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How to lead a discovery interview about contract cheating

Contract cheating can be tricky to detect. In addition to examining the student’s work, it can be helpful to engage the student in a conversation about their learning. A guided discovery interview with the student can help you to understand what happened.


  • Document all of your communication with the student, including details about when and where the discovery interview is held. Ensure the student receives confirmation of these details in writing, even if you have made arrangements verbally with the student.
  • Take an approach that is exploratory, rather than accusatory.
  • Maintain a neutral tone of voice. Avoid showing anger.
  • Allow the student to have an opportunity to explain themselves.
  • Ensure the results of your discovery interview are documented.

Discovery interview questions and probes

  • Tell me about your work. Why did you choose this topic?
  • Tell me about your process for completing your assignment. How long did it take you?
  • Tell me about the sources you consulted when you did your assignment. Where did you find these sources? (Asking follow up questions such as: Which journals? Which books? Can allow you to further probe). 
  • Why did you choose these particular sources? When you think back to the sources you read for this assignment, can you tell me verbally what your key learnings where from what you read?
  • We didn’t use (insert source here) in our class discussions at all and it wasn’t on our reading list. How did you find it? Why did you choose it?
  • Tell me about your conclusion. How did you arrive at this conclusion?
  • The assignment instructions ask for X, Y, Z. You addressed X, but not Y. How come?
  • Your work mentions these terms (insert terms here). Can you tell me verbally what these mean? • For coding assignments: What does this function do? How does this code work? What does this code make happen?
  • Is there anything else you want to tell me about your work?


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For more information: Sarah Elaine Eaton, University of Calgary –

Acknowledgements: This resource has been adapted with permission from one created by Margaret A. Toye, Bow Valley College, Calgary, Canada.