Studying or Cheating?


Samantha Moilanen

Avanthika Sinha reading her assigned novel while using Sparknotes.

Samantha Moilanen, Staff Writer

One of the most conflicting topics in schools is whether using online resources to help students find information about novels is actually considered cheating. Many students love to indulge in using sources such as Sparknotes or Shmoop to find information about books or topics to gain a better understanding of the information. Is this really considered cheating, or merely using sources readily available to students on the internet?

“I do not think using online sources to find information on books or other topics is considered cheating, but copying answers or plagiarism definitely is,” said sophomore Allison Harkenrider.

Many students like Harkenrider do not believe using sources such as Sparknotes, Shmoop, or Cliffsnotes is considered cheating, but rather are merely useful study tools. For example, if a student is struggling with an essay based on a novel, Sparknotes provides everything from chapter summaries, chapter analyses, plot overviews, character analyses, and a list of themes to assist students in understanding the context of a novel. Although, because of all the free information provided about a novel, it could be considered cheating if a student only uses it as a shortcut instead of actually reading the book.

“I think they are not considered cheating if you use them just as a resource for studying. Sometimes while your reading a book for school you may not understand exactly what is going on so Sparknotes is a great way to understand. Contrarily, if you are going to plagiarize instead of coming up with your own ideas then it is not okay,” said junior Avanthika Sinha.

Samantha Moilanen
Sparknotes website for TKAM.

Online tools are helpful when a student is struggling, but sometimes the line between helpful and an easy cheat method is unclear. Students like Sinha believe these sources are an efficient and helpful way to reduce the struggles of trying to understand difficult novels and the stress of writer’s block. Although using these sources as a way to avoid putting time and effort into an assignment is cheating.

“I do not think it is cheating if you just use the sources as study tools to better understand a novel or certain writing topics. They also offer great assistance when trying to look deeper into a book that is difficult to understand,” said sophomore Daniel Benedict.

Understanding difficult novels is not an easy task. Although Sparknotes and other online resources make it simple to avoid doing the hard work, using them as an out is cheating. On the other hand, students agree that using these sources as study methods and tools to better understand a concept is helpful and advantageous. With all the technology readily available to every student, there is more temptation to cheat rather than study, but used for the right reasons these sites can be very beneficial to a student’s learning.