I currently am studying on an Undergraduate Maths course, in my third year. At my university there are various modules from which students can pick to make up the required number of credits for the year.

5/6 of my circle of friends take a particular (popular) module which I do not. Recently, they had a piece of coursework due for submission. They had about two weeks to do it, and the submission deadline has now passed.

One of the students, with whom I am friends, has informed me that she took pictures of her answers and gave them to another student (with whom I am not friends) three hours before the deadline, because that student had done little/no work and was going to fail. This was not a group piece of coursework, and she essentially gave the other student her answers.

I'm not entirely sure why I'm so upset about this, considering I don't take that module and it has nothing to do with me. I have my personal opinions about the student, but I feel like that shouldn't be relevant to the situation.

I do want to report this as cheating, but I'm also well aware that it's effectively hearsay. None of the others of my friends (who do take the module and who are also aware of this incident happening) has reported it.

I'm wondering whether it may even be out of line for me to report this incident, given that I have absolutely no evidence in my possession of what happened, and I do not take the module, and I wasn't involved in any way.

Is it appropriate in these circumstances to report what I've heard to the lecturer of the module?

  • 15
    Wrong assumption: your colleagues' cheating does have an impact on you. If the amount of work needed to obtain a degree is low, and if people with that degree are less well prepared, then that degree is effectively worth less in your CV, in the eyes of a possible employer. Apr 4, 2017 at 13:37
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    Some institutions have an honor code whereby students are required to report instances of cheating by other students. Does yours? If so, then at least theoretically, you yourself are liable for punishment if it is ever discovered that you knew and didn't report. One possible course of action, which at some places would be standard, is to tell this student that she needs to report herself, and that you will if she doesn't.. Apr 4, 2017 at 15:09
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    The evidence does not need to concern you at this stage, provided you are sure that the cheating took place. It is the responsibility of the department/university, during any investigation, to establish evidence. You are just a witness. Apr 4, 2017 at 16:01
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    No it is not appropriate. You have better things to do. Apr 5, 2017 at 0:11
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    Some of these responses are categorically absurd. This is all you do, talk to your friend about how uncomfortable it made you to find out about this transgression. Then deny ever hearing about it.
    – EricLeaf
    Jun 12, 2017 at 16:48

4 Answers 4


As others have already mentioned, cheating is wrong and it's the right thing to speak up when someone commits a wrong. It may also indirectly affect you when someone cheats (eg. through grade inflation).

However, by reporting the cheater you are also implicating your friend who passed on the photos and facilitated the cheating. Your friend might feel upset (and perhaps rightly so) that you didn't put your friendship above some general (and perhaps minor) moral obligation. I caution that your obligation to report is not unconditional in the sense that you have to accept a disadvantage for yourself, such as a spoiled friendship. Moreover, I would argue that you also have an obligation of loyalty towards your friend; whether or not that 'trumps' your obligation to report depends on how close your relationship is.


Plagiarism may not affect you directly in this course but doing nothing increases the likelihood it will affect you in another course.

As a result of doing little or no work in one course, this student can possibly invest more time in another course in which you are also registered, thereby affecting your comparative level of performance.

Now... there is a caveat here: getting photos from someone is not plagiarism in itself. There is nothing to prevent students from looking at posts on SE for hints or indications on how to proceed with solving a problem.

The situation you describe becomes a plagiarism situation when the work submitted by a person is not his/hers, and when this person gets credit for this work without properly acknowledging the source of this work.

You should report what you saw through the appropriate channels, but stay away from accusations and keep in mind that the recipient may not have used the information.

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    getting photos from someone is not plagiarism in itself — That really depends on the academic integrity policies of the university and the instructor.
    – JeffE
    Apr 5, 2017 at 14:01
  • I don't know all academic policies but I wish to emphasize there is a difference between the intent (and getting a photo would suggest intent) and the action. In some broad (administrative way) just getting a photo may be considered technically on par with finding a source in which this very problem has been solved. Realistically getting a photo of someone else's assignment should raise a flag and the work submitted should be scrutinized for signs of plagiarism.
    – user67075
    Apr 5, 2017 at 14:11
  • Not only can cheating affect one while in school, if the institution gets a reputation for tolerating cheating, it will lower the value of you diploma.
    – Bob Brown
    Apr 5, 2017 at 16:00

The question of morality–is it right or wrong–that you pose is one that can only be determined by you. Some people might give you the opinion that it's never right to, for example, break the law; others are more lenient with exceptions. Ultimately, it is an exercise for you to discover your "moral compass."

In terms of the practicality of doing the report. No, it is not out of line for you to report. However, keep in mind that cheating is a very severe matter in most universities and your allegations will (or should) prompt the professor to conduct an investigation. It is likely that your professor will have to involve your friend (who took the pictures) both to uncover the student who took advantage of the answers, as well as her for facilitating them. The results of the investigation will depend on the approach your professor takes. If he/she is able to simply deduct that cheating occurred by looking at the two submissions, then perhaps you won't have to sit through a student conduct committee. However, if more evidence is required, be ready to testify against them in front of a committee (if your school utilizes one for such violations).

Finally, as mentioned in one of the comments, the impact of their academic integrity violation does affect you. In the long run, it can impact the quality of the course, the perception of your undergraduate program, etc.


As faculty members, we know that cheating is an ongoing problem - both for in-person courses and online courses. The reasons for students cheating vary, but it's frustrating for faculty.

I imagine other students' cheating bothers you, because you completed the work yourself and cheating overall compromises the integrity of the class. I agree with the comment stated earlier that if cheating is widespread, then students aren't leaving the course or degree program adequately prepared. In time, this can undermined the quality associated with your program.

That being said, you have observed academic dishonesty - it is not hearsay when someone admits to you that she shared her work with another student. You do not need testimony from the third party for this to be an observed case of cheating.

Most university Academic Honesty Codes do require students to report cases of dishonesty. That being said, the faculty member may not realize that his or her course has assignments or assessments where students can easily cheat. If you are unclear about the overall situation, you may explain to your professor that you believe that cheating could be a problem, but are not 100% sure. Then, it would be the faculty member's role to evaluate and take action for what is happening in the class. I'm sorry that this other student put you in this predicament.

  • It's most likely "most university Academic Honesty Codes in the US", not worldwide.
    – user115896
    Nov 13, 2019 at 16:14

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