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Conceptual Clarification and the Task of Improving Research on Academic Ethics

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What does the term academic ethics mean? How does this term relate to others in the academic integrity literature, such as research misconduct? Does conceptual confusion in the study of academic ethics complicate development of valid analyses of ethical behavior in an academic setting? The intended goal of many empirical projects on academic ethics is to draw causal conclusions about the factors that lead to faculty or students possessing or disregarding academic integrity. Yet, it is not clear that scholars using the concept academic ethics are measuring the same phenomenon when they use associated concepts, such as responsible conduct of research. The purpose of this paper is to develop a taxonomy of concepts for the empirical study of academic ethics. Based in research on comparative analysis of democracy, another normatively preferable but multifaceted concept, I argue for a taxonomy of concepts for the study of academic integrity that reduces problems of “conceptual stretching” and challenges to the validity of empirical research in this field.

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  2. As noted by an anonymous reviewer, the relationship between universals and specifics, connotations and denotations is outlined in Aristotle’s discussion of categorical sentences in the Prior Analytics. This point of basic logic and conceptualization will not be belabored here.


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Correspondence to Sara R. Jordan.

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Jordan, S.R. Conceptual Clarification and the Task of Improving Research on Academic Ethics. J Acad Ethics 11, 243–256 (2013).

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