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Cheating in Academic Institutions: A Decade of Research

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This article reviews 1 decade of research on cheating in academic institutions. This re-search demonstrates that cheating is prevalent and that some forms of cheating have increased dramatically in the last 30 years. This research also suggests that although both individual and contextual factors influence cheating, contextual factors, such as students' perceptions of peers' behavior, are the most powerful influence. In addition, an institution's academic integrity programs and policies, such as honor codes, can have a significant influence on students' behavior. Finally, we offer suggestions for managing cheating from students' and faculty members' perspectives. For the last decade, both collectively and individually, we have studied questions of organizational values and ethics. Although the initial point of departure for each of us was ethics in business organizations, we have expended considerable time trying ETHICS & BEHAVIOR, 11(3), 219–232 Copyright © 2001, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Requests for reprints should be sent to Donald L. McCabe, Faculty of Management, Rutgers Univer-sity, Newark, NJ 07102–3027.
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ARTICLES
Cheating in Academic Institutions:
A Decade of Research
Donald L. McCabe
Faculty of Management
Rutgers University
Linda Klebe Treviño
Smeal College of Business Administration
The Pennsylvania State University
Kenneth D. Butterfield
Department of Management and Decision Sciences
Washington State University
Thisarticlereviews1decadeofresearchoncheatinginacademicinstitutions.Thisre-
search demonstrates that cheating is prevalent and that some forms of cheating have
increased dramatically in the last 30 years. This research also suggests that although
both individual and contextual factors influence cheating, contextual factors, such as
students’perceptionsofpeers’behavior, are the most powerful influence. In addition,
an institution’s academic integrity programs and policies, such as honor codes, can
have a significant influence on students’ behavior. Finally, we offer suggestions for
managing cheating from students’ and faculty members’ perspectives.
Key words: academic dishonesty, cheating
Forthelast decade, both collectivelyandindividually, we have studiedquestionsof
organizational values and ethics. Although the initial point of departure for each of
uswasethics in business organizations,wehave expended considerabletimetrying
ETHICS & BEHAVIOR, 11(3), 219–232
Copyright © 2001, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Requestsforreprints should be sent to Donald L. McCabe, Faculty of Management, Rutgers Univer-
sity, Newark, NJ 07102–3027. E-mail: dmccabe@andromeda.rutgers.edu
to understand the ethical inclinations of tomorrow’s business leaders—students
majoring in business and those majoring in other subjects who intend to pursue a
career in business. To understand how the ethics and ethical development of these
future businesspeople are similar to, or differ from, those pursuing other career
choices,wehavealso studied the ethical inclinationsofcollegestudents in general.
With few exceptions, the thrust of this research has centered on one of the most
basic ethical decisions faced by college students—to cheat or not to cheat on their
academic work. With increasing competition for the most desired positions in the
job market and for the few coveted places available at the nation’s leading busi-
ness, law, and medical schools, today’s undergraduates experience considerable
pressure to do well. Research shows that all too often these pressures lead to deci-
sions to engage in various forms of academic dishonesty (e.g., Bowers, 1964;
McCabe, Treviño, & Butterfield, 1999). Research also shows that these transgres-
sions are often overlooked or treated lightly by faculty who do not want to become
involved in what they perceive as the bureaucratic procedures designed to adjudi-
cate allegations of academic dishonesty on their campus (e.g., McCabe, 1993;
Nuss, 1984; Singhal, 1982). Students who might otherwise complete their work
honestly observe this phenomenon and convince themselves they cannot afford to
be disadvantaged by students who cheat and go unreported or unpunished. Al-
thoughmany findit distasteful, they too begin cheating to “level theplaying field.”
Fortunately, the picture may not be as bleak as this brief summary suggests.
One of the most encouraging aspects of the research we have conducted on aca-
demic dishonesty is the many students and faculty who are genuinely concerned
about the issue and who are willing to devote time and effort to addressing it on
their campuses. In fact, the last decade has actually seen a modest increase in the
number of college campuses who have adopted academic honor codes. As we dis-
cuss presently, such codes place significant responsibility on students to maintain
an environment of academic integrity, and evidence suggests they can be quite
successful. Although honor codes are not a panacea and are more difficult to im-
plement on larger campuses, many of the principles on which such codes are built
can be implemented on any campus.
PREVALENCE OF CHEATING
Understanding student cheating is particularly important given trends that show
cheating is widespread and on the rise. In 1964, Bill Bowers published the first
large-scale study of cheating in institutions of higher learning. Bowers surveyed
more than 5,000 students in a diverse sample of 99 U.S. colleges and universities
and found that three fourths of the respondents had engaged in one or more inci-
dents of academic dishonesty. This study was replicated some 30 years later by
McCabe and Treviño (1997) at 9 of the schools who had participated in Bowers’s
220 MCCABE, TREVIÑO, BUTTERFIELD
originalsurvey. Although McCabeand Treviño observedonly a modestincrease in
overall cheating, significant increases were found in the most explicit forms of test
or exam cheating. Disturbing increases were also found among women and in col-
laborative cheating (unpermitted collaboration among students on written assign-
ments).Although nosignificant increases were observed in the most explicit forms
ofcheating on writtenassignments, this maybe due toa changing definitionamong
studentsofwhat constitutes plagiarism.Ingeneral, student understandingofappro-
priate citation techniques seems to have changed, and selected behaviors that stu-
dents may have classified as plagiarism in Bowers’s (1964) study do not appear to
beconsidered plagiarismby manystudents today.For example,although moststu-
dents understand that quoting someone’s work word for word demands a citation,
they seem to be less clear on the need to cite the presentation of someone else’s
ideas when the students present them in their own words.
In spite of Bowers’s (1964) conclusions about the powerful influence of institu-
tional context on student decisions to cheat, between the 1960s and 1990 most of
the research on student cheating focused on the role of individual factors related to
cheating behavior. This stream of research revealed that factors such as gender,
grade point average (GPA), work ethic, Type A behavior, competitive achieve-
ment striving, and self-esteem can significantly influence the prevalence of cheat-
ing (e.g., Baird, 1980; Eisenberger & Shank, 1985; Perry, Kane, Bernesser, &
Spicker, 1990; Ward, 1986; Ward & Beck, 1990). Prior to 1990, only a few studies
focused on contextual factors that influence cheating behavior. In this research,
factors such as faculty responses to cheating, sanction threats, social learning, and
honor codes were shown to influence college cheating (e.g., Canning, 1956;
Jendrek, 1989; Michaels & Miethe, 1989; Tittle & Rowe, 1973). Although these
studies made important contributions, most of them had significant limitations.
Perhaps of greatest importance, most of these studies only sampled students at a
single institution, obviously limiting our ability to draw meaningful conclusions
about contextual influences.
The research agenda we initiated in 1990 attempted to address this shortcoming
and led to a course of research that has spanned the past decade. Like Bowers
(1964), our distinguishing methodology has been the use of large-scale,
multicampus, multivariable studies. The end result has been a series of studies that
have advanced our understanding of why college students cheat, provided admin-
istrators and faculty with a broader set of tools that can be used to curb cheating on
college campuses, and helped foster academic integrity in American colleges and
universities (e.g., McCabe, 1992, 1993; McCabe & Treviño, 1993, 1997; McCabe
etal., 1996,1999). Not least among the outcomes of this workwas theformation of
the Center for Academic Integrity in 1992, a consortium of more than 200 colleges
and universities united in a common effort to initiate and maintain a dialogue
among students, faculty, and administrators on the issue of academic integrity. As
we discuss later, although the Center understands there is no “one size fits all” so-
CHEATING IN INSTITUTIONS 221
lution to academic dishonesty, it does indicate that certain fundamental initiatives
can yield positive results on almost any campus.
WHY DO COLLEGE STUDENTS CHEAT?
THE ROLE OF CONTEXTUAL FACTORS
Oneof the mostimportant studies inour work is McCabe and Treviño’s (1993)sur-
vey of more than 6,000 students at 31 academic institutions, which was conducted
in the 1990–1991 academic year. This project was the first major, multicampus in-
vestigation of institution-level variables that influence cheating behavior since
Bowers’s (1964) seminal work. Major variables investigated in this study included
the existence of an honor code, student understanding and acceptance of a school’s
academic integrity policy, perceived certainty that cheaters will be reported, per-
ceived severity of penalties, and the degree to which students perceive that their
peers engage in cheating behavior. This final variable, peer behavior, was found to
show the most significant relation with student cheating in this study. Based on so-
ciallearning theory (Bandura, 1986), McCabe and Treviñohypothesized sucha re-
lation, although they were somewhat surprised by its strength. Indeed, they con-
cluded that
the strong influence of peers’ behavior may suggest that academic dishonesty not
onlyislearnedfromobservingthebehaviorofpeers,butthatpeers’behaviorprovides
a kind of normative support for cheating. The fact that others are cheating may also
suggestthat,insuchaclimate,thenon-cheaterfeelsleftatadisadvantage.Thuscheat-
ingmaycometobeviewedasanacceptablewayofgettingandstayingahead.(p.533)
Perhaps of greatest importance from a practical perspective, their further analysis
suggested that
an institution’s ability to develop a shared understanding and acceptance of its aca-
demic integrity policies has a significant and substantive impact on student percep-
tions of their peers’ behavior. … Thus, programs aimed at distributing, explaining,
andgaining student and faculty acceptance ofacademicintegrity policies may be par-
ticularly useful. (pp. 533–534)
McCabe and Treviño’s (1997) study of almost 1,800 students at nine medium-
to large-size universities in the 1993–1994 academic year examined the relative
influence of contextual and individual factors on cheating behavior, and the results
pointed to the primacy of the institutional context in influencing cheating behav-
ior. The contextual factors (peer cheating behavior, peer disapproval of cheating
behavior, and perceived severity of penalties for cheating) were significantly more
influential than the individual factors (age, gender, GPA, and participation in ex-
222 MCCABE, TREVIÑO, BUTTERFIELD
tracurricular activities). Peer-related factors once again emerged as the most sig-
nificant correlate of cheating behavior.
McCabe and Treviño (1997) also found in this study that cheating tends to be
more prevalent on these larger campuses. This is reflected in Tables 1 and 2, which
summarize some of the quantitative data obtained in their 1990–1991 and 1993
studies. The tables also show data obtained in a replication of their 1990–1991
study that was conducted on the same 31 campuses in the 1995–1996 academic
year. These data reflect the number of students who admit to the various forms of
academic dishonesty. In Table 1, a serious test cheater is defined as someone who
admits to one or more instances of copying from another student on a test or exam,
using unauthorized crib or cheat notes on a test or exam, or helping someone else
to cheat on a test or exam. Although other test cheating behaviors were also evalu-
ated (e.g., learning what was on a test from someone who took the test in an earlier
class section), the behaviors included in our serious test cheating statistic are be-
haviors a majority of students agree constitute cheating. The serious cheating on
written work statistic was constructed in an identical fashion and includes four be-
haviors: plagiarism, fabricating or falsifying a bibliography, turning in work done
by someone else, and copying a few sentences of material without footnoting them
ina paper.As the 1963 versus 1993 comparison suggests, cheating is prevalent and
test or exam cheating has increased dramatically over the last 3 decades.
A distinguishing characteristic of the original McCabe and Treviño (1993)
study was its investigation of the influence of academic honor codes on student in-
tegrity, an investigation that was extended in McCabe et al. (1999). Earlier work
(e.g., Bowers, 1964) suggested that honor codes were associated with lower levels
of cheating and the data in Tables 1 and 2 suggest this is still the case. However,
there is evidence of a slight deterioration in the relation between honor codes and
cheating between 1990–1991 and 1995–1996.
CHEATING IN INSTITUTIONS 223
TABLE 1
Self-Admitted Cheating—Summary Statistics
1990–1991 (%) 1995–1996 (%)
Variable 1963a(%) 1993b(%) No CodecCodedNo CodeeCodef
Serious test cheatingg39 64 47 24 45 30
Serious cheating on written
workh65 66 56 32 58 42
All serious cheating 75 82 71 44 71 54
an= 452. bn= 1,793. cn= 3,083. dn= 3,013. en= 1,970. fn= 2,303. gSerious test cheating includes
students who have engaged in copying on an exam—with or without another student’s
knowledge—using crib notes on an exam, or helping someone else to cheat on a test or exam. hSerious
cheating on written work includes students who have engaged in plagiarism, fabricated or falsified a
bibliography, turned in work done by someone else, or copied a few sentences of material without
footnoting them in a paper.
Thesedata suggest that honor codes are animportant phenomenon, and we have
studied the relation between honor codes and cheating has been studied in greater
depth, along three major themes: (a) implementation of honor codes, (b) faculty
viewsofacademicintegritypoliciesincludinghonorcodes, and (c) honor codes’ ef-
fect on students.
Honor Codes Must Be More Than Mere “Window Dressing”
McCabe and Treviño (1993) replicated Bowers’s (1964) finding that less cheating
occursin honor code environments.However, McCabe andTreviño were intrigued
by an additional finding: One of the lowest levels of cheating occurred at a school
that lacked an honor code, and one of the higher levels of cheating occurred at a
school that had a long-standing honor code. A closer examination of each of these
schoolsprovided an interestingexplanation for thisapparent paradox. McCabeand
Treviño found that although this noncode school did not have a formal honor code,
it had developed a culture that emphasized many of the elements found at code
schools and encouraged academic integrity without instituting a formal code. At
thisschool, administrators and faculty clearlyconveyed their beliefs about theseri-
ousnessofcheating, communicated expectations regardinghighstandards of integ-
rity,and encouraged students to knowand abideby rules of proper conduct.In con-
trast, the honor code school, although it had a 100-year-old honor code tradition,
failedtoadequatelycommunicate the essence ofitscodeto students and toindoctri-
nate them into the campus culture. This finding led to an important insight: It is not
the mere existence of an honor code that is important in deterring college cheating.
Aneffective honor codemust be morethan mere windowdressing; a truly effective
code must be well implemented and strongly embedded in the student culture. Fur-
224 MCCABE, TREVIÑO, BUTTERFIELD
TABLE 2
Self-Admitted Cheating—Summary Statistics (%)
1990–1991 1995–1996
Variable 1963aNo CodecCoded1993bNo CodeeCodef
Copied on test or exam 26 30 14 52 32 20
Used unauthorized crib notes 16 21 9 27 17 11
Helped other on test 23 28 9 37 23 11
Plagiarism 30 18 7 26 20 10
Copied one or two sentences
without footnoting 49 41 23 54 43 32
Unpermitted collaboration on
assignments 11 39 21 49 49 27
an= 452. bn= 1,793. cn= 3,083. dn= 3,013. en= 1,970. fn= 2,303.
thermore, a formal code is not the only way to achieve the desired result. As sug-
gested earlier, a strong culture of academic integrity can exist at an institution that
has no formal code but communicates the importance the community places on in-
tegrity in other ways.
McCabe, Treviño, and Butterfield’s (1996) study of 318 alumni of two private
liberalarts collegessuggested honor codes can have long-term effects on behavior.
The study focused on alumni who had graduated from their respective colleges be-
tween 1962 and 1989, allowing the researchers to test hypotheses about the
long-term effects of collegiate honor codes as well as the effect of codes of ethics
at their current work organizations. The results supported previous work by show-
ing that dishonest behavior in the workplace can be reduced by an organizational
code of ethics. The results also show that dishonest behavior in the workplace var-
ies inversely with the strength of implementation of an organizational code of eth-
ics (i.e., the degree of managerial commitment to the code and the degree to which
anorganization attemptsto communicateits codeto employees and to ensure com-
pliance) and the degree to which a code of ethics is deeply embedded in the organi-
zation’s culture (i.e., the degree to which the code is understood and accepted by
employeesand guides their day-to-day interactions and activities). The results also
indicate that college honor codes can have an enduring effect: Dishonest behavior
in the workplace was lowest for participants who had experienced an honor code
environment in college and who currently worked in an organization that had a
strongly implemented code of ethics. Overall, this work suggests that participation
in multiple honor code communities can play a part in reducing dishonest behav-
ior, particularly if the honor codes are well implemented and strongly embedded in
the organizational culture.
Faculty Views of Academic Integrity Policies
Facultymembers’ viewsof academic integrity policies, and how these views differ
acrosscode and noncode schools, wasthe subject of McCabe’s (1993)study of 800
facultyatageographically diverse sample of16U.S. colleges and universities.This
study showed that faculty at code schools were more likely to rate their school
higher than noncode schools on factors such as students’ understanding of aca-
demicintegrity policies, faculty support of these policies,and theoverall effective-
nessof the policy. Faculty at code schools were also more likely to believe that stu-
dentsshould play asignificant part in the judicialprocess associated withacademic
cheating.This study also revealedthat faculty atboth code andnoncode schools are
reluctanttoreport cheating and prefertohandle suspected casesofcheating on their
own rather than appeal to institutional policies and procedures. Furthermore, this
study confirmed student perceptions that many faculty do not treat cases of aca-
demicdishonesty veryharshly. Forexample, morethan half of the noncode faculty
reported that their most likely reaction to an incident of cheating would be failure
CHEATING IN INSTITUTIONS 225
onthe test or assignment involved (39%), asimple warning (9%), various penalties
less than test or assignment failure (7%), or nothing (1%). Word seems to travel
quickly among students as to who these faculty are, and student comments suggest
their courses become particular targets for cheating. As noted earlier, students re-
port that many faculty simply look the other way when they see cheating occur in
their courses. When more than a few faculty behave this way, it is hard to convince
students that an ethic of integrity exists on campus and cheating can easily become
the campus norm.
Effect of Honor Codes on Students
As suggested earlier, some campuses use academic honor codes to combat aca-
demicdishonesty. Although Bowers (1964), McCabeand Treviño (1993), and oth-
ers have documented the powerful effect of such codes, how and why they work
when students on code campuses face the same grade pressures as their peers else-
where is not well understood. Gaining additional insight into this question was the
subject of a qualitative study of college cheating reported by McCabe et al. (1999).
McCabe et al. analyzed data from more than 1,700 students at 31 U.S. colleges and
universities, approximately half of which employed an honor code. Data for this
study were collected in the form of open-ended comments made by students at the
end of a larger survey on college cheating. At the end of the survey, students were
asked to offer “any comments that you care to make or if there is anything else you
would like to tell us about the topic of cheating in college.” Although this question
was added to the survey in a somewhat perfunctory manner, more than 40% of the
almost 4,300 respondents offered comments, many of which were quite detailed in
nature. We believe this kind of response underscores the importance of the topic of
academic cheating to students.
Many of these comments corroborated the importance of the institutional–con-
textual factors found to be related to academic integrity by McCabe and Treviño
(1993, 1997). Contextual influences on cheating that were emphasized by students
included the degree to which the code is deeply embedded in a culture of integrity;
the degree to which a school has a supportive, trusting atmosphere; competitive
pressures; the severity of punishments; the existence of clear rules regarding unac-
ceptable behavior; faculty monitoring; peer pressure to cheat or not to cheat; the
likelihood of being caught or reported; and class size.
As expected, the results also revealed important differences between code and
noncode campus environments. In particular, the results suggest that students at
honor code schools view academic integrity in a very different way from their
noncode counterparts. The code students were less likely to cheat, were less likely
to rationalize or justify any cheating behavior that they did admit to, and were
more likely to talk about the importance of integrity and about how a moral com-
munity can minimize cheating. Although students at both types of schools report
226 MCCABE, TREVIÑO, BUTTERFIELD
that they cheat and feel many different sources of pressure to cheat, honor code
students apparently do not succumb to these pressures as easily or as often as
noncode students. As reported in McCabe et al. (1999), “clearly, code students
sense that they are part of a special community that demands compliance with cer-
tain standards in exchange for the many privileges associated with honor codes”
(p. 230). Such privileges (e.g., unproctored exams, self-scheduled exams, the
strong judicial role played by students, etc.) help create a true environment of trust
among students and between students and faculty. Students seem to place great
valueon beingpart of such an environment in contrast to the environment foundon
many campuses where compliance with standards of academic integrity is only
pursued through the threat of punishment.
WHY DO COLLEGE STUDENTS CHEAT?
THE ROLE OF INDIVIDUAL FACTORS
Although McCabe and Treviño’s primary focus has been on the role of context
in influencing academic dishonesty, some of their work also has expanded under-
standing of the relation between individual influences and academic dishonesty.
Forexample, McCabe(1992) showed that college students use a variety ofneutral-
ization techniques (e.g., rationalization, denial, deflecting blame to others, con-
demning the accusers) to explain away their dishonest behavior.
McCabe and Treviño (1997) also studied some of the more common individual
difference factors that have been studied in the literature. Although they found
these factors to be less important than contextual factors in their work, they are
nonetheless significant correlates of cheating among college students. For exam-
ple, prior studies (e.g., Anton & Michael, 1983; Haines, Diekhoff, LaBeff, &
Clark, 1986) have shown that younger students tend to cheat more than older stu-
dents and our data supported this result. However, it is not clear how much of this
relation is accounted for by age versus class rank. These two variables are strongly
correlated, and McCabe and Treviño suggested that many 1st- and 2nd-year stu-
dents who find themselves in large lecture courses, perhaps enrolled in an elective
they really do not want to take in the first place, find it very easy to rationalize
cheating. They often see a lot of cheating among others in these courses, faculty
cannot possibly monitor all of the students in such large classes, and the students
often are bored with the material. In contrast, 3rd- and 4th-year students seem to be
more enthusiastic about their courses and faculty. At smaller schools, these
students talk about the personal relationships they have developed with faculty in
their major, often making it harder to consider cheating in those courses.
Another individual factor that has received much attention in the literature is
gender. The majority of prior studies have reported that men cheat more than
women (e.g., Aiken, 1991; Davis, Grover, Becker, & McGregor, 1992; Ward,
1986),but several studies have found no difference between men and women(e.g.,
CHEATING IN INSTITUTIONS 227
Baird, 1980; Haines et al., 1986). Although McCabe and Treviño (1997) found the
more traditional result (i.e., men self-reported more cheating than women), the
data suggest that within similar majors, gender differences are often very small.
For example, women majoring in engineering, a major one might have considered
male-dominated a few decades ago, talk about the need to compete by the “men’s
rules”to be successful in this major. Thus, generally higher levels of cheating were
found among women in engineering compared to women in other majors, and
women majoring in engineering reported cheating at rates comparable to men ma-
joring in engineering.
McCabe and Treviño (1997) also examined several other individual-level vari-
ables. For example, they found support for the well-documented conclusion that
students with lower GPAs report more cheating than students with higher GPAs.
They also reported that students engaged in intercollegiate athletics and other ex-
tracurricular activities self-reported more cheating, perhaps reflecting the time de-
mands that these activities place on students and their decision to take various
“short cuts” to stay up to date and remain competitive in their coursework.
McCabeet al.’s(1999) qualitativestudy supportedthese findingsand identified
other factors that can influence cheating, including pressure to get high grades, pa-
rental pressures, a desire to excel, pressure to get a job, laziness, a lack of responsi-
bility, a lack of character, poor self-image, a lack of pride in a job well done, and a
lack of personal integrity.
PREVENTING CHEATING IN ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS
Theresearchdiscussed here represents 1decadeof work studying factorsthatinflu-
ence cheating among college students. Numerous insights have emerged from this
work that faculty, administrators, academics, and students can use to help reduce
cheating on their campuses.
The primary implication of this work is that cheating can be most effectively
addressed at the institutional level. On many campuses, the fundamental elements
of an academic honor code may be a particularly useful tool for colleges and uni-
versities who seek to reduce student cheating. However, at an even broader level,
academic institutions are advised to consider ways of creating an “ethical commu-
nity” on their campuses—one that includes clear communication of rules and stan-
dards, moral socialization of community members, and mutual respect between
students and faculty, and one that extends certain privileges to its students (e.g.,
unproctored exams, self-scheduled exams, etc.). However, building an ethical
community also might involve techniques such as creating a “hidden curriculum”
in which students not only receive formal ethics instruction but also learn by ac-
tively discussing ethical issues and acting on them. The hidden curriculum might
include allowing students to participate in the many opportunities for teaching and
228 MCCABE, TREVIÑO, BUTTERFIELD
learning about ethical issues that arise in the day-to-day operations of an educa-
tional institution. In such an environment, messages about ethics and values are
implicitly sent to and received by students throughout their college experience,
both in and out of the classroom (Treviño & McCabe, 1994).
Theresearchof McCabe et al.(1999)also suggests thatcheatingbehavior can be
effectively managed in the classroom. Insights from this qualitative study suggest
that faculty members can pursue numerous strategies, including clearly communi-
catingexpectationsregardingcheatingbehavior,establishing policiesregardingap-
propriate conduct, and encouraging students to abide by those policies. The more
important factors identified in this study are summarized in Table 3.
In addition, McCabe and Pavela (1997) suggested 10 principles of academic in-
tegrityfor faculty.These principles, shown in Table 4, represent strategies thatfac-
ulty can employ to minimize cheating in their classrooms. Several of these factors
point to the importance of student involvement in reducing cheating behavior. It
shouldnotbesurprisingthatmanyofthefactorsshowninTable4mirrorthesugges-
tions offered by students (Table 3). This suggests that faculty and students may not
beveryfarapartin their views oncurbingcollegecheatingand further indicates that
these groups can work together toward the goal of establishing an ethical commu-
nity.Indeed, involving both faculty and students in an ongoing dialogue aboutaca-
CHEATING IN INSTITUTIONS 229
TABLE 3
Managing Cheating in the Classroom: The Student’s Perspective
Number Factor
1 Clearly communicate expectations (e.g., regarding behavior that
constitutes appropriate conduct and behavior that constitutes cheating)
2 Establish and communicate cheating policies and encourage students to
abide by those policies
3 Consider establishing a classroom honor code—one that places
appropriate responsibilities and obligations on the student, not just the
faculty member, to prevent cheating
4 Be supportive when dealing with students; this promotes respect, which
students will reciprocate by not cheating
5 Be fair—develop fair and consistent grading policies and procedures;
punish transgressions in a strict but fair and timely manner
6 When possible, reduce pressure by not grading students on a strict curve
7 Focus on learning, not on grades
8 Encourage the development of good character
9 Provide deterrents to cheating (e.g., harsh penalties)
10 Remove opportunities to cheat (e.g., monitor tests, be sure there is ample
space between test takers)
11 Assign interesting and nontrivial assignments
12 Replace incompetent or apathetic teaching assistants
Note. Adapted from student comments in McCabe, Treviño, and Butterfield (1999).
demic integrity may be one of the most important components of an honor code
tradition. Some schools do little more than tell their students where in the student
handbooktheycanfindtheschool’spolicyonacademic integrity. Many honor code
schools, in contrast, use orientation sessions, initiation ceremonies, or both to con-
vey to their students the tradition of honor on campus and what will be expected of
them as the newest members of the community.
Surveys of high school students suggest that most students entering college ar-
rive with some experience with cheating in high school, or at least knowledge of
cheating by their peers. Yet, most students come to college expecting it will be dif-
ferent than high school. Many seem to view the primary goal of high school as
gaining admission to the college of their choice, and they find their academic work
somewhat irrelevant, more of an obstacle to college admission than a true learning
experience. Although their view may eventually change, they arrive at college
thinking this is where true learning occurs. When they hear the president, a dean,
or an orientation leader talk about the scholarly enterprise and the importance of
never representing the work of someone else as their own, this is generally what
they expected. After all, this is not high school any more. We believe that most
new college students, although perhaps a decreasing number, internalize this mes-
sage to some degree and begin their college experience with a positive attitude
about the need for academic integrity, in spite of their experience with cheating in
high school. However, if they observe cheating by 2nd-, 3rd-, and 4th-year
students and see faculty who seem to ignore what appears to be obvious cheating,
their idealistic view is likely to degenerate rather quickly. The reality of the cheat-
ing they observe convinces them that college is not that different from high school
after all, at least with regard to academic integrity. If they are to survive and be
competitive in this new environment, they must play by the same rules as everyone
230 MCCABE, TREVIÑO, BUTTERFIELD
TABLE 4
Managing Cheating in the Classroom: 10 Principles of Academic Integrity for Faculty
Number Principle
1 Affirm the importance of academic integrity
2 Foster a love of learning
3 Treat students as an end in themselves
4 Foster and environment of trust in the classroom
5 Encourage student responsibility for academic integrity
6 Clarify expectations for students
7 Develop fair and relevant forms of assessment
8 Reduce opportunities to engage in academic dishonesty
9 Challenge academic dishonesty when it occurs
10 Help define and support campus-wide academic integrity
standards
Note. From McCabe and Pavela (1997).
else. On code campuses, however, new students generally will see significantly
less cheating than on noncode campuses and most begin to internalize this new
community ethic. Although some will eventually engage in academic dishonesty,
for most it will only be after they have had an opportunity to think about their new
community’s ethic and how cheating would be a significant violation of the trust
that new community has placed in them. To violate that trust might jeopardize the
many privileges they receive as a member of the community. The real power of
honor codes may be in the desire of students to belong to such a community, and
thus their general willingness to abide by its rules. In our view, schools that do not,
atthe veryleast, engagetheir studentsin ameaningful dialogueabout academicin-
tegrity are likely to experience the persistent levels of academic dishonesty identi-
fied in virtually all research on cheating in college.
As suggested earlier, however, honor codes are not a panacea and will not work
on every campus. Thus, it is important to think about strategies that can, and
should,be employedon anycampus andforemost amongthese, in our minds, is di-
alogue. No campus can assume that its students, incoming or returning, will take
the time to familiarize themselves with campus rules about academic integrity on
their own. Even if they did, an institution’s failure to emphasize for its students the
high value it places on academic integrity sends the message that it is not a high
priority. Such institutions should not be surprised if they experience above-aver-
age levels of academic dishonesty. In the absence of a long-standing tradition of
student honor, however, dialogue alone is not likely to be enough. Each campus
must send a consistent message to its students that academic integrity is expected
and that cheating will result in negative consequences, and more than just a slap on
the wrist. To do this, campuses must support faculty who raise allegations of stu-
dent dishonesty and must be willing to employ sanctions that have both significant
educational and deterrence value. In short, the institution must convince students
that cheating will be met with strong disapproval and that cheating is the exception
on campus, not the rule. To do this, the institution must be prepared to hold stu-
dents accountable for any cheating in which they engage.
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232 MCCABE, TREVIÑO, BUTTERFIELD
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