Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


Academic Honesty: Is What Students Believe Different From What They Do?

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Patrick Pauken

Second Advisor

Hancock Samuel (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

William Knight (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Kathleen Jorissen (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Ellen Williams (Committee Member)


Incidents of academic misconduct are not only prevalent, but are now sharing the headlines alongside business and political scandals. Gaps and lapses in professional judgment and personal moral standards are problematic in many segments of society and have undoubtedly influenced the high levels of cheating in higher education among college students. This study examined, through an adaptation of McCabe's and Josephson's work on academic integrity, the beliefs and experiences toward academic misconduct of undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at Midwestern State University. Specifically, this study examined students' ethical beliefs, types of academic misconduct, frequency of academic misconduct, perceived seriousness of academic misconduct, students' level of familiarity of the University's Academic Honesty Policy (AHP), and each of these variables across demographic characteristics.

Findings indicate that undergraduate students engage in misconduct more often than graduate students do; they see it more often, too. Older students report the various types of misconduct as more serious than the younger students do. Women report academic dishonesty as more serious than men do. On a list of 26 types of misconduct, undergraduate students have engaged in all 26; graduate students in 25. At the same time, they report nearly all of the 26 as "serious" or "moderately serious" forms of cheating. Over half of the 1853 participants reported that cheating has become a cultural norm in our society. Almost half reported that successful people do what they have to do to be successful, even if it involves cheating. Almost 15% of the survey respondents reported that they did not respond to the survey with complete honesty. And while 62.4% of the participants indicated that they witnessed academic misconduct, only 4.8% have reported it.

Implications for policy and practice were presented, including an approach that shifts from enforcement when students collaborate when unauthorized to embedding the practice of collaboration and teamwork into the curriculum as well as the academic culture of the institution. The problem is not the existence of an academic honesty policy, but that we only reflect upon it when a problem arises. Another recommendation for limiting academic misconduct is for faculty to initiate discussions of academic honesty as well as policy implications that begin to instill in students respect for honest and appropriate behavior. Moreover, both students and faculty should initiate discussions that emphasize ethical and principled intellectual pursuit, consistent with the core values of the University, and denounce dishonest academic pursuits.