cheating providers online seems to only have exacerbated the issue. The problem is that there is currently no simple means identified and verified to detect contract cheating, as available plagiarism detection software has been shown to be ineffective in these cases. One method that is commonly used for authorship authentication in nonacademic settings, stylometry, has been suggested as a potential means for detection. Stylometry uses various attributes of documents to determine if they were written by the same individual. This pilot study sought to assess the utility of three easy to use and readily available stylometry software systems to detect simulated cases of contract cheating on academic documents. Average accuracy ranged from 33% to 88.9%. While more research is necessary to further investigate the reliability of the best performing software packages, stylometry software appears to show significant promise for the potential detection of contract cheating.


Academic integrity; plagiarism; contract cheating; online

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