Are students more willing to cheat?

A recent article from The New York Times and picked up by newspapers across the county (including Omaha World Herald) discussed what recent studies have shown is a rampant increase in academic dishonesty. “More Students Willing to Cheat,” recounts recent cheating scandals at some of the nation’s top educational institutions, including the US Air Force Academy and Harvard. What research is showing is that high achievers are just as likely to cheat as struggling students. I addition, the studies suggest the problem of cheating is only getting worse.

Instructors have long dealt with students who are either lazy or struggling, the “cheat to survive” student. But now, universities are seeing a new student, what the researchers call the “cheat to thrive” student. This student might be in the top of his class, but feels he/she needs a leg up on competition – cheat to thrive.

Some of the studies blame the internet. It’s no secret the introduction of the  internet in the last two decades has made cheating all too easy. Freshmen might not yet understand the complexities of appropriate citation or that “cut and paste” research is a form of plagiarism. But once a student has sat through a lesson on how to cite research, once a student has been informed that cutting and pasting from the internet, without proper referencing and citation, is a form of plagiarism, is it then intentional cheating? Most instructors from a recent MCC survey say yes.

Perhaps we now live in a culture where academic dishonesty is punished by a wag of a finger instead of an “F” on the paper, or even expulsion from class, as was once the norm, whereas now it seems to be the exception. Perhaps the educational institutions are at fault for not setting specific consequences across disciplines to combat the ever-increasing problem.  Perhaps students don’t equate the “Academic Dishonesty” sections in their student handbook to plagiarism. Regardless, this is an issue that doesn’t seem to be going away, and as research is showing, is only growing worse.

Questions for Students

What are your experiences? Have you ever intentionally or unintentionally plagiarized or outright cheated on assignments? Were you caught? What are your and your friend’s attitudes about cheating?

Questions for Instructors

Does your department have a policy regarding plagiarism? Does each instructor have their own policy? Is your plagiarism policy spelled out in your syllabus? Do you discuss it with your students?


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