Teaching Strategies

Underlying Reasons for Academic Dishonesty

Understanding the underlying factors that commonly contribute to academic dishonesty enables instructors to effectively preempt and respond to the problem. Bearing in mind that each student is a unique individual situated in a particular context, the following factors do frequently come up in the literature on the causes of academic dishonesty. While this list doesn’t provide definitive answers, it can help instructors contextualize, understand, and respond to the decisions their students make. More information on these conditions and strategies for addressing them can be found in the section on “Instructional Responses to Academic Dishonesty.”

Factors that influence students’ academic integrity choices include:

  • Misunderstanding what constitutes academic integrity 
  • Misunderstanding the importance of academic integrity 
  • High pressure academic environments and expectations of “perfect” academic performance 
  • Significant stress during points of heavy workload (midterms and finals) or extenuating personal circumstances 
  • Failing to understand the significance of the course learning goals for their own lives 
  • Feeling unqualified to complete the assigned task 
  • Perceiving that academic dishonesty is commonplace and necessary to succeed
  • Believing that they will not be caught, or that the consequences will be negligible if they are caught 

Further reading:

  • Mark Brimble, “Why Students Cheat: An Exploration of the Motivators of Student Academic Dishonesty in Higher Education,” Handbook of Academic Integrity, ed. Tracey Bretag (Singapore: Springer, 2016), 365-382. 
  • Augustus E. Jordan, “College Student Cheating: The Roles of Motivation, Perceived Norms, Attitudes, and Knowledge of Institutional Policy,” Ethics & Behavior 11.3 (2001), 233-247. DOI: 10.1207/S15327019EB1103_3. 
  • Tamera B. Murdock and Eric M. Anderman, “Motivational Perspectives on Student Cheating: Toward an Integrated Model of Academic Dishonesty,” Educational Psychologist 41.3 (2006), 129-145. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15326985ep4103_1
  • Mark G. Simkin and Alexander McLeod, “Why Do College Students Cheat?,” Journal of Business Ethics 94.3 (2010), 441-453. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10551-009-0275-x
  • Hongwei Yu, et. al., “Why Students Cheat: A Conceptual Framework of Personal, Contextual, and Situational Factors,” Handbook of Research on Academic Misconduct in Higher Education, ed. Donna M. Velliaris (Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, 2016), 35-59.