Academic Dishonesty - 1 -


 Academic Dishonesty and the Use of Online Media among Education
                        Graduate Students

                   California State University, San Bernardino


                               Stephanie Bishop
                                  Jeff Drozd
                                 David Gosbin
                               Guadalupe Valero
                                       Academic Dishonesty - 2 -

Table of Contents     Page number(s)
  1. Abstract              3

  2. Research Paper        4-20

  3. Charts                13-17

  4. References            21

  5. Survey Sample         22-23
                                                                        Academic Dishonesty - 3 -


       Academic dishonesty is becoming more prevalent in the post graduate education system,

due to the use of online media. Technology is becoming more and more evident and is a required

skill in the workforce today. Although, technology has significantly benefited society in

countless ways, there are also unseen drawbacks that come with it. With technology, comes the

dishonest use of media including in the classroom. In this research study students of post

graduate status were surveyed on academic dishonesty in regards to using online media. Our

hypothesis is that academic dishonestly is becoming prevalent in post graduate students since

research shows academic dishonesty is becoming more prevalent among undergraduates. The

population of this study was 98 post graduate students throughout the inland empire of Southern

California.This research used classification of dishonesty based on the answers of the

respondents and their use of academic dishonesty methods. The respondents were then asked a

series of situatinal questions that were used to determine their beliefs about academic dishonesty.

The results showed that academic dishonesty is prevalent based on the number of respondents

that knew someone who has committed academic dishonesty. The rationalizations and feeling

behind those offenses were as discussed.
                                                                        Academic Dishonesty - 4 -


       Academic dishonesty is becoming more prevalent in the post graduate education system,

due to the use of online media. Technology is becoming more and more evident and is a required

skill in the workforce today. Although, technology has significantly benefited society in

countless ways, there are also unseen drawbacks that come with it. With technology, comes the

dishonest use of media including in the classroom. In this research study students of post

graduate status were surveyed on academic dishonesty in regards to using online media.

       As technology is becoming more and more accessible and seen in the classroom setting,

teachers are now experiencing problems with academic dishonesty including cheating and

plagiarism. Students are using technology and it is becoming increasingly easier to cheat.

Teachers have developed some strategies to deter students from cheating, including using

websites such as Turn it that automatically checks for plagiarism. Students have been

cheating for years, and with technology it seems students are wrongfully using the recourses that

are available to them.

       Previous research shows that cheating is prevalent among college students. In the article

titled “Dishonesty: Prevalence, Determinants, Techniques, and Punishments” (Lanier, 2006),

6,000 students were used in the study. They were identified by gender and college affiliation, not

ethnicity. The study determines the prevalence of cheating at universities. 90% say it is wrong to

cheat, yet 76% do cheat. Deterrents to cheating seem to be short-lived. The study discovered that

most universities don’t concern themselves with cheating. It was also proven that attendees at

small private colleges cheated less than those at large state universities. The large number of

students at the university level could explain how students are able to get away with academic

dishonesty. The determinants of cheating are large crowded classrooms, no penalties when
                                                                         Academic Dishonesty - 5 -

caught, unlikely to get caught, pressure for grades, and a “must do anything to get ahead in

career” attitude. Another study shows that approximately 60% of students in higher education

confess to some sort of academic dishonesty. The study shows the reasons why people cheat,

including “the law effect” to gain higher grades and to avoid failure. (McCabe, 2005)

       Further research looks at performance indicators in online distance learning. The general

purpose of the study was to see if there are certain indicators, such as age, gender, GPA, and

SAT scores (for undergraduates) and GMATS for graduate students that affect online learning.

The indicators were used to judge whether or not they affected the achievement of the students.

It showed that women usually perform better than men. Standardized test scores and GPA were

unrelated to overall performance. Some of the previous research on academic dishonesty

demonstrated that gender was a good indicator of the likelihood of cheating. Women cheated less

than men. (Davis, 1992)

       A student’s age also turned out to be a significant variable. Older students are more likely

to initiate discussions and tend to get better grades in online courses. (Alstete & Buetell, 2004)

Research shows that distance learning has become very popular over the last ten years and this

growth is not expected to stop. Since distance learning is beginning to get ingrained in today’s

society we must address the issues that face it today to be able to overcome any future issues that

might arise. Distance learning has many benefits and some drawbacks but the question of

academic integrity and dishonesty still arises. Technology has grown at an astounding rate. In

1996/1997 only 645 students were enrolled in online course at the university where this study

was conducted, but they also reported that during the 2004 school year 29,187 students were

enrolled in online classes. The results of this survey indicated that most students cheat in some
                                                                        Academic Dishonesty - 6 -

way and that cheating in online classes was more common than in a traditional class. It also

concluded that males were more apt to cheat as well. (Lanier, 2006)

       Academic dishonesty is becoming more prevalent in the educational system. Academic

dishonesty and cheating is wrong. Academic dishonesty is never justified. Students should never

be dishonest in their educational careers especially at the post graduate level. This seems to the

current paradigm in regards to academic dishonesty.

       Our hypothesis is that academic dishonestly is becoming prevalent in post graduate

students since research shows academic dishonesty is becoming more prevalent among

undergraduates. It was determined in previous research that 90% of students say it is wrong to

cheat, but 76% say that they have cheated. (Davis, Grover, & Becker, 1992)

       There are many forms of academic dishonesty. In the broadest sense, it is any act that

enhances a student’s grade unethically and unfairly. This may be done by submitting someone

else’s work as one’s own, in whole or in part; by failing to acknowledge assistance received; or

by using unauthorized assistance in exams including notes or unauthorized advance knowledge

of the test. Cheating includes the following: copying other students' work or allowing your own

work to be copied, using unauthorized notes or sources when taking tests, using unattributed

passages or phrases from sources, including textbooks, on tests and stealing or otherwise

obtaining test materials before tests.

       Plagiarism is defined as using the work of someone else, in whole or in part, without

giving credit. This includes all types of works, including music, computer code, works of art, and

writing. Here, we will limit the discussion to the written word. You can plagiarize by obtaining a

paper (free or for purchase) from a “paper mill”, by copying a paper from another student, by

recycling one of your own papers from another class, by copying a published paper (even if it is
                                                                        Academic Dishonesty - 7 -

your own), or by using ideas or words from any source (written or oral) without proper


        This study is important because it shows that academic dishonesty is prevalent all the

way up to post-graduate students. The results help support our understanding of how academic

dishonesty using online media has infiltrated the education system all the way up the education

ladder. Students at this level of the educational system should not be academically dishonest,

considering the number of years they have been in the system. New and improved technology is

being created each and everyday, and it is difficult for the educational system to keep up.

Students are using the gaps in the system to be academically dishonest. This study hopefully will

show educators that students are being dishonest. The study demonstrates the need for against

academic dishonesty using online media



        This project used a multiple question survey as its instrument of inquiry. This instrument

was designed to investigate graduate students views about the use of online media as educational

resources and how this relates to the subject of academic dishonesty. A survey was chosen as the

best method to evaluate this subject and also it would best suite our target population and would

give us the most access to respondents. The population of this study was 98 post graduate

students throughout the inland empire of Southern California. Our survey respondents were

either teachers that we work with or students in the graduate classes of our four team members;

the survey was conducted over a two week period at the end of February, 2009.

        The research that we conducted was based on determining what graduate students

considered cheating, no matter whether the classes they took were online or traditional. We first
                                                                          Academic Dishonesty - 8 -

decided to create a printed survey to distribute and we wanted to ask pertinent questions, but we

did not want the survey to be so long that it would discourage people from taking it. We

generally worked by email exchanging potential questions back and forth with research members

suggesting ideas to be critiqued. The computer tech put the survey together in PDF format and

made copies to be evaluated so that each team member could have input. In our free time both

before and after class the questions were tweaked with significant input regarding the wording of

the questions as well as dropping a few questions and formulating new questions. At the

meetings it was decided that if we wanted to get significant responses to our survey that we

should offer it online as well, an online survey would also assist us with evaluating the results.

We felt this would make it easier for people to take the survey and considering that this study

was evaluating the use of online media, it would make sense to have the survey available as an

online resource. The survey was also made to be anonymous in hopes of receiving honest

responses and as many responses as possible from the participants.

       At this point the revisions were made. After emailing the final revisions to all the team

members for approval 200 copies were printed. After researching several online survey tools it

was decided that SurveyMonkey was the best choice, this is a flexible online tool that allows up

to ten questions with the trial version, and worked well for our purposes. The online version of

the survey was e-mailed to various participants that work with the researchers and all four team

members distributed hard copies to participants as well in their graduate classes. After two weeks

of distribution the survey had 98 respondents, about half of those were online and the other half

used the hard copy of the survey. At this point all of the completed surveys that were printed

copies were transferred to the online version of the survey so that a tally all of the results could

be evaluated using a technology based system.
                                                                           Academic Dishonesty - 9 -

          The survey itself consists of two general sections. The first section of the instrument

included only two questions; age and gender. The second section of the survey consisted of nine

questions that focused on the participants’ determination of academic honesty. It then led into the

participants experience with academic dishonesty and their feelings regarding hypothetical



          Researchers found that the justifications for academic dishonesty were varied. Many of

those who had committed academic dishonesty felt that cheating was common, everyone was

doing it, and that they had to cheat to be competitive (Chiesl, 2007). There seemed to be an

“anything to get ahead” mentality. (Davis 1992) Our team wanted to take this research one step

further and see how prevalent academic dishonesty is among graduate students in the field of

education. We gave the survey to 98 people who had attended or were attending classes at the

graduate level. All respondents were teachers or those pursuing teaching credentials.

          Our survey was specific to academic dishonesty using online media. Respondents were

asked to report not only on taking online courses such as Blackboard, but using search engines,

web sites, cell phones and calculators in an attempt to bolster grades. Our anonymous survey

could be taken online or on paper, but no identification other than age or gender was necessary.

We wanted anonymity to promote honesty about being dishonest. The sample was asked to rate

not only what they considered to be cheating but to report their own cheating and the cheating of


          Our survey netted 98 respondents of which 39 % were male and 61 % were female. All of

the respondents were teachers or in a teacher education program and were taking or had taken

post graduate courses. The largest age group was the 26-35 year olds at 43% of the sample, 36-
                                                                       Academic Dishonesty - 10 -

45 year olds were 21%, and 46-55 year olds were 21 percent of the sample. Eighteen to 25 year

olds were less than 10 % of the sample as were 56 year olds and above.

       There seems to be a correlation between use cheating methods and what is classified as

academic dishonesty. Based on the results, the higher the percentage for which item was defined

as dishonest, the lower the incidence of use. (See figure 1 & 2) For instance, over 90% claimed

that using online ideas and projects without citation was wrong and only 4.1% of the sample

reported having done that. At the other end of the spectrum, 19.4% thought that re-using a paper

written in one class for another class was dishonest and 57.1% reported using that method.

       Respondents were given the opportunity to write comments in these sections, however

not many did. Those who did stated that the professors who use online tests or other “non-

traditional” tests need to stipulate which methods are banned; otherwise, any and all may be

resources are assumed to be usable.

       The respondents also looked more favorably upon using a friend’s paper for your own

use, than sending a copy of a test so that you may use it to study. It was not clear whether it was

the taboo of copying any test or a semantic abnormality on the survey. Clearly though, almost

11% felt that copying a friends paper was more acceptable than copying a test for study


       In determining how many of the participants knew someone who had used one of the

proposed methods we found the following results: None: 19.4%, 1-3: 40.8%, 4-6: 11.2%, 6-

more: 28.6%. (See figure 3) This question was designed to give the researchers an idea of the

prevalence of academic dishonesty. It must be noted that the question asks for the number of

people that are known by the respondent to have cheated and not for the number of incidents.

Over 81% of the participants have knowledge of someone who has cheated, with 39.8% knowing
                                                                       Academic Dishonesty - 11 -

4 people or more. Of those people, they could have multiple offenses. While only 33% of our

respondents report themselves having cheated, 81% have witnessed others cheating.

        Continuing with the self-evaluation questions we asked, “In your post graduate career,

how many times have you done anything that someone may consider to be unethical or

dishonest?” (See figure 4) 65.3% stated never, 29.6% stated 1-3 times, 3.1% admitted to 4-6

times and zero percent claimed six or more times. So at least 32.7% of the respondents have

performed some form of academic dishonesty, as they consider it to be. Prior research had shown

that a little over 70% of students had cheated. This discrepancy may come from our method of

self-definition of what constitutes academic dishonesty.

        While only 34.7% of the respondents reported participating in dishonest activities (See

figure 4), and only 29.6% could justify their actions (see figure 5). That leaves about 5% of those

cheaters as just being dishonest without justification. The number of respondents who would

report academic dishonesty was less than 36% on any item (See figure 6). It is unlikely that

cheaters would be turned in by students. The likelihood of being caught is greatly diminished.

When you consider that in the next question it was determined that cheating was felt to impact

the value of a college degree. (Figure 7)

        It was noted that a substantial number, 58%, thought that academic dishonesty degraded

the value of their diplomas (Figure 7). Most fascinating was that almost 54% felt that the

professor had some blame as they were angry and/or in disbelief. (Figure 8) It is important

perhaps to remind the reader that no more than 36% of the respondents would report classmates

for cheating, yet they feel that the professor should somehow know. Since the respondent could

check multiple boxes, it is not possible to find out how many of those satisfied with their efforts

also felt anger or disbelief.
                                                                        Academic Dishonesty - 12 -

       A previous question asked when academic dishonesty could be justified and 76.5%

marked that dishonesty could never be justified (Figure 5). This statistic is pretty close to the

71.4% who said that they would not be able to live with their conscience if they cheated (Figure

9). And the 71.4% who could not live themselves makes the 34.7% of cheaters as reported earlier

a bit more believable.

       While 18.3% of the respondents claimed that they may cheat if there were no penalties,

the rest of the survey showed that people are cheating in much greater numbers than that. (Figure

9) The other values must also be taken into account. When considering the other motives for

cheating, 19.4% stated they would do so. When both of these values are added, 37.7%, it comes

very near the amount of students who have stated that they have committed some form of

academic dishonesty. This provides us with insight as to why it those who have cheated, do so.
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Which of the following do you classify as dishonest?


                                                                                                       Which, if any, of the following methods have you used?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Academic Dishonesty - 13 -
                                                            Academic Dishonesty - 14 -

     Figure 3

     How many people do you know of that have used any of the above
45                              40
15                                                11
                None          1 thru 3          4 thru 6         More Than 6

     Figure 4

In your post graduate career, how many times have you done anything
   that you feel someone may consider to be at least unethical if not
70               64




10                                                   3
                None           1 thru 3          4 thru 6          More Than 6
                                                                                                                                           Academic Dishonesty - 15 -

 Figure 5

       In what instances do you think academic dishonesty could be

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 Figure 6

 If you saw someone cheating in class in any of the following ways
would you tell the professor if your identity remained confidential?

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                                                                                                                                  Academic Dishonesty - 16 -

   Figure 7

  Do you feel that students who take unfair advantage of online media
                    to further their grade (cheat) are:

                                                                       58                              59
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 Figure 8

You have worked really hard on a paper. You spent countless hours
researching, writing, editing, proofing and rewriting this paper. You
 are proud of the work and the results. A friend confides in you that
        they had just copied a paper from another resource

                 60                                                                                                              54
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                                                                                                                                           Academic Dishonesty - 17 -

 Figure 9

                                   Would you be willing to cheat if:




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                                                                        Academic Dishonesty - 18 -


Our research found that one-third of graduate students have participated in dishonest activities.

Prior research had shown that a little less than three-quarters of students had cheated. It is

believed this discrepancy comes from our method of self-definition of what constitutes academic

dishonesty. Many respondents reported using text and Google while taking online tests, because

they felt that professors needed to explicitly ban this practice or implied permission was given.

However, in classroom or traditional tests, this explicit ban was not needed. This alone seems to

justify a lot of dishonest practices. Our survey showed that many behaviors, if they had occurred

in a traditional classroom would be deemed as cheating, but in online classrooms, they are

acceptable. While in online courses respondents felt that unless a method was explicitly banned,

its use was implicitly granted.

       If the survey had classified certain methods as cheating, our numbers might have been

inline with those of prior research. By letting the respondents determine what they believe to be

academic dishonesty, it provided them a way to get around knowing that they had in fact

committed the offense. It is clear that the respondents know people who have cheated, in greater

amounts then they themselves had confessed to committing. It might be assumed that their

honesty may not be completely truthful. How can so much academic dishonesty occur and the

respondents are witness to, yet proclaim themselves so innocent.

       The study also revealed that many students are willing and able participants of academic

dishonesty using online media as classified in their own terms. While students may try to

rationalize the behavior, they know it is not acceptable. So why then is it accepted from all

parties concerned? It does appear that the respondents understand that they are unlikely to be

caught, but not very likely to be turned in by peers because of the murkiness of allowable
                                                                       Academic Dishonesty - 19 -

behaviors. Penalties as noted above do not seem to be the deterrent. In keeping with previous

research, the major deterrents seem to be conscience, a school culture of non-tolerance, and

explicit language in procedures. Self-policing by students, while a nice idea, does not seem to be

high on the list for post graduate students who are education majors. We ask why academic

dishonesty is becoming more prevalent, but it is clear that those who are to prevent it are they

themselves offenders.

       Another intriguing detail was the fact that students are angered by both their friends who

commit the offense and the professors, but why then is nothing done about it. How can students

be angry at the professor when they seem to take no share of the responsibility? It was clear in

the survey that students are aware of offenses committed by acquaintances and could notify the

professor of the behavior, but have chosen not to. It must be known then that students must take

on some responsibility regarding academic dishonesty if they want to see a practice end that they

do not condone.

       The survey, in the end, proved its point. With so many respondents ( 80.1%) reporting

witnessing multiple people using methods they defined as cheating, we can reliably say that

cheating is prevalent among post-graduate education students. Which methods are used seemed

to vary, but in the end the overall idea is still the same, an offense had been committed.

       These results impact everyone taking the survey, those enrolled in education programs

and everyone else in the educational system. We must ask why the inaction on behalf of the

students, professors, and administrators? Why the apathy? Why aren’t more people willing to

report and take steps against dishonest practices that may directly affect their education or the

value of that education? Why do online resources require definitions of allowable and non-

allowable methods while traditional, in classroom tests do not? Of course it must be understood,
                                                                      Academic Dishonesty - 20 -

that with a change in educational resources there must also be a change in restrictions as they

pertain to the new technologies. In the end a statement from above seems to ring true, all

methods are implicitly granted until explicitly banned, thus leading to the prevalence of

academic dishonesty.
                                                                    Academic Dishonesty - 21 -


Adams, J. , 2004-05-27 "Faculty hiring and the accepability of online degrees" Paper presented

       at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, New Orleans

       Sheraton, New Orleans, LA Online <.PDF>. 2008-10-10 from

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Chiesl, N. (2007) Pragmatic Methods to Reduce Dishonesty in Web-Based Courses. The

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       Determinants, Techniques, and Punishments. Teaching of Psychology, 19(1), 16.

       Retrieved February 16, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.

Lanier, M. (2006, September). Academic Integrity and Distance Learning. Journal of

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