Most universities have policies with names like “Academic Integrity”. These are comprised of the rules and punishments in response to cases of cheating, plagiarism, impersonation, and other kinds of academic dishonesty. Unfortunately most universities do not spend sufficient effort informing you about what counts as dishonesty and while I cannot anticipate what your particular university considers cheating we can give you the broad brush strokes as well as some of the potential implications if you are caught.

The offense that students have the most difficulty understanding is plagiarism. This is when you take someone else’s words and pass them off as your own. The source is often the internet, Wikipedia, textbooks, other student papers, or even your own paper submitted to another course. Please understand that in most cases plagiarism is really really obvious. Without giving away trade secrets your professors can often spot instances of plagiarism in an instant.

The other kinds of cheating are often more difficult to identify. Paying someone else to write an exam or texting someone to get answers are all pretty common but I have to wonder if the effort that goes into such an arrangement isn’t just as great as the studying would have been. I cannot say “don’t cheat” in a way that will actually prevent you from doing so. However I would like to point out that the policies adopted by universities in response to cheats can leave you with some bleak prospects. In most cases a cheat will be brought before a panel that is charged with investigating the claims against you and to hear your defense. If you are found guilty the consequences can range from a reduced mark on the specific assignment, through to zero on the assignment, a reduced grade in the course, a failing grade, on up to expulsion from your institution. Often a letter will be placed in your file so that any university official who looks into you will notice the academic violation.