Understanding Academic Integrity Through Reddit

At the Joint International Conference on Ethics and Integrity in Academic, held in Gatineau, Canada, in May 2024, I shared some of my thoughts on using Reddit to understand and research academic integrity.

Academic integrity related topics are widely discussed on Reddit. Here are just a few examples of post titles, with themes often indicating students who have become caught up in academic misconduct procedures, along with faculty expressing frustrating that students are not following the processes they expect.

Academic Integrity Dilemmas

One typical Reddit post from 17 May 2024 saw a discussion of a moral dilemma, with the text below summarised using generative AI.

A 19-year-old woman faced a moral dilemma when her friend, Sarah, asked her to cover for Sarah’s cheating during exams. Sarah justified her actions by claiming that “everyone does it” and tried to guilt-trip poster into helping her cheat. Poster refused to take the fall for Sarah on a major exam, leading to a strain in their friendship. Sarah accused poster of being judgmental and distanced herself. Poster is now questioning if she made the right decision.


Using ChatGPT to categorise the 54 responses to the post at the time (there may be more responses now) led to the following summary.

CategoryDescriptionNumber of CommentsSample Responses
Integrity and Academic HonestyComments supporting poster’s decision to uphold integrity and warning about the consequences of cheating20“You’re risking your career and your college degree for Sarah. If you get caught, you can be expelled.”
Friendship and ManipulationComments highlighting Sarah’s manipulative behaviour and that she is not a true friend18“This person isn’t your friend, they’re using you to cheat.”
General SupportGeneral support for decision without specific reasons12“You made the right choice.”
OP in the WrongComments suggesting Sarah’s cheating does not affect poster1“Kinda TA, her cheating doesn’t affect you.”
Mixed or OtherMixed opinions or other related points such as a discussion on academic policies3“How exactly did she expect you to take the fall for her in a major exam?”
Views on a student covering for academic misconduct by their friend from a Reddit discussion

During the presentation, I discussed how real life scenarios like these can be extracted from Reddit to engage students in academic integrity discussion. They can also be used as the basis for academic research papers.

Not All Research is Real!

I shared multiple examples of research studies. This includes published research, as well as quick (and unchecked) analysis that I’d produced quickly using generative AI.

Research papers can be produced quickly now using Reddit to identify current trends, incorporate real world examples, and to collect global views, all in an environment where people may be more honest than when they’re completing a survey relating to academic integrity or academic misconduct.

Take, for example, this (again ChatGPT aided) thematic analysis of current views on AI detection in education.

Theme NameDescriptionTop KeywordsAverage SentimentNumber of Posts
AI Detection Tools and PatternsFocuses on AI tools and patterns in writing, with mentions of Turnitin and detection.ai, written, text, generated, tool, say, patterns, turnitin, detection, writingPositive15
Adoption and ImprovementDiscusses the adoption of AI by cheaters, researchers’ involvement, and potential improvements in technology.think, cheaters, adopt, account, taking, majority, technology, researchers, eventually, improveMixed8
AI Detectors and Student SoftwareCenters on AI detectors, student software, and ChatGPT, highlighting efforts and beliefs around these tools.ve, trying, detector, software, students, work, ai, believes, tested, chatgptMixed12
Academic Papers and AI UsageInvolves the use of AI in academic papers, mentioning programs, universities, and personal experiences.papers, ai, use, friend, program, person, colleges, comes, university, takenMixed10
Solutions and Ethical ConcernsConcerns AI solutions for cheating, trust issues, and student affairs, indicating administrative and personal viewpoints.student, ai, solution, cheating, don, trust, ve, affairs, talked, substantialNegative7
Thematic analysis of views on AI detection in education based on Reddit posts

But, care does need to be taken to ensure that research studies are real.

In another example, I instructed a system using an alternative LLM to produce fake Reddit research data, process that data for a research paper, then produce the final abstract.

There can be some truth to text generated by an LLM, but I am not convinced that professors should be thought of as “adversaries exploiting students for financial gain”. As useful as Reddit can be, the accuracy of generated research does need to be considered with care, particularly where conspiracy theories are involved!

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