Cheating: It depends how you define it


  • Lynne N. Kennette Durham College
  • Milan Jelenic Durham College



integrity, cheating, college, definition, students, faculty, Canada


Cheating in academia is defined multidimensionally and might include dishonesty, fraud, stealing, and unauthorized use. This behaviour appears to be on the rise in higher education, though it may be somewhat subjective. Beyond the ethical issue of cheating, inadequately learned skills and unqualified practitioners put lives at risk (e.g., medicine, engineering), as well as the institution’s reputation and integrity in producing proficient graduates. We asked Canadian students and faculty from a two-year college to define academic cheating in their own words and rate a number of behaviours to indicate their perception of whether the behaviour should be considered cheating or not. Overall, there was a great overlap between the themes evoked in students’ and faculty’s definitions of cheating. Differences between students’ and faculty’s ages might suggest a different degree of moral reasoning which may have impacted the responses. This study further contributes to knowledge about cheating because we surveyed college students (rather than university students), which are greatly under-represented in the literature.


Ahmed, K. (2018). Student perceptions of academic dishonesty in a private Middle Eastern university. Higher Learning Research Communications, 8(1).

Alzahrani, S. M., Salim, N, & Abraham, A. (2012). Understanding plagiarism linguistic patterns, textual features, and detection methods. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics - Part C: Applications and Reviews, 42(2), 133-148.

Anderman, E. M., & Murdock, T. (2007). Psychology of academic cheating. Elsevier.

Arain, M., Haque, M., Johal, L., Mathur, P., Nel, W., Rais, A., Sandhu, R., & Sharma, S. (2013). Maturation of the adolescent brain. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 9, 449-461.

Ardiansyah, W., & Ujihanti, M. (2018). Social constructivism-based reading comprehension teaching design at Politeknik Negeri Sriwijaya. Arab World English Journal, 9(1), 447-467.

Barbaranelli, C., Farnese, M. L., Tramontano, C., Fida, R., Ghezzi, V., Paciello, M., & Long, P. (2018). Machiavellian ways to academic cheating: A meditational and interactional model. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(695), 1-17.

Bowers, W. J. (1964). Student dishonesty and its control in college. Columbia University Press.

Brimble, M., & Stevenson-Clarke, P. (2015). Perceptions of the prevalence and seriousness of academic dishonesty in Australian universities. The Australian Educational Researcher, 32(3), 19-44.

Burrus, R. T., McGoldrick, K. M., & Schuhmann, P. W. (2007). Self-reports of student cheating: Does a definition of cheating matter? The Journal of Economic Education, 38(1), 3-16.

Clarke, R., & Lancaster, T. (2006, June). Eliminating the successor to plagiarism? Identifying the usage of contract cheating sites. In Proceedings of 2nd International Plagiarism Conference (pp. 19-21). Northumbria Learning Press.

Dyer, T., Steele, J. P., Holbeck, R., & Greenberger, S. (2022). Plagiarism due to generational misunderstandings. Transformative Dialogues: Teaching and Learning Journal, 15(1), pp.7-20.

Eaton, S. E. (2022). Student Academic Integrity: A Handbook for Academic Staff and Teaching Assistants. University of Calgary, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning Guide Series.

Eaton, S. E. (2017). A comparative analysis of institutional policy definitions of plagiarism: A pan-Canadian university study. Interchange, 48, 271-281.

Eisenberg, J. (2004). To cheat of not to cheat: Effects of moral perspective and situational variables on students’ attitudes. Journal of Moral Education, 33(2), 163-178.

Gehring, D., & Pavela, G. (1994). Issues & perspectives on academic integrity (2nd ed.). National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

Gentina, E., Li-Ping Tang, T., & Gu, Q. (2017). Does bad company corrupt good morals? Social bonding and academic cheating among French and Chinese teens. Journal of Business Ethics, 146(3), 639-667.

Grimes, P. W. (2004). Dishonesty in academics and business: A cross-cultural evaluation of student attitudes. Journal of Business Ethics, 49, 273–290.

Hensley, L.C., Kirkpatrick, K.M. & Burgoon, J.M. (2013) Relation of gender, course enrollment, and grades to distinct forms of academic dishonesty. Teaching in Higher Education, 18(8), 895-907.

Higbee, J. L., & Thomas, P. V. (2002). Student and faculty perceptions of behaviors that constitute cheating. NASPA Journal, 40(1), 39-52.

Iberahim, H., Hussein, N., Samat, N., Fauziah, N., & Daud, N. (2013). Academic dishonesty: Why business students participate in these practices? Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 90, 152-156.

Jackson, C. J., Levine, S. Z., Furnham, A., & Burr, N. (2002). Predictors of cheating behavior at a university: A lesson from the psychology of work. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32(5), 1031-1046.

Jones, D. L. R. (2011). Academic dishonesty: Are more students cheating? Business Communication Quarterly, 74(2), 141-150.

Kohlberg, L. (1973). The claim to moral adequacy of the highest stage of moral judgment. Journal of Philosophy, 70(18), 630-646.

Kolker, R. (2012, September 16). Cheating Upwards: Stuyvesant kids do it. Harvard kids do it. Smart kids may especially do it. But why? New York Magazine. Retrieved from

Kuntz, J. R. C., & Butler, C. (2014). Exploring individual and contextual antecedents of attitudes toward the acceptability of cheating and plagiarism. Ethics and Behaviour, 24, 478–494.

Lancaster, T. (2019). Social media enabled contract cheating. Canadian Perspectives on Academic Integrity, 2(2), 7-24.

Lupton, R. A., Chapman, K. J., & Weiss, J. E. (2010). International perspective: A cross-national exploration of business students’ attitudes, perception, and tendencies toward academic dishonesty. Journal of Education for Business, 75(4), 231-235.

Martin, D. (2012). Culture and unethical conduct: Understanding the impact of individualism and collectivism on actual plagiarism. Management Learning, 43, 261-273.

McCabe, D. L., & Trevino, L. K. (1997). Individual and contextual influences on academic dishonesty: A multicampus investigation. Research in Higher Education, 38, 379–396.

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Plagiarism. In dictionary. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from

Miller, Y. & Izsak, R. (2017). Students’ involvement in academic dishonesty and their attitudes towards copying in exams and academic papers. Sociology and Anthropology, 5(3), 225-232.

Nonis, S., & Swift, C. (2001). An examination of the relationship between academic dishonesty and workplace dishonesty: A multi-campus investigation. Journal of Education for Business, 77(2), 69–77.

Northern Illinois University (n.d.). Cheating. Academic Integrity Tutorials.

Orosz, G., Farkas, D., & Roland-Lévy, C. (2013). Are competition and extrinsic motivation reliable predictors of academic cheating? Frontiers in Psychology, 4(87).

Pekrun, R., Frenzel, A., Goetz, T., & Perry, R. (2007). The control-value theory of achievement emotions: An integrative approach to emotions in education. In P. Schutz, & R. Pekrun (Eds.), Emotions in Education (pp. 13-36). Academic Press.

Peters, M., Boies, T., & Morin, S. (2019). Teaching academic integrity in Quebec universities: Roles professors adopt. Frontiers in Education, 4(99), 1-13.

Pincus, H. S., & Schmelkin, L. P. (2003). Faculty perceptions of academic dishonesty: A multidimensional scaling analysis. The Journal of Higher Education, 74(2), 196-209.

Poltorak, Y. (1995). Cheating behavior among students of four Moscow institutes. Higher Education, 30, 225–246.

Putwain, D., Sander, P., & Larkin, D. (2013). Using the 2 × 2 framework of achievement goals to predict achievement emotions and academic performance. Learning and Individual Differences, 25, 80-84.

Raines, D. A., Ricci, P., Brown, S. L., Eggenberger, T., Hindle, T., & Schiff, M. (2011). Cheating in online courses: The student definition. Journal of Effective Teaching, 11(1), 80-89.

Ramzan, M., Munir, M. A., Siddique, N., & Asif, M. (2012). Awareness about plagiarism amongst university students in Pakistan. Higher Education, 64, 73-84.

Rubia, K., Overmeyer, S., Taylor, E., Brammer, M., Williams, S. C. R., Simmons, A., Andrew, C., Bullmore, E. T. (2000). Functional frontalisation with age: Mapping neurodevelopmental trajectories with fMRI. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 24, 13–9.

Sendağ, S., Duran, M., & Fraser, M. (2012). Surveying the extent of involvement in online academic dishonesty (e-dishonesty) related practices among university students and the rationale students provide: One university’s experience. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 849-860.

Sowell, E. R., Peterson, B. S., Thompson, P. M., Welcome, S. E., Henkenius, A. L., & Toga, A. W. (2003). Mapping cortical change across the human life span. Nature Neuroscience, 6(3), 309-315.

Stoesz, B. M., & Eaton, S. E. (2022). Academic integrity policies of publicly funded universities in western Canada. Educational Policy, 36(6), 1529-1548.

Taradi, S. K., Taradi, M., & Dogas, Z. (2012). Croatian medical students see academic dishonesty as an acceptable behaviour: A cross-sectional multicampus study. Journal of Medical Ethics, 38(6), 376-379.

Teixeira, A. A. C., & Rocha, F. O. S. (2010). Cheating by economics and business undergraduate students: An exploratory international assessment. Higher Education, 59(6), 663-701.

Tempelaar, D., Niculescu, A., Rienties, B., Gijselaers, W., & Giesbers, B. (2012). How achievement emotions impact students' decisions for online learning, and what precedes those emotions. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(3), 161-169.

Thomas, D. (2017). Academic dishonesty and achievement emotions among international students in Thailand. International Forum, 20(2), 5-21.

University of British Columbia (n.d.). Cheating:How to make sure you’re on the right side of academic integrity (and what happens if you’re not)

Vandehey, M. A., Diekhoff, G. M., & LaBeff, E. E. (2007). College cheating: A twenty-year follow-up and the addition of an honor code. Journal of College Student Development, 48(4). 468-480.

Vassiou, A., Mouratidis, A., Andreou, E., & Kafetsios, K. (2016). Student achievement goals, emotion perception ability and affect and performance in the classroom: A multilevel examination. Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology, 36(5), 879- 897.

Walden University (n.d.). Academic Integrity: Cheating

Whitley, B. E., & Keith-Spiegel, P. (2002). Academic dishonesty: An educator’s guide. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Wideman, M. (2011). Caring or collusion? Academic dishonesty in a school of nursing. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 41(2), 28-43.

Witmer, H., & Johansson, J. (2015). Disciplinary action for academic dishonesty: Does the student’s gender matter? International Journal for Educational Integrity, 11(6), 1-10.

Wotring, K. E. (2007). Cheating in the Community College: Generational Differences among Students and Implications for Faculty. Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines, 12, 5-13.

Yang, J. (2012). Predicting cheating behavior: A longitudinal study with Chinese business students. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 40(6), 933-944.





Peer-reviewed Articles