Category Archives: Highlighted FAQs

What are the Consequences of Cheating or Plagiarism?

From Faculty Focus blog
January 17, 2018
A Memo to Students on Cheating
By Maryellen Weimer, PhD

Cheating among college students remains rampant. Our institutional and/or course policies aren’t stopping much of it. There are lots of reasons why, which we could debate, but the more profitable conversation is how we get students to realize that cheating hurts them. I don’t think they consider the personal consequences, so that’s the goal of this memo, framed like others that have appeared in the blog. You are welcome to revise it, make the language your own, and share it as you see fit with students. Will it stop cheating? Not likely, but it might make some students realize the consequences go well beyond getting caught.

To: My Students
From: Your Teacher
Re: Cheating

You know the message on cheating: Don’t do it. Yet despite knowing that it’s wrong, many students still cheat. Why? In response to a survey about cheating a student compared it to speeding. Everybody knows you shouldn’t speed, but most of us do. And when the weather is good and the road is clear, the risk of an accident is small. There is the matter of getting caught, but that risk is also low, so, the student reasoned, cheating is like speeding.

No, it’s not! Here are seven reasons why you shouldn’t cheat, and getting caught isn’t one of them.

  1. When you cheat on an exam, it looks like you know the content, which means whenever you’re confronted with that material, you’ve got to fake it. Moreover, it looks to me like you understand, so I move on, assuming you know what you got right on the exam. What you didn’t learn in one course can be required knowledge in the next course. Knowledge in most fields is cumulative. It builds on previous knowledge. If you don’t understand the prerequisite content, you can’t learn the new stuff—so later you’ll either need to do double-duty learning or what you don’t know widens from a gap to gulf.
  2. When you cheat, important skillsets, those things employers assume college graduates possess, remain undeveloped or underdeveloped. You learn problem-solving skills by solving problems, not by copying answers. Your writing improves when you write, not when you recycle someone else’s paper. Your abilities to think critically, analyze arguments, and speak persuasively all develop when you do them, not when you parrot the thinking, arguments, and persuasive ploys of others. Just as standing around exercise equipment does not build muscle mass, borrowing the work of others does not build mental muscle.
  3. Don’t kid yourself, a small cheating problem seldom stays that size. Think more along the lines of a malignant tumor that starts tiny and quietly grows into something big and ugly. You may start by peeking for answers in a required course that you don’t want to take. In that first course in the major, you decide to copy homework answers—you’re busy and all that content will be covered again in later courses anyway. You cheat in the special topics course because you won’t use the content in the area where you plan to work. You end up fudging data in your senior research project because it isn’t a “real” study anyway. The research is clear. Students who cheat don’t do it just one time or in just one course.
  4. Cheating in college sets you up for cheating in life. Maybe you’re telling yourself you’ll stop when you graduate. The research says otherwise. Those who cheated in college are more likely to cheat their employers or employees, fudge on their taxes, and use unethical business practices. It becomes a lifetime habit right along with the lying that covers it up.
  5. Cheating puts your personal integrity at risk. What kind of person do you want to be? The actions taken now are defining who you are and will likely become. How does it make you feel when someone you care about lies or cheats on you? Do you hold those who cheat in high esteem? Your personal integrity is something you wear every day of your life. You can wear it with pride or you can slink around trying to hide the holes and cover the rips.
  6. You can accomplish what you need to without cheating. Some students cheat because it’s easier than working for the grades—the reasons outlined above illustrate why that’s a cavalier, short-sighted rationale with serious consequences. Then there are the students who cheat because they don’t think they have the smarts to get the good grades they need. Success in college is much more a function of your study habits than your brain size. Good study habits are so not rocket science. And don’t say they don’t make a difference unless you’ve tried them. Start with one course and see if short, regular study times alone and with a buddy, regular class attendance, and keeping up with the homework make a difference. Bottom line: most students are way smarter than they think they are.
  7. Cheating prevents you from being the person you want to be. Grades that you’ve earned provide a sense of accomplishment. They’re a source of pride. They say you’re a person to be reckoned with. Grades you haven’t earned also make you a person to be reckoned with but not for the reasons you’d wish.

What else can I do to prepare myself for graduate school in chemical engineering?

Attend the seminar series in the Chemical Engineering Department.  In all chemical engineering graduate programs, the regular seminar series is an important element.  Speakers visit the department from all over the country and the world and present their work.  Graduate students are usually required to attend, since learning about the wide nature of chemical engineering research is one of the reasons for your studies.  Seminar announcements are posted on the department’s web page and across from the main office in Chem Sci.

Students may hesitate to attend seminars that they fear they will not understand.  Although the material may at times go over your head, will the situation be any different in a year or two when you start graduate school?  You can learn from attending seminars, even if they go over your head.  You can learn about effective presentation techniques (and ineffective techniques) and you can learn about research areas that you would never have had a chance to explore otherwise.  And you can learn what you need to study in order to understand.  If the visitor is a faculty member, he/she is probably interested in talking to juniors and seniors who are considering graduate school in the hopes that they can recruit you to their program.  If you are particularly interested in a speaker’s talk, you can ask to meet with him/her later in the day.

Participate in undergraduate research.  Click here for more on undergraduate research.

Improve your writing and presenting skills.  Writing and presenting well are really reflections of how logically you think.  If you can explain a topic well in writing or orally, you are displaying an important thinking skill you will need in graduate school.

Engineers sometimes disdain writing as a soft skill that is less important than analytical skills.  It is not.  Writing well is an important skill that can make or break your graduate school experience.  That last task of writing your thesis or dissertation and writing up the publications from your work is critical – you will not graduate without your final thesis/dissertation being written and approved, and usually these documents are held to a very high standard of organization and grammar.  Do what you can now to improve your writing by taking writing-intensive courses, writing in your extracurricular activities, and availing yourself of the help provided by the Department of Humanities’ Writing Center.  I also recommend reading as an activity that promotes writing.  Read for pleasure – novels, literature, plays, quality magazines, and quality newspapers.  Reading is an excellent way to improve your recognition of good writing and of good grammar.

Oral communication is equally important.  Learn to make effective presentations and practice what you have learned.  Attend seminars and note down techniques that you find effective at getting the point across to you and then use those techniques in your own presentations.  Solicit feedback on your presentations so that you can improve.  Also, take the time to learn to present yourself well in day-to-day situations.  When you call someone on the phone, always identify yourself and find out right away if they have time for the discussion you would like to have with them.  The same goes for when you come to someone’s office door – identify yourself and make sure that they have time to see you.  In email, always start your messages with a greeting of some sort (Dear xxx or Good Morning or something equivalent) and state your point and sign off politely with your name and contact information.  These little habits can also be important in your graduate studies (as well as in life) since you will need to interact with many people to complete your graduate research, and if you do not interact well, your road will be very rough.

Don’t sell back your books.  You will be buying new books in graduate school, but you will often find that you need to refresh your memory of your undergraduate studies.

What should I do if I’m interested in graduate school?

If you are interested in graduate school, you should talk to professors in the research area that interests you.  Ask them to discuss graduate school with you and see if this is in fact the right path for you.  You could also come see an advisor.

You can get information about Michigan Tech’s graduate school on their website.

One final note: please fill out a FERPA permission form for anybody who writes you a letter of recommendation based on your academic record.