Pellissippi State Art Department
Writing on board

Don't Get Caught: Tips for Students

by D. L. /student

You're tired. It's late. You had to work late several nights in a row, and that date, well, that couldn't be helped. So now it's down to the wire. The paper is due tomorrow. Or the test is at 9:00 a.m. and you haven't studied. And that teacher is so difficult! There's no way you can pass! Three of your friends have gotten by with cheating—why can't you? You decide to make a plan...

It's that easy. It's a quick decision (usually out of desperation) that allows someone to feel okay about cheating. And cheating can take many forms. From cut-and-paste plagiarizing to using cheat sheets on a test to...whatever...there's a way to cheat. But who pays in the long run? Yeah, you might get away with it. Then what about the next time? And what if you don't get away with it? Colleges are coming down hard on dishonesty these days, and the reasons are good: just look at the general ethical demise of our nation! The Enron scandal, plagiarizing writers, dishonest sports and movie stars, lying politicians and preachers. The list goes on and on. Teachers care about ethics. Our ethics. Teachers, college teachers in particular, are savvy to shortcuts because they are in the business to inspire and guide. I have just one question. Why are you in college anyway?

Okay—no more lecture. The following are some awesome ways to get the right attitude about college work so you aren't tempted to cheat. Yeah, that's right—tempted. Because that's what it is—the enticement of the easy way out. Hey, let's face it—the temptation is always there, but the stakes are way too high. If you risk it, chances are, someday you'll be caught. Don't let what happened to me happen to you. I got caught plagiarizing a paper, failed the assignment, failed the course, and lost my incentive to complete my degree. I lost the respect of my teachers and my parents. But, I learned the hard way. I've been back in school a year now—the right way. Here are some useful tips to stay out of trouble:

I used my own experience and did some research, so I have to give credit where credit is due! (The following is very cool info borrowed and adapted for Pellissippi P.A.T.H.S. from College of the Canyons where I go to school.)


  1. Review and/or rewrite your notes after each class. Reading them soon after class will make remembering them easier. Check if they are clear and readable.
  2. Try shortening your notes to one page. This will help you to organize the main ideas and to select the most important concepts and facts.
  3. If you don't understand the material, see your instructor during office hours or make an appointment. You may also go to the Learning Center on your campus for assistance. The longer you wait, the less time you will have to prepare.
  4. Prepare for the style of the exam being given. Multiple choice, matching, and true-false questions tend to test for recognition of facts; short answer and "fill-in-the-blank" questions tend to test your ability to remember material; essay and oral exams tend to test your ability to recall material; pull it together a different way, and create your own conclusions.
  5. Write some questions as if you were the professor. This exercise may help you to focus on the most important material under examination. Think like your teachers.
  6. Budget your time. Include time to watch your favorite television program as you schedule your time - chances are you'll watch it anyway. If you budget time for it, you'll be able to watch it and still have adequate time to study. I mean, write down your plans for the day and factor in study time!


  1. Do not sit next to your friends. Trust me on this one. Choose a desk in the exam room that is as remote as possible from students whom you know. It decreases distraction as well as the chance that copying may occur or be suspected. This is particularly important if you studied together.
  2. Bring into the exam room only those materials, if any, which the instructor has said are allowed. Bringing in unauthorized materials, whether used or not, leaves you vulnerable to a charge of cheating.


When your exam is returned, see what you can learn by reviewing your incorrect answers. If you want to submit your exam for re-grading, don't alter the original answers, since that could be interpreted as a dishonest attempt to receive additional credit. Most instructors photocopy your original exams and quizzes in order to compare them with those submitted for re-grading. The few who do not do so have excellent memories!


  1. Be sure you understand the assignment. If you have ANY questions, do not hesitate to ASK the instructor.
  2. Be sure you understand the definition of PLAGIARISM: To PLAGIARIZE is to "steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own without crediting the source; present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source," (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, Springfield: G. & C. Merriam Company, 1973, 870.). Most of the time, you have to incorporate other writers' words and ideas in an assignment. If given permission to consult those writers, go ahead, but be sure to cite them. If you aren't sure how to use the material you have without plagiarizing, ASK or CHECK A WRITING FORMAT GUIDE (MLA, APA, etc.) before submitting the work for credit.
  3. Be sure you understand the CONSEQUENCES of plagiarism: a. When you plagiarize, you hand in work that is not your own and call it your own. You do not learn anything because your work is not being graded. When you plagiarize, you sabotage the quality of your education. b. When you plagiarize, you steal, just as if you took a book from a store. Plagiarism is different; however, because the College assumes that each degree represents that student's original work. When you plagiarize, you undermine the value of your degree. c. When you plagiarize, chances are good that you will be caught. If you are caught, chances are very good that you will be fail the course or worse. Consider the impact on your financial aid! Your earning a degree! Your plans to attend a four-year school! Your career plans!
  4. If you're stuck and can't get through the assignment, there are legitimate alternatives to plagiarizing: a. Visit the Learning Center on your campus where you can get one-on-one help with writing skills, grammar, topic development -- anything involved in writing a paper. b. Visit your instructor - make an appointment or go during office hours. There are no dumb questions when it comes to assuring that your work is honest.
  5. If you know of someone who is plagiarizing an assignment, confront the person and/or tell the instructor. Papers that are plagiarized will impact the grading curve. It is in your best interest if everyone does his or her own work.
  6. Be advised that instructors will refer cases of suspected plagiarism to the Department head or higher. Penalties for plagiarism are steep.

All right so that's my advice with a little help from my college to yours. Since you are reading this on a PSCC academic honesty page, I am happy to share my expertise with you. Use this for your personal reference only. Thanks! D.L.