The contribution of research in any field of inquiry holds significance. Seminal studies have changed the course of history and removed the miseries and problems of humankind, let alone a nation or a society. Consequently, the communities and governments expect and anticipate the researchers to execute pathbreaking studies by employing all fair means, making them authentic and transformative, and at the same time, ethical. Therefore, the researchers must follow and abide by the governments, institutions, and professions (Nurunnabi & Hossain, 2019; Steneck, 2006). Unfortunately, research misconduct is not unheard of and is even prevalent in some institutions. Unethical research can take many forms and descriptions, for instance, redundant publications, non-compliant experiments, falsification and fabrication of data, dual publication, conflict of interests, misconduct regarding human and animal subjects, text recycling, and plagiarism (Khadilkar, 2018). This research study focuses on understanding the nuances of one such academic misconduct, viz., plagiarism. Researchers have used phrases like Pandora’s Box (Sutherland-Smith, 2005, p. 1) and a worm of reason (Kolich, 1983, p. 141) to describe plagiarism.

Plagiarism is not new, but it remains a challenge for academics today (Gullifer & Tyson, 2014; Khemiss et al., 2019). The question of Oscar Wilde’s work (Lewis et al., 2011), the ending of the presidential campaign of Joe Biden in 1987, or its presence in the academic community (Ewing et al., 2019), plagiarism is prevalent in almost every field. Previous research states plagiarism exists in the workplace (Martin et al., 2009), corrupting university students (Ehrich et al., 2016). It has a substantial presence in peer-reviewed publications (Long et al., 2009). Plagiarism is “a practice of taking someone else’s work or idea and passing them as one’s own.” including data and self-plagiarism (Patwardhan & Thakur, 2019). It comes under the broader head of publication ethics, academic misconduct (Mavrinac et al., 2010), and violation of research integrity (Cossette, 2004).

Reports show that plagiarism in academics is commonplace (Krishan et al., 2017). We can attribute the rising graph of plagiarised work among academicians to various motivations like career advancement, easy access to someone else’s work, and lack of belief in one’s ability to publish without copying (Sikes, 2009). The essence of academic research has been destroyed by authors resorting to plagiarism, coupled with the unimaginable presence of predatory journals in academic life. Predatory journals are of low quality, with a money-making motive, and follow a concocted peer-review process (Callaghan & Nicholson, 2020; Nelson & Huffman, 2015). Their publication increased from 53,000 articles in 2010 to 420,000 in four years (Das & Panjabi, 2011). It is needless to say that predatory journals do not have plagiarism assessment mechanisms; therefore, even heavily plagiarised articles see the light of day.

McCabe and Pavela (2000) fear that the integrity of academic research is at stake and warn about the danger of producing ethics slackers with the habit of cheating from the education community. Plagiarism is considered objectionable at any level of the academic field as it is dishonesty and deceit in academic conduct (Das & Panjabi, 2011). The court also suggests that it is a question of academic integrity, and there should not be any tolerance for plagiarism (Corbin & Carter, 2007). Toprak and Yücel (2020) call plagiarism a disease that is multiplying rapidly and will eat the entire academic forum. This practice of copy-paste is an epidemic, and the education community is at the highest risk.

Plagiarism has become so widespread that 9.8% of all the retractions made by PubMed in 2012 across 56 nations were due to plagiarism (Fang et al., 2012). Reportedly, the retraction of published papers from 2010 to 2012 due to plagiarism increased to 16.6% (Amos, 2014). Another retraction in English language articles by PubMed reported 14.4% retractions due to plagiarism from 2000 to 2010 (Fang et al., 2012). Plagiarism today is not only circumscribed by students; its scope has widened (Cheung et al., 2018). Earlier, professors portrayed a mixed attitude toward plagiarism and lacked clarity on its content (Armstrong, 1993). Contrary to the physicians, English faculty members considered only verbatim copying as plagiarism (Julliard, 1994). A study reported that only 27% of the medical faculty surveyed stated that they had never plagiarized (Shirazi et al., 2010). Similarly, the following factors impact the level of plagiarism–repetition of citing someone else’s work in the entire article or confinement of the work to a sophisticated methodology; discipline area; and the length of the words together (Roig, 2001).

Acts of plagiarism dramatically dent the spirit of scientific endeavors. Plagiarism concerns any act of copying previously available and established information and not acknowledging the work of the original contributor. In this research study, we focus on the plagiarism issues connived by the faculty members, which is an understudied area of research (Holtfreter et al., 2020). We can place the investigation of such research misconduct under white-collar crimes referring to crimes done by thorough professionals who have an idea of what they are doing and what consequences these acts bring (Holtfreter et al., 2020). We base the other thought on context and culture where the faculty members may not be highly privileged as having fixed tenures and limited resources under their disposal. The context here specifies that the faculty members might wear up an attitude that supports plagiarism or belittles the impact plagiarising has on science. We derive the context, reasons, and sources from the various behavioral and ethical theories that facilitate our understanding of why academics plagiarise.

Notwithstanding that, privileged or not in terms of the tenured system and the related autonomy and resources, considerable pressure is present to publish at various levels (Wang & Holtfreter, 2012). Cultures have a significant role in how the masses perceive plagiarism. The points where culture dominates people's attitude is critical to understand in the context of plagiarism. Ethical relativism signifies that caveats and precedents of a place advance our thoughts and judgments (perceived or subjective norms) about the investigation of rights and wrongs. Plagiarism is also an act primarily governed by the laws of the land. Cultural differences might directly impact plagiaristic attitudes and the consequent plagiaristic behaviors. For instance, in India, copying from textbooks is considered authentic, so instructors encourage students for rote learning. We argue that the plagiaristic attitude comes from early school education, where copying from textbooks is a norm, with a more considerable consensus among instructors and students. The same attitude continues with much aplomb in later academic journeys. On the brighter side, academic circles are becoming aware of the menace of plagiarism. With the easy availability of information and communication technology (ICT) and the consequent adoption, people are increasingly becoming aware of plagiarism. However, in the same essence, we posit that it will still take a while before its ethical ramifications are adequately understood.

In this research, we comprehensively investigate why an academic plagiarises. Myriad reasons might lead to faculty members plagiarising. Commonly, we group the reasons as cultural acceptance, weak code of ethics, inadequate enforcement and punishments, and the pressure to publish or perish. Therefore, the present research dives into the literature to comprehend how academics perceive and understand plagiarism. Plentiful literature is found when considering students and numerous aspects of it (Adam et al., 2017; Ballantine et al., 2015; James et al., 2019). However, very little research has explored the attitude toward plagiarism and the consequent plagiaristic behavior of the faculty members (Holtfreter et al., 2020).

Additionally, the limited research encompassing plagiaristic behavior of academics is fundamental and qualitative, focusing on various disciplines of this misconduct (Clarke, 2006), extrapolating on the approach followed by institutions towards plagiarism (de Jager & Brown, 2010), inferring the role of gender (Ahmad & Ullah, 2014), author’s country, the level of education among other variables on plagiarism (Honig & Bedi, 2012), ascertaining the knowledge of plagiarism among teachers and related pedagogies (Sun & Hu, 2020). We have confirm that existing literature delves into some ethical theories to examine the behavior of academics toward plagiarism (Cronan et al., 2018; Lewis et al., 2011).

Furthermore, studies conducted in India display strategies for avoiding plagiarism and are not specific to academics. Further, none of the studies have cantered research considering the impact of employing corrective measures that discourage pro-plagiaristic attitudes or adverse attitudes and, consequently, academic plagiaristic behavior. We define an adverse attitude as an attitude that considers plagiarism a common authentic practice and a related belief that no wrong is committed if plagiarism is practiced. Academic misconduct emancipates from weak directives and even more inadequate enforcement. Corrective measures include various actions that make a real impact on improving the deviant attitude of stakeholders from the very beginning.

This study focused on comprehending plagiarism and its elements by linking behavioral and ethical theories to plagiaristic behavior. We developed an instrument capturing the corrective measures institutions and authorities should undertake to discourage plagiarism. We also employed a scale to measure adverse attitudes and plagiaristic behavior. We have conducted the data collection exercise in two waves - from January to August 2019 and February to September 2021. In the present research, we determined whether employing corrective measures would reduce adverse attitudes. We have also ascertained whether the negative association between corrective measures and adverse attitudes would reduce academic plagiaristic behavior. More specifically, the present study made two contributions. We first established an association between corrective measures and adverse attitudes. Here, we addressed the hypothesis by positing that strengthening corrective measures ameliorates adverse attitudes. Second, we theorized that adverse attitude mediated the negative relationship between corrective measures and plagiaristic behavior. Further, we made a theoretical contribution by suggesting that there could be a significant decline in plagiaristic behavior when institutions and authorities undertake corrective measures to reduce adverse attitudes.

The following section elaborates on the conceptual background and related theories delving into constructing hypotheses. We have analyzed the data collected in two periods designated as Study 1 and Study 2. The results section is followed by discussing results and associated literature hypothesis-wise. We then provide the theoretical and practical implications of the study. We also give the limitations of this research and the directions for future research in the final paragraphs.

Conceptual Background and Related Theories

Literature suggests the interrelatedness among selected constructs, viz., adverse attitude and plagiaristic behavior, through the theory of Planned Behavior (TPB). The theory states that the desired behavior of people depends on their attitude, subjective norms, and behavioral control. The attitude can take a positive or a negative turn. Subjective norms are the organizations and people who give judgments about something, which invariably influences the behavior of individuals. Behavioral control refers to the ease or difficulty of performing the desired behavior. Intentions, which precede behavior, are a motivation for behavior, and finally, behavior forms the purpose of TPB. Researchers have assessed numerous behavioral changes by applying TPB, viz., health (Hardeman et al., 2002; Jiang et al., 2013), car driving (Conner et al., 2004), voter behavior (Cooke & Sheeran, 2004), and green behavior (Tenkasi & Zhang, 2018).

Applying TPB in an academic setting, we emphasize that attitude toward plagiarism, perceived norms, and past cheating can disentangle academically dishonest behavior. For instance, the complexity of the intentions of Thai students justifies the use of plagiarism in their work. They find plagiarism to respond to intricate argumentation and practical solutions to urgent situations (Khathayut et al., 2022). However, the application of TPB has been examined previously on students (Marmat, 2021; Stone et al., 2009). Therefore, we extend the theory of TPB to academics to understand the nuances of academic dishonesty and propose specific hypotheses.

TPB is derived from a premier theory – the theory of Reasoned Action (TRA), which states that if people are persuaded to behave in a particular manner, their behavior will be transformed after persuasion (Cronan et al., 2018). However, this persuasion does not work where people exercise perceived behavioral control. It refers to a person’s belief about the work’s difficulty; if they think fit, they will perform the behavior, and persuasion will have no control over it. Hence, conclusively, attitude towards behavior, subjective norms, and behavior control collectively determine the intention that leads to behavior. In the present study, the engagement in violation of academic integrity is expressed in terms of plagiarism.

The answer to why there is a prevalence of adverse attitudes leading to plagiaristic behavior among academics can be probed deeper through the lens of some ethical theories. These theories of behavior also have their branches extended to ethics. Rational self-interest states that people justify their actions if they receive a fair trade. Therefore, their plagiaristic behavior is justified when plagiarists believe they are giving a fair deal to the individual whose work they have copied (Ashworth et al., 1997). Additionally, Machiavellianism suggests that individuals work for their self-interest only and have no objective of having a fair exchange. Therefore, people justify plagiarism as they have not been caught plagiarising (Webster & Harmon, 2002), similar to the thought that authors are innocent until proven guilty.

The adverse attitude and plagiaristic behavior may also stem from cultural acceptance. As cultural relativism elucidates that injustice or wrong is validated if a practice is followed in a culture. One act can be ethical in one culture and country may not be so in another culture and country. Therefore, people justify plagiarism as a regular practice followed in specific cultures (McLafferty & Foust, 2004). In some cultures, using other authors’ words in their own words signify the understanding of the text and further application of that knowledge (Khathayut et al., 2022).

Additionally, the differences in culture and disciplinary actions bring a difference in opinion about plagiarism (Ison, 2018). Theorists consider plagiarism to be cultural. For instance, plagiarism was not regarded as severe misconduct in India, with just a note of caution serving a purpose (Chaurasia, 2016), comparing it starkly with other nations where it may end academics’ careers. We can attribute the callous attitude of the guardians of academic excellence and the governments in the past six decades to plagiarism's cultural acceptance in India. The culture of ‘copy and paste’ is also widely prevalent in teaching instructions beginning at primary and secondary levels of education. Writing verbatim from a book is considered more authentic than something originally thought and penned down (Chaurasia, 2016). The culture then leads to a deep-rooted adverse attitude built in a young mind right from the beginning. However, this is not an India-only phenomenon. If we look globally, the number of retractions made on the pretext of plagiarism is stark. A growing amount of plagiarized work suggests looking into the attitude of academicians toward plagiarism (Curtis & Tremayne, 2021).

Adverse Attitude

An adverse or pro-plagiaristic attitude is based on the understanding of plagiarism by academics. Many, but not all, consider this attitude immoral and unethical (Voiskounsky, 2009). Academics feel plagiarism is justified under taxing circumstances like the ill health of a family member (Granitz & Loewy, 2007). This justification is affiliated with situational or contingent ethics theory, which illustrates that individual, organizational and social elements define an individual’s behavior. Here, plagiarism is acceptable when individuals reason circumstances for their plagiaristic behavior (Brinkmann, 2002). On extending TPB to plagiarism among academics (Jurdi et al., 2012), as in the present study, Simkin and McLeod (2010) claim that individuals cheat and plagiarize to be better than others. This intention creates an adverse attitude towards genuine work and carries forward when they become part of the academic world.

Further, academics develop and justify such an adverse attitude when they do not know that certain acts are plagiarized (Granitz & Loewy, 2007). Additionally, this adverse attitude is accentuated by the lack of learning something new (Jurdi et al., 2012). This adverse attitude and ignorance about plagiarism lead to plagiaristic behavior, which we will discuss next.

Plagiaristic Behavior

Academics use numerous defenses to affirm plagiaristic behavior. Plagiaristic or affirmative behavior towards plagiarism justifies the actions and the need to plagiarize to accomplish academic aspirations (Kumari et al., 2018; Quartuccio, 2015). The target to achieve the task instead of learning and the lack of knowledge about the possible outcomes are two significant explanations given by academics and is supported by deontology. Deontology states an individual’s beliefs, organizational rules, or religious duties of ascertaining what is right or wrong. According to this theory, plagiarism is not morally wrong, and individuals do not know if they are plagiarizing (Bugeja, 2001). Therefore, ignorance of rules and regulations leads to such affirmations of plagiarism (Moss et al., 2018).

Further, some instructors also believe it is essential to understand the intention behind plagiarism. If it is unintentional, they consider it as an absence of plagiarism (Sutherland-Smith, 2005). Another important aspect that leads to plagiaristic behavior among instructors and students is the issue of second-language writing accompanied by internet sources (Pecorari & Shaw, 2012). According to Pecorari and Shaw (2012), many professors show a positive attitude toward intertextuality, a part of language, and how people express what they hear.

Corrective Measures

Plagiarism signifies kidnapping the idea or someone else’s work, and authors should avoid intentional plagiarism (Specht, 2019). The researcher’s laziness in performing, lack of fear of punishment, and no worry about getting caught (Debnath, 2016) make plagiarism prevalent. The lack of stringent penalties by the institutions to improve publication output creates a lax attitude among authors (de Jager & Brown, 2010). This state of affairs around plagiarism forms a great challenge, especially when plagiarism is widespread and the research quality is steeply declining, hence the requirement for in-depth research on plagiarism (Chauhan, 2018). Researchers vouch for the importance of periodic conduct of workshops and seminars, sensitizing academics to the unintentional ways they commit plagiarism and unlearn the adverse attitudes they consider fundamental.

Additionally, corrective actions are a solution to avoid plagiaristic behavior rather than punitive actions (Ahmad, 2021). Rathore et al. (2018) comprehended a change in researchers’ and academicians’ perceptions of plagiarism from positive to negative after conducting workshops to create awareness about plagiarism. Further, a foolproof whistleblowing mechanism can develop fear among academics that will eventually help reduce plagiarism among academics (Debnath, 2016).

The literature on the subject does establish an association between corrective actions and adverse attitudes. We could also see discussions about what corrective measures could do to reduce plagiaristic behavior. However, no study discusses the apparent relationship between the need to enforce corrective measures and what impact it will have on the deviant behavior of academics. Therefore, we propose to study the following hypotheses that will establish a direct association between the constructs and provide much-needed clarity on the actions that can be subsequently taken to reduce the prevalence of plagiarism in the academic domain (Fig. 1).

  • H1: There is a negative association between corrective measures and adverse attitudes among academics

  • H2: There is a positive relationship between adverse attitudes and plagiaristic behavior among academics

  • H3: Adverse attitude mediates the relationship between corrective measures and plagiaristic behavior

Fig. 1
figure 1

Hypothesized Conceptual Model

Study 1: Method

Sampling and Procedure

The magnitude of academic misconduct, a global phenomenon, looks more perceptible in India, where the number of scientists runs hundreds of thousands who are concerned about their tenure track and promotion (Beall, 2012; Kadam, 2018). The proportions make the scenario unpleasant (Singh & Guram, 2014). In 2013, the academic performance indicator (API) became mandatory for promotion and career advancements for academics in India (UGC, 2013). With more peer-reviewed publications linked with higher performance points, many low-quality and highly plagiarised publications saw the light of day (Juyal et al., 2015). The pressure of ‘publish or perish’ became too apparent for teachers who were never engaged in academic writing. Even if such academics were involved in scholastic writing, the API emphasized publication quantity rather than quality (Ranade & Kumar, 2015).

The API requirement promoted a sudden rise of predatory journals in India (Beall, 2012). Predatory publishers were 8000, with 400,000 research items published yearly (Patwardhan & Thakur, 2019). The anomaly in granting punishments, a failure of specific follow-up action, and the protection of academicians by the institutions and influential colleagues encouraged plagiarism in the country (Ranade & Kumar, 2015). According to Dhingra and Mishra (2014), plagiarism accounted for 53% of academic misconduct in India. The retractions of publications from peer-reviewed journals became 22 times more in 2016 than in 2006 (Manupriya, 2017). However, better sense prevailed, and the scrutiny of the genuineness of research from the different academic quarters increased. UGC published an allowed list of acceptable journals in 2017; ironically, thousands of predatory journals ended up on the list (Patwardhan & Thakur, 2019). Therefore, we see here that the problem is deep-rooted, and the solution must also be pervasive to make a difference.

Considering the circumstances mentioned above and the marked increase in the number of research paper submissions by the academic fraternity globally, we must understand the perceptions of the fraternity about academic integrity in a robust manner. Therefore, we draw upon two samples of Indian academics working in universities of India at two time periods to ascertain their perceptions, the related deviant attitudes, and plagiaristic behavior. The ethics board of Ramanujan College, University of Delhi, permitted us to collect the data involving human participants. The subject matter under investigation is susceptible, and modes of inquiry can lead to questionable results on validity grounds, viz., coverage bias and social desirability (Piquero et al., 2002). Due to the topic's sensitivity, respondents might be reluctant to participate (coverage bias) and be deceptive towards reporting their misconduct (social desirability). To skirt these methodological hindrances, we recruited faculty members who were already working in higher education institutions in India at the level of Assistant Professor and above and were aware of publication ethics. The inclusion criteria also specified that at least the respondents must have authored for a peer-reviewed publication (Holtfreter et al., 2020). In communicating with the respondents, we assured them that they had a choice to participate in the survey voluntarily.


The present study considered primary data for analysis. We employed the Mavrinac et al. (2010) instrument to measure attitude and plagiaristic behavior. We assessed and modified the original 29 items scale measuring positive and negative attitudes toward plagiarism and subjective norms. Based on the study’s objectives, content validity, and face validity, we considered four items to measure adverse attitudes; one item read, “Sometimes, it is necessary to plagiarize.” For measuring plagiaristic behavior, we again employed four items; one item read, “I could not write a scientific paper without plagiarizing.” We adapted six items from the study (Cossette, 2004) to measure the consequences of plagiarism; one item read, “Encourage researchers to file a complaint with the relevant authorities when they witness or are the victims of academic misconduct.” We constituted a committee comprising five subject experts working in higher education institutions in India with a minimum working experience of 10 years (Cantrill et al., 1998; DeVellis, 1991). The committee met twice online to ascertain the modified scale’s content and face validity and recommended deleting one item each from the constructs measuring adverse attitude and plagiaristic behavior. The overall instrument finally comprised of 12 items. The item measurement was on a seven-point Likert scale where 1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Somewhat Disagree, 4 = Neither Disagree nor Agree, 5 = Somewhat Agree, 6 = Agree, 7 = Strongly Agree.


The researchers initiated a comprehensive data collection exercise aligned with the research hypotheses. We created a google link and administered the instrument that academics could access. We sent the link to all the registered higher education academics on the teacher’s database created and maintained by the Teaching Learning Centre (TLC), Ramanujan College, University of Delhi. As per the ethical requirements and the study design, the respondents were apprised that the data collected would only be used for research and academic purposes. The study permissions ensured the confidentiality and anonymity of the research participants. We followed all the necessary caveats and took requisite precautions to meet all the caveats of publication ethics. We did not provide any remuneration to the participants. Both study 1 and study 2 had participants belonging to diverse fields of specialization, viz., engineering, education, chemistry, commerce, computer sciences, economics, food technology, language, literature and media, laws, library and information sciences, life sciences, management, mathematics, physics, social sciences, fashion, textile and apparel design, and medicine. For Study 1 (n = 2677), we collected the survey data from January to August 2019. The dataset had no missing values, as each item was marked compulsory. Out of the total sample of 2677, the number of females was a little higher (n = 1474, 55.1%) than males (n = 1190, 44.5%), while some (n = 13, 0.5%) of the total respondents did not disclose their gender. The median age of the respondents was reported as 38. Employing the Mahalanobis distance, we removed the outliers; the final sample for Study 1 was n1 = 2609. The age of the respondents in the first study ranged from 23 to 62 years, with a sample mean of 37.96 (SD = 7.54).

For Study 2 (n = 2691), we generated a separate link. We administered the new link to only those academics who joined the TLC database after August 2019, negating the effect of getting the responses from the same respondents who participated in Study 1. We conducted Study 2 between February to September 2021. The gender distribution of the sample was female (n = 1465, 54.4%), males (n = 1215, 45.2%), while some (n = 11, 0.4%) of the total respondents did not disclose their gender. We employed Mahalanobis distance and removed outliers. The final sample size of Study 2 was n2 = 2678. The mean age of the respondents was 38.24 (SD = 7.39), and the maximum and minimum age of the respondents was 23 and 63, respectively.

Study 1: Results

Constructs Reliability and Validity: Assessing the Measurement Model

We employed PLS-SEM to test the theoretical framework. First, we tested the reliability of the measures used. All the indicators used to measure the three latent constructs, viz., corrective measures, adverse attitude, and plagiaristic behavior were reliable. The composite reliability, Cronbach’s alpha, and the rho measures of all the indicators reported high reliability (Table 1). The satisfactory to good composite reliability values should be between 0.70 and 0.90. The individual indicator scores of the constructs should be greater than 0.708 to indicate reliability (Hair et al., 2019). However, we can check the overall average variance extracted (AVE) to assess the convergent reliability. The minimum recommended value of the AVE for each construct is 0.50. All the constructs reported acceptable convergent validity (Table 1).

Table 1 Construct Indicators and Measurement Model of Corrective Measures, Adverse Attitude, and Plagiaristic Behavior

We employed the hetrotrait-monotrait (HTMT) ratio to assess the discriminant validity. The constructs are conceptually similar in this structural model, and the HTMT value does not exceed the threshold value of 0.90 (Table 2) (Henseler et al., 2015).

Table 2 HTMT ratio examining discriminant validity (Study 1)

Test of the Hypotheses and Structural Model

As we were satisfied with the measurement model assessment, the next step in evaluating the structural modeling results is to examine the structural model before considering the standard checks. We examined the collinearity to assess if it does not impact the series of regression equations generated during the structural model assessment. On checking the variance inflation factor of the predictor constructs, they were below the threshold limit of three (Hair et al., 2017), ruling out any multicollinearity issue. We then considered the standard assessment criteria (Hair et al., 2019), in which first we examined the R2 followed by blindfolding Q2, then assessing the statistical significance and relevance of the path model. The endogenous constructs of the model, viz., adverse attitude and plagiaristic behavior, reported the R2 value as 0.173 and 0.802, respectively, indicating moderate and substantial prediction (Fig. 2). As the prediction of adverse attitude reflects human attitude prediction, an R2 value as low as 17.3% can be considered reasonable. We then assessed the predictive accuracy of the path model through the Q2 value, which is based on the blindfolding procedure. Q2 value, in this case, is 0.083 and 0.324 for adverse attitude and plagiaristic behavior, showcasing considerable predictive relevance of the PLS-SEM path model (Hair et al., 2019).

Fig. 2
figure 2

Model testing the Structural Path (Study 1)

The final step in the process involved assessesing the path coefficients’ statistical significance and relevance (Table 3). We ran bootstrapping on 10000 subsamples to check the total, direct, and indirect effects.

Table 3 Assessing the Structural Model (Study 1)

Mediation Analysis

We first tested the relationship between corrective measures and plagiaristic behavior without the mediator adverse attitude. We found a significant negative relationship between corrective measures and plagiaristic behavior (β = -0.373, t = 15.253, p < 0.001). Therefore, we further introduced the mediator in the model to test whether adverse attitude has a mediating effect on the relationship between corrective measures and plagiaristic behavior.

The relationship between corrective measures and plagiaristic behavior in the presence of the mediator weakened significantly (β = 0.002, t = 0.102, p > 0.05), showcasing full mediation (Table 4).

Table 4 Specific Indirect Effect for Testing Mediation (Study 1)

Study 2: Results and Discussion

To improve the incremental validity of the study, we collected additional data in a different period (February-September 2021). We subsequently tested the data on the proposed model, and the results indicated similar conclusions. The item loadings and reliability assessed through Cronbach’s alpha, rho, and construct reliability met all the caveats of a good reliable instrument (Table 5). For convergent validity, we tested the AVE that revealed acceptable values. We then tested for discriminant validity through HTMT, and the results showed no discriminant validity issue. After that, the model fit analysis suggested an SRMR value = 0.031 and NFI = 0.970. The endogenous constructs of the model, viz., adverse attitude and plagiaristic behavior, reported the R2 value as 0.241 and 0.705, respectively, indicating moderate and substantial prediction (Fig. 3). On assessing the structural model on the new sample, the relationship tested got further strengthened (Table 6). Adverse attitude mediated the relationship between corrective measures and plagiaristic behavior (Table 7).

Table 5 Construct Indicators and Measurement Model of Corrective Measures, Adverse Attitude, and Plagiaristic Behavior (Study 2)
Fig. 3
figure 3

Model testing the Structural Path (Study 2)

Table 6 Assessing the Structural Model (Study 2)
Table 7 Specific Indirect Effect for Testing Mediation (Study 2)

Multi-group Analysis

To assess the difference in the relationships concerning gender, we examined the model through multi-group analysis in PLS-SEM. The results indicate that for relationships with adverse attitudes → plagiaristic behavior and corrective measure → plagiaristic behavior, the path coefficient differences are insignificant (β (male–female) 0.002 and 0.021, p = 0.914 and p = 0.394), however for the path corrective measures → plagiaristic behavior the path coefficient difference is 0.072 significant with p-value = 0.005). Thus, for females, the negative relationship between corrective measures and adverse attitudes is more pronounced (β female = -0.384, β male = -0.312). This result implies that corrective measures have a greater influence on female educationists vis-à-vis the reduction of adverse attitudes toward academic integrity.

We controlled the variable ‘age’ by introducing age in the model and checking its relationship with adverse attitudes and plagiaristic behavior. We could not find any significant change in the R2 of the two constructs. We extracted the latent standardized scores for each case and tested the same using hierarchical regression on SPSS 21.0. The adjusted R2 of the predictor age reported a value of 0.001, which demonstrated no impact of age on the relationship we tested in the model.


The results show a negative relationship between corrective measures and adverse attitudes (H1). We could establish a significant relationship between the two constructs, making the first contribution to this research. This substantiation extends the work of Elliott et al. (2013), who suggest corrective measures to combat plagiarism. The confirmation of H1 authenticates that if institutions initiate punitive actions against academics committing plagiarism, they will be able to manage the academics’ deviant attitude. The corrective action process would entail that faculty members are instructed on what constitutes plagiarism, ensuring they are aware of it. This awareness will ensure that academics cannot justify plagiarism in rational self-interest, Machiavellianism, ignorance (deontology), and pressing circumstances (read contingency ethics). Second, corrective actions would ensure clear guidance on what will happen if they plagiarise. The precise code of ethical conduct and the consequent rigorous punishment will ensure that those academics who are well aware of plagiarism and its related menaces and commit it under the impression of ‘lack of fear of penalties’ do not further engage in it.

Further, we found a significant positive relationship between adverse attitudes and plagiaristic behavior (H2). This result aligns with (Koh et al., 2018) research that suggests adverse attitudes can increase student plagiaristic behavior. In this study, we draw a similar linkage between adverse attitudes and the plagiaristic behavior of academics. We substantiate that as adverse attitudes increases, plagiaristic behavior also witnesses an increase in the same direction. Hence, efforts in the right direction are required to bring positive attitudinal change, i.e., encouraging academics to understand, comprehend, and develop an attitude that plagiarism is academic fraud. Consequently, plagiaristic behavior would likely reduce, invoking the theory of planned behavior.

Finally, we fulfill our third hypothesis and establish that adverse attitude mediates the relationship between corrective measures and plagiaristic behavior (H3). The present study furnishes another contribution by indicating that as adverse attitude of the academics is abated essentially due to stressing upon corrective measures, plagiaristic behavior is also reduced routing towards research integrity.

Theoretical Implications

The present study recognizes the sources of plagiarism and that corrective measures deter plagiaristic behavior among academics. With corrective measures in place, academics perform genuine work. We conducted two studies to test the hypotheses and understand adverse attitudes' role on plagiaristic behavior. The research reports that an adverse attitude is positively associated with plagiaristic behavior. Hence, a need remains to mold the adverse attitude of academics who consider plagiarism acceptable. Once academics register a decline in their adverse attitudes that enervates plagiarism, this plagiaristic behavior can be brought under control, making way for trustworthy, robust, and meticulous research. The present study also confirms that corrective measures lead to a reduction in the plagiaristic behavior of academics. As mentioned previously, it also accords with cultural relativism theory and subjective norms. Students are taught or indirectly infer that some data or information is authentic and legitimate if taken from an external source. This ideology is then taken to their research later in life. Therefore, corrective measures detailing what constitutes plagiarism and how institutions deal with it ensure that attitudes towards pro-plagiaristic behavior and perceived norms are sufficiently molded to deter plagiaristic behavior.

Another intriguing theoretical contribution of this research is the underpinning of the mediating role of adverse attitudes between corrective measures and plagiaristic behavior. Change in adverse attitudes via persuasion could change the academic community and research. Such revelation will extend the theory of reasoned action wherein persuasion will become attainable as corrective measures are in place already and enrich the significance of the path of yielding plagiarism-free research. Furthermore, an engaging insight, in theory, is the gender multi-group analysis that states that females are more likely to reduce plagiarized work with attitudinal change brought in due to corrective measures.

Practical Implications

A change in the research culture can bring radical attitudinal change. A shift in attitude is required when there is a confirmation of the adverse attitude. For an attitudinal change to happen, we recommend strengthening and reinforcing corrective measures. For instance, introducing a compulsory course on what entails academic integrity in the undergraduate and graduate curriculum can definitively impact how students perceive plagiarism and what can happen if they falter. Secondly, many academic misconducts go unnoticed as peers, colleagues, or even peer reviewers' let go' of the situation. These stakeholders do not want to harm their co-workers, mainly because it is a norm to protect the wrongdoers. Agencies like journals, publication houses, and universities would do well if they brought out clear plagiarism directives and acted strictly in cases of grave defaults. Journals generally report the wrongdoing to the concerned university where the person works or studies, and then the universities take requisite actions. Such actions after the confirmation of guilt should be timely and well broadcasted to bring a sort of deterrent. Therefore, we emphasize the stakeholders, viz., funding authorities, journals, and professional associations, to take cognizance of the fraud and act promptly and appropriately. Educational institutions should form anti-plagiarism committees and policies with heavy penalties.

Additionally, establishing plagiarism detection software can clear the lines about the infringement of academicians’ ethics (Bettaieb et al., 2020; Pandoi & Gupta, 2018). The institutions should conduct proper training on what constitutes plagiarism and sensitize academics and students alike that plagiarism is a serious academic offense. The Government should introduce radical policy initiatives to create awareness and educate teachers in this regard with sincere efforts. Moreover, this attitudinal change will foster a research environment with more significant importance to the research process and not just its recognition by publication.

A revolutionized attitude towards work without cheating, copying, or manipulating data can facilitate better academic and research environments. This change in the adverse attitude of educationists can be facilitated by revamping rules and regulations regarding their promotion and career advancement. With lesser pressure on the published research articles to get a promotion, they can concentrate on doing genuine validated research and can bring desired results. Further, when the world is thriving on innovation, conglomerates invest in their research and development to remain ahead in their games. The authors and institutions are responsible and accountable for the plagiarized work by the authors of an institution (Khairnar et al., 2019).

Therefore, we advocate for a uniform code of ethics that educational institutions, boards, and all the stakeholders follow in toto. Committees and councils like Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and Medical Research Councils and their directives should be binding on all higher educational institutions; in fact, the stakeholders should also initiate and sensitize students at the secondary and senior secondary school level. The uniform code of ethics binding on global research for initiating research and subsequent publications will end ambiguous directives and ensure strong enforcement.

The present study emphasizes catalyzing an academic environment where job descriptors align with academics' goals, drawing from the alignment experienced through the person-job fit. The academic world perceives high-impact publishing as the most outstanding contribution to the academic discipline, which can belittle other equally critical academic services. We suggest that there should be a categorization of academics based on the job roles. For instance, a faculty member with the personal alignment of life goals with research pursuits should be categorized as an ‘academic scholar’ and be provided with job descriptions that entail teaching and research. Contrarily, an academic with alignment towards teaching, caring practices, and the corporate life of the institution should be given job roles with job descriptions entailing teaching, care professionals, and institution-building but not research pursuits and be categorized as an ‘academic practitioner.’

In line with the previous recommendation, we suggest holistically altering the tenure-track system or academic promotion, emphasizing the teaching-research-administration framework. Such a framework will not push academics into the ‘publish or perish’ trap of plagiarism. We have seen that the ‘publish or perish’ requirement for academics to ensure career advancement harms the science world more than good. Therefore, we suggest that the university's human resources department and administration can use research publications as an important yardstick for career advancements for only the ‘academic scholar.’ For an ‘academic practitioner,’ other aspects, such as teaching excellence, supporting and developing the academic world, and impacting students' learning, can be employed for career advancement. This faculty categorization and offloading of the responsibility to publish will give a mileage to other important faculty activities and significantly deter the faculty members from falling into the trap of predatory publications. Predatory journals thrive because of the concocted demand for publication at any cost. The ease through which predatory journals publish articles, viz., a simple eyewash or no peer review, and shorter publication window encourages academics to resort to malpractice like indulging in plagiarism.

Limitations and Scope for Future Research

This study did not empirically study the factors that cause academic dishonesty; future studies can explore such antecedents. Additionally, researchers can explore the causal links between culture and attitude toward plagiarism through experimental and longitudinal research designs. Further, the current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted research, and the consequent implications on academic integrity can form interesting future research. In addition, the terminal end of plagiarized work, viz., retractions can bring out another area of a prospective study.