Academic Honesty, Linguistic Dishonesty: Analyzing the Readability and Translation of Academic Integrity and Honesty Policies at U.S. Postsecondary Institutions

  • Zachary W. TaylorEmail author
  • Ibrahim Bicak


A large body of research has indicated international students in the United States (U.S.) and abroad experience difficulties understanding what academic integrity is and how to avoid academic misconduct (Bista To Improve The Academy, 30(1), 159–172 2011; Brown & Howell, 2001; Gullifer and Tyson Studies in Higher Education, 39(7), 1202-1218 2014). While most studies focus on academic misconduct and academic corruption in research ethics (Macfarlane et al. Studies in Higher Education, 39(2), 339-358 2014), this study analyzes the length, English-language readability, and translation of academic integrity policies of 453 four-year U.S. institutions of higher education. Findings indicate average academic integrity policies are over 2000 words long, are written above the 16th-grade reading level, and are very rarely translated into a language other than English (0.06% of the sample). In addition, no institutions published their academic integrity policies in full on their institutional international student website, possibly rendering the policy difficult to locate on the institution’s website for international students. Implications for research, policy, and practice are addressed.


International students Academic integrity Cheating Plagiarism Institutional policy 



  1. Abasi, A. R., & Graves, B. (2008). Academic literacy and plagiarism: conversations with international graduate students and disciplinary professors. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 7(4), 221–233. Scholar
  2. Adobe (2008). Accessing PDF documents with assistive technology. Retrieved from Accessed 2018.
  3. Andrade, M. S. (2006). International students in English-speaking universities: adjustment factors. Journal of Research in International Education, 5(2), 131–154. Scholar
  4. Andrade, M. S. (2009). The value of a first-year seminar: international students’ insights in retrospect. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 10(4), 483–506. Scholar
  5. Ashworth, P., Bannister, P., & Thorne, P. (1997). Guilty in whose eyes? University students’ perceptions of cheating and plagiarism in academic work and assessment. Studies in Higher Education, 22(2), 187–203. Scholar
  6. Bista, K. (2011). Academic dishonesty among international students in higher education. To Improve The Academy, 30(1), 159–172. Scholar
  7. Blachowicz, C., & Ogle, D. (2017). Reading comprehension: strategies for independent learners. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  8. Bretag, T. (2007). The emperor’s new clothes: yes, there is a link between English language competence and academic standards. People and Place, 15(1), 13–21. Retrieved from Accessed 2018.
  9. Bretag, T., Mahmud, S., Wallace, M., Walker, R., McGowan, U., East, J., ... James, C. (2014). ‘Teach us how to do it properly!’: an Australian academic integrity student survey. Studies in Higher Education, 39(7), 1150–1169.
  10. Brimble, M. (2016). Why students cheat: An exploration of the motivators of student academic dishonesty in higher education. In T. Bretag (Ed.), Handbook of academic integrity (pp. 365–382). Singapore: Springer. Scholar
  11. Brown, V. J., & Howell, M. E. (2001). The efficacy of policy statements on plagiarism: do they change students’ views? Research in Higher Education, 42, 103.
  12. Cammish, N. K. (1997). Studying at advanced level through English. In D. McNamara and R. Harris (Eds.), Overseas students in higher education: Issues in teaching and learning. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Cornell University (2018). Code of academic integrity. Retrieved from Accessed 2018.
  14. de Jager, K., & Brown, C. (2010). The tangled web: investigating academics’ views of plagiarism at the University of Cape Town. Studies in Higher Education, 35(5), 513–528. Scholar
  15. Fass-Holmes, B. (2017). International students reported for academic integrity violations: demographics, retention, and graduation. Journal of International Students, 7(3), 644–669. Scholar
  16. Fielding, E. (1990). Reading in the content areas: the importance of choosing appropriate level texts. Reading, 24(3), 179–184. Scholar
  17. Gallant, T. B., & Drinan, P. (2006). Institutionalizing academic integrity: administrator perceptions and institutional actions. NASPA Journal, 43(4), 61–81. Scholar
  18. Gallant, T. B., Binkin, N., & Donohue, M. (2015). Students at risk for being reported for cheating. Journal of Academic Ethics, 13(3), 217–228. Scholar
  19. Gullifer, J. M., & Tyson, G. A. (2014). Who has read the policy on plagiarism? Unpacking students’ understanding of plagiarism. Studies in Higher Education, 39(7), 1202–1218. Scholar
  20. Huang, L.-M., & Bilal, D. (2017). “Not what I thought!”: information seeking behaviors of international students during the application for graduate study in the USA. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 54(1), 709–711. Scholar
  21. Jordan, M., & Belkin, D. (2016). Foreign students seen cheating more than domestic ones. Retrieved from Accessed 2018.
  22. Lind, R. A. (2005). Evaluating research misconduct policies at major research universities: a pilot study. Accountability in Research, 12(3), 241–262. Scholar
  23. Lupton, R. A., Chapman, K. J., & Weiss, J. E. (2000). International perspective: a cross-national exploration of business students’ attitudes, perceptions, and tendencies toward academic dishonesty. Journal of Education for Business, 75(4), 231–235. Scholar
  24. Macfarlane, B., Zhang, J., & Pun, A. (2014). Academic integrity: a review of the literature. Studies in Higher Education, 39(2), 339–358. Scholar
  25. Mori, S. C. (2000). Addressing the mental health concerns of international students. Journal of Counseling & Development, 78(2), 137–144. Scholar
  26. National Center for Education Statistics (2018). Compare institutions. Retrieved from Accessed 2018.
  27. National Science Board (2018). Science and Engineering Indicators, 2018. Retrieved from Accessed 2018.
  28. O'Malley, B. (2016). Cheating by international students rampant at British universities, says newspaper. Retrieved from Accessed 2018.
  29. Park, C. (2004). Rebels without a clause: towards an institutional framework for dealing with plagiarism by students. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 28(3), 291–306. Scholar
  30. Powers, W. G., Hurt, H. T., & Dunathan, A. T. (1981). The development of a reading avoidance measure. Reading Improvement, 18(4), 321–328.Google Scholar
  31. Purdue University Northwest (2018). Purdue University Northwest academic integrity policy. Retrieved from Accessed 2018.
  32. Simpson, D. (2016). Academic dishonesty: An international student perspective. Academic Perspectives in Higher Education, 2(1), 1–22. Retrieved from Accessed 2018.
  33. Song-Turner, H. (2008). Plagiarism: academic dishonesty or ‘blind spot’ of multicultural education? Australian Universities’ Review, 50(2), 39–50. Retrieved from Accessed 2018.
  34. Taylor, Z. W. (2017). Speaking in tongues: can international graduate students read international graduate admissions requirements? International Journal of Higher Education, 6(3), 99. Scholar
  35. Taylor, Z. W. (2018). Intelligibility is equity: can international students read undergraduate admissions materials? Higher Education Quarterly, 72(2), 160–169. Scholar
  36. The University of Alabama in Huntsville (2018). 2015–2018 student handbook. Retrieved from Accessed 2018.
  37. United States Department of Education (2018). FAFSA process: Applying for aid. Retrieved from Accessed 2018.
  38. University of Virginia (2018). Honor committee: Translations. Retrieved from Accessed 2018.
  39. Whitley, B. E., & Keith-Spiegel, P. (2001). Academic integrity as an institutional issue. Ethics & Behavior, 11(3), 325–342. Scholar
  40. Wigfield, A. (1997). Reading motivation: a domain-specific approach to motivation. Educational Psychologist, 32(2), 59–68. Scholar
  41. Witherell, S. (2017). Open doors 2017 executive summary. Retrieved from Accessed 2018.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Educational Leadership and Policy, College of EducationThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

Personalised recommendations