Contract cheating


Curtin understands that students have busy lives and that working, studying and completing assignments can be stressful. Sometimes, this can lead to a decision to take a shortcut with your academic work. You may be tempted to use help from a friend, family member or an online company offering writing or tutoring services, but this may put you at risk for contract cheating and potential blackmail.

What is contract cheating?

Contract cheating (also known as assessment outsourcing or ghost writing) can be defined as submitting written or creative work which has been drafted or produced by someone else – including friends, family or a paid contracting service, and claiming authorship for it. This includes:

  • Allowing someone or an organisation to draft or complete an assessment task on your behalf
  • Contracting another person to do the work for you
  • Purchasing work from another source
  • Allowing or contracting another person to edit and substantially change your work.

Where can I learn more about contract cheating?

The following programs are available at Curtin:

How do I know if I am looking at a contract cheating website?

Some legitimate university websites (like those ending in ‘’) are being hacked by contract cheating organisations. They insert malicious code into the university website that redirects students to the illegal cheating website. TEQSA has provided advice to students to help (reproduced with permission):

  1. Check the URL of any page you click on and ensure it is the correct website.
  2. When searching for academic support, use the search function within your institution’s website. Do not use a search engine.
  3. Do not use any website that asks for payment from you in order to access ‘study support’ or which offers essay or assignment writing services.
  4. Be wary when clicking links to any third-party website left in comments on a website or on social media pages.
  5. Confirm that essay or other competitions are legitimate. Illegal cheating services sometimes hold fake contests in a bid to get student work to on-sell.
  6. Never share your work online. This includes via social media or websites that ask for a sample of your work in return for ‘free’ support.
  7. Report any suspect website link on your institution’s website to your institution’s website team.
  8. Ensure you understand academic integrity. TEQSA’s resources for students are a great place to start.
  9. The Australian Cyber Security Centre has more general information for individuals about staying safe online.


TEQSA (2021) Advice for students: Always check the link you click. Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, Australian Government. Accessed 21.9.2021

What are the tell-tale signs that I am looking at an illegal cheating site?

Guy Curtis (2020) from UWA has created a list to help students.

Tell-tale signs that you are looking at an illegal cheating site:

  1. Asking for payment to complete assignment work for you.
  2. Assurances that they offer good quality writers/writing.
  3. An “Order” button.
  4. Prices linked to assignment length and completion times.
  5. Attempts to justify why buying assignments might be “ok”.
  6. Testimonials from “customers”, often accompanied by stock photos of people who aren’t real students.
  7.  Guarantees of “plagiarism-free” work.
  8. The need to create a personal account and login.
  9. One of a number of nearly identical sites with different domain names.
  10. “Terms of service” that disclaim responsibility if students are caught submitting work from the site.
  11. Various service guarantees such as 24/7 support, live chat, feedback, money-back if unsatisfied (research shows they don’t always deliver on these*).”

Ellis, C., Zucker, I. M., & Randall, D. (2018). The infernal business of contract cheating: Understanding the business processes and models of academic custom writing sites. International Journal for Educational Integrity, 14(1), 1. doi: 10.1007/s40979-017-0024-3

Rowland, S., Slade, C., Wong, K-S. & Whiting, B. (2018) ‘Just turn to us’: the persuasive features of contract cheating websites, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(4), 652-665, doi: 10.1080/02602938.2017.1391948

*Sutherland-Smith, W., & Dullaghan, K. (2019). You don’t always get what you pay for: User experiences of engaging with contract cheating sites. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 44(8), 1148–1162. doi: 10.1080/02602938.2019.1576028

How will I know if I am at risk of contract cheating?

You are at risk of contract cheating if you ask someone to:

  • Complete an assignment for you
  • Substantially edit your assignment
  • Do your university work, with our without compensation
  • Check your work through Turnitiin
  • Check test or quiz answers (such as through websites like
  • Sit a test or quiz for you
  • Provide someone with your login details

You may also be at risk of contact cheating if you provide information to people or organisations outside of Curtin, such as:

  • Your student number and student card details
  • Assignment questions or briefs
  • Lecture notes
  • Marking rubrics or marking guides

Where can I find study support to avoid contract cheating?

Curtin offers the following study support options:

Other options include:

  • Asking for an extension from your lecturer
  • Talking to your tutor or unit coordinator

What is the impact of contract cheating on my studies?

At university you develop a range of new skills, knowledge and experience by engaging in your studies. If you contract cheat you will not gain these fundamental skills and this may put you in a situation where you lack the  skill-set required to succeed in your chosen profession.

Is it contract cheating to work with a tutor or editor?

Tutors can be helpful in some instances, however you are responsible for setting the boundaries for appropriate assistance. If at any point the tutor begins to substantially edit or complete parts or your assessment then this becomes contract cheating.

If you are considering hiring an editor or asking someone to proofread or edit your work, make sure to clearly outline your expectations for the scope of the edit. The person should only highlight or indicate where there are problems rather than changing the text for you. If you provide them with an electronic copy of your document it is preferable for them to use commenting tools rather than to change the work.

Professional editors, as part of their usual role in document production, often make changes within the document. However, as a student submitting your work for assessment, accepting the changes of an editor may be seen as contract cheating or plagiarism as you are claiming the work of someone else as your own.

The elements of a document that an editor may be able to check for you are:

  • typographical and spelling errors
  • errors in word usage
  • errors in grammar and syntax
  • errors and inconsistencies in punctuation
  • consistent use of formatting, capitalisation, abbreviations, or systems of measurement
    (metric versus imperial)
  • consistent and accurate application of academic writing conventions such as captions for tables/figures, formatting of in-text citations and referencing
  • connections and transitions between paragraphs and sections.

When reviewing the editor’s comments you can implement corrections for spelling, punctuation, formatting and style but should carefully consider recommendations that could substantially alter the meaning, the flow, or the originality of your document. As much as possible consider recommended sentence or paragraph changes and put them into your own words.

If you plan to use an editor for your thesis it is recommended that you:

  • discuss your desire to use an editor with your supervisor before approaching an editor
  • discuss the scope of the edit with your supervisor and ensure that the editor understands and agrees to apply this when reviewing your document
  • indicate within the appropriate section of your theses that an editor was used and include a description of the scope of the edit (The Royal Roads University, n.d.).
  • Follow the guidelines for the editing of research theses by professional editors.

Information taken from Academic integrity – Guide for students [pdf 6.7 MB]

Can I get help from websites such as

No. The use of file sharing and assignment help websites such as are not condoned for use at Curtin. If you are asking someone online or elsewhere to provide you with assessment answers, this should be a major red flag that you are contract cheating.

If you are in need of assistance, Curtin offers the following study support options:

What are the penalties at Curtin for contract cheating?

Contract cheating is considered academic misconduct and the penalty is an annul (ANN) for the unit in which the cheating occurred. This means that you will not receive credit for the unit.

For a second finding of misconduct related to contract cheating the result is an annul (ANN) for all units that the student is enrolled in for that academic period.

What are the risks associated with contract cheating?

Curtin’s ability to detect contract cheating is continuously improving through technological advancement and staff training.

This means that even after graduation, the risks associated with contract cheating continue. Your degree may be rescinded if we find you engaged in contract cheating during your studies.

Curtin is also aware that some students have been blackmailed by the people and organisations who completed the work the student submitted.

How are contract cheating and blackmail related?

Students who use contract cheating services are at risk of being blackmailed. Sometimes the contracted organisation or person will threaten to tell Curtin about the cheating if the student does not pay. This blackmail could be one-off or ongoing.

If you or someone that you know are in this situation, it is important that you contact the Student Wellbeing Advisory ServiceStudent Assist or at Curtin for help.

Curtin University acknowledges the contribution of UNSW for some information on this page.