Research in Higher Education

, Volume 36, Issue 6, pp 687–704 | Cite as

Circumstances surrounding cheating: A questionnaire study of college students

  • Randy L. Genereux
  • Beverly A. McLeod


A questionnaire assessing beliefs and behaviors associated with cheating was administered to 365 college students. Circumstances rated most likely to increase cheating were low instructor vigilance, unfair exams, an instructor who does not care about cheating, and dependence of financial support and long-term goals on good grades. Circumstances rated most likely to decrease cheating were high instructor vigilance, fair exams, high punishment for getting caught, essay exams, widely spaced exam seating, and valuable course material. Principal components analyses revealed several factors underlying planned cheating: difficulty/negative consequences of cheating, pressures, instructor personality, social norms, and interest in the course. These factors relate to the determinants of behavior specified by the theory of planned behavior. Self-reports indicated that 83 percent of respondents cheated in college and that the two most common types of cheating were giving (58 percent) and getting (49 percent) exam questions to and from other students before an exam. Acts of helping someone else cheat were more commonly reported than corresponding acts of cheating for oneself. Students with high cheating scores tended to be male rather than female, to have a low goal grade-point average, and to believe that the prevalence of cheating in college is high.


Principal Component Analysis College Student Financial Support Social Norm Common Type 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aiken, L. R. (1991). Detecting, understanding, and controlling for cheating on tests.Research in Higher Education 32(6): 725–736.Google Scholar
  2. Ajzen, I. (1985). From intentions to actions: A theory of planned behavior. In J. Kuhl and J. Beckmann (eds.),Action-Control: From Cognition to Behavior (pp. 11–39). Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  3. Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior.Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Making Processes 50: 179–211.Google Scholar
  4. Ajzen, I., and Madden, T. J. (1986). Prediction of goal-directed behavior: Attitudes, intentions, and perceived control.Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 22: 453–474.Google Scholar
  5. Beck, L., and Ajzen, I. (1991). Predicting dishonest actions using the theory of planned behavior.Journal of Research in Personality 25: 285–301.Google Scholar
  6. Calabrese, R. L., and Cochran, T. J. (1990). The relation of alienation to cheating among a sample of American adolescents.Journal of Research and Development in Education 23(2): 65–72.Google Scholar
  7. Daniel, L. G., Blount, K. D., and Ferrell, C. M. (1991). Academic dishonesty among teacher education students: A descriptive-correlational study.Research in Higher Education 32(6): 703–724.Google Scholar
  8. Davidson, A. R., and Morrison, D. M. (1983). Predicting contraceptive behavior from attitudes: A comparison of within-versus across-subjects procedures.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 45(5): 997–1009.Google Scholar
  9. Davis, S. F. (1993, March).Cheating in college is for a career: Academic dishonesty in the 1990s. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the SouthEastern Psychological Association, Atlanta, Georgia.Google Scholar
  10. Davis, S. F., Grover, C. A., Becker, A. H., and McGregor, L. N. (1992). Academic dishonesty: Prevalence, determinants, techniques, and punishments.Teaching of Psychology 19(1): 16–20.Google Scholar
  11. Haines, V. J., Diekhoff, G. M., LaBeff, E. E., and Clark, R. E. (1986). College cheating: Immaturity, lack of commitment, and the neutralizing attitude.Research in Higher Education 25(4): 342–354.Google Scholar
  12. Houston, J. P. (1976). Amount and loci of classroom answer copying, spaced seating, and alternate test forms.Journal of Educational Psychology 68(6): 729–735.Google Scholar
  13. Houston, J. P. (1983). Alternative test forms as a means of reducing multiple-choice answer copying in the classroom.Journal of Educational Psychology 75(4): 572–575.Google Scholar
  14. Houston, J. P. (1986). Classroom answer copying: Roles of acquaintanceship and free versus assigned seating.Journal of Educational Psychology 78(3): 230–232.Google Scholar
  15. Jendrek, M. P. (1992). Students' reactions to academic dishonesty.Journal of College Student Development 33: 260–273.Google Scholar
  16. Keppel, G. (1991).Design and Analysis: A Researcher's Handbook, 3rd ed. Engelwood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  17. Lobel, T. (1993). Gender differences in adolescents' cheating behavior: An interactional model.Personality and Individual Differences 14: 275–277.Google Scholar
  18. McCabe, D., and Trevino, L. (1993). Academic dishonesty: Honor codes and other contextual influences.Journal of Higher Education 64: 522–538.Google Scholar
  19. McLeod, B. A., and Genereux, R. L. (in preparation).College students' perceptions of the likelihood and acceptability of cheating and abetting cheating. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  20. Meade, J. (1992). Cheating: Is academic dishonesty par for the course?Prism 1(7): 30–32.Google Scholar
  21. Michaels, J. W., and Miethe, T. D. (1989). Applying theories of deviance to academic cheating.Social Science Quarterly 70(4): 870–884.Google Scholar
  22. Scheers, N. J., and Dayton, C. M. (1987). Improved estimation of academic cheating behavior using the randomized response technique.Research in Higher Education 26(1): 61–69.Google Scholar
  23. Singhal, A. C. (1982). Factors in students' dishonesty.Psychological Reports 775–780.Google Scholar
  24. Tabachnick, B. G., and Fidell, L. S. (1989).Using Multivariate Statistics, 2nd ed. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  25. Ward, D. A., and Beck, W. L. (1990). Gender and dishonesty.Journal of Social Psychology 130(3): 333–339.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Randy L. Genereux
    • 1
  • Beverly A. McLeod
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of Behavioral SciencesMount Royal CollegeCanada

Personalised recommendations