Using digital forensic techniques to identify contract cheating: A case study

Clare Johnson, Ross Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

231 Downloads (Pure)


Contract cheating is a major problem in Higher Education because it is very difficult to detect using traditional plagiarism detection tools. Digital forensics techniques are already used in law to determine ownership of documents, and also in criminal cases, where it is not uncommon to hide information and images within an ordinary looking document using steganography techniques. These digital forensic techniques were used to investigate a known case of contract cheating where the contract author has notified the university and the student subsequently confirmed that they had contracted the work out. Microsoft Word documents use a format known as Office Open XML Format, and as such, it is possible to review the editing process of a document. A student submission known to have been contracted out was analysed using the revision identifiers within the document, and a tool was developed to review these identifiers. Using visualisation techniques it is possible to see a pattern of editing that is inconsistent with the pattern seen in an authentic document.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-113
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Academic Ethics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • Contract Cheating
  • plagiarism
  • forensics
  • detection
  • academic integrity


Dive into the research topics of 'Using digital forensic techniques to identify contract cheating: A case study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this