There are a number of questions on Academia.SE from students who have just been accused of cheating, or of some other form of misconduct. While the specifics of the allegations and circumstances differ, there is a great deal of commonality in the advice given. Many of the questions are written in a panic on the day of the accusation, and essentially ask how the student can immediately "prove their innocence". Advice often consists of telling the student to calm down and follow the procedure for allegations of misconduct. There is a great deal of valid general advice that can be given here, irrespective of the particular allegation at issue.

To the extent that answers to these questions give advice that is specific to the situation (i.e., which would not be replicated in a canonical version of the question), that is usually technical advice pertaining to a particular piece of evidence (e.g., how a particular computer system works) and arguably this is not material that relates to academia per se. Rather than focussing on academic matters, advice then becomes technical advice on evidentiary matters, more akin to legal/forensic advice.

Here is the proposed canonical question with a long answer giving general advice [presently closed]. Please let me know if you think this question adds value, and if any edits to the question would be useful. I am open to editing the question (or my answer) if it would lead to acceptance as a canonical version of this class of question.

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    Virtually every question about misconduct is either exam cheating or plagiarism. A canonical question for those topics would be useful. Research misconduct is incredibly specific and I don't think a canonical question for that is even useful. A guide for how to beat sexual misconduct charges should go on whatever mens' rights forum you'd prefer.
    – user131969
    Nov 23, 2020 at 22:55
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    @RDC: Clearly a canonical question/answer would not be a "guide on how to beat" misconduct charges of any kind. As can be seen from the existing answer to the proposed question, it would contain advice on the process that applies for an allegation of misconduct, and how to engage with that process. (The answer given explicitly tells the questioner to admit to their misconduct if they actually did it, so your wild allegation here is misplaced.)
    – Ben
    Nov 23, 2020 at 23:00
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    I've removed some unkind comments, let us remember to be nice and assume good intent. The suggestion to have a canonical question for cheating but not for other types of misconduct may be worth converting into a proper answer so that the community can vote on it / discuss it.
    – cag51 Mod
    Nov 23, 2020 at 23:36
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    I don't have a strong opinion on this. To get things started, I will post two contradictory answers. Feel free to edit either post to make a better "case" for each side. Note, we have not defined what the "threshold" for acceptance is; it should probably be somewhere between a majority and a strong majority (Wrzlprmft has previously used 'at least 5 upvotes, and at least twice as many upvotes as downvotes').
    – cag51 Mod
    Nov 24, 2020 at 20:51
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    Misconduct cases are all about technical details. Nov 26, 2020 at 10:55

2 Answers 2


Upvote this post if you agree that we should not adopt this canonical question; downvote if you strongly disagree.

No, we should not adopt this canonical question. There are too many variables: technical issues with an online system are substantively different than a good-faith misinterpretation of the rules which is different than being caught texting during an exam. Further, things are different in different locations. Lumping research or sexual misconduct into this makes it even broader. While some misconduct questions are essentially duplicates of each other, we should continue to mark as duplicates of an existing, similar question rather than creating a giant, one-size-fits-all canonical answer.

  • On top of this, most of those questions are from undergraduates, which to me makes most of them off topic.
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 25, 2020 at 0:01
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    @JonCuster Please note though that we have stopped considering "being from undergraduates" a criterion for on-topicness since long (see this post for the current policy). And for what it's worth, I've experienced cases of cheating attempts from both BSc and MSc students alike. Nov 26, 2020 at 16:05
  • @Ben: this seems to be the consensus. One thought: I think the answer you drafted is potentially helpful, and should be kept. I can use my superpowers to transfer the answer to one of the existing "what will happen to me?" questions; perhaps this one. Please let me know if this is OK with you.
    – cag51 Mod
    Nov 27, 2020 at 0:58
  • Why upvote if you "agree" but only downvote if you "strongly disagree"? Dec 2, 2020 at 16:59
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    @AzorAhai-him- if you feel "strongly", you can upvote A and downvote B. If you don't feel strongly, you can upvote A without downvoting B. But the key point is that upvoting your preferred outcome and downvoting all the others essentially gives you a "double vote", so I wanted to define some convention for double-voting rather than leaving it to random chance. This convention is aligned with the (implied) convention for larger surveys with many options, where you vote for the options you like, do nothing on acceptable options, and downvote options you don't like.
    – cag51 Mod
    Dec 2, 2020 at 17:51
  • @cag51 Ah, I hadn't scrolled down far enough to see the other option when I commented. Although I guess I haven't seen a survey like that. Dec 2, 2020 at 17:55
  • Sexual misconduct is of a different order, I think. Likewise it is hard for me to see that personal misconduct and research misconduct can reasonably be handled together. The "canonical" answer also makes too many assumptions about the good will of the administration, which isn't always present.
    – Buffy
    Nov 21, 2021 at 20:17

Upvote this post if you agree that we should adopt this canonical question; downvote if you strongly disagree.

Yes, we should adopt this canonical question. As Ben says, the purpose of this forum is the academic process, which we can explain in a single, well-written canonical question -- we should not wade into the forensic or legal matters of individual cases.

Note, this referendum is on the question only; the answer Ben proposed can be revised or a competing answer can be posted.

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