Course Resource Kit

Why do students cheat?

Personal pressures seem to play the greatest role in students’ likelihood of engaging in academic dishonesty. In a review of the factors that lead to plagiarism, Curtis and Popal (2011) highlight issues like financial pressures leading to fear about retaking a course or to pursue long working hours; familial or social pressure to achieve high grades; and inexperience in post-secondary education leading to poor time management or study skills. Helping students to establish learning goals — understanding why they are taking the course — can also help them feel a sense of responsibility to the content and need to establish their understanding.

Students are more likely to cheat when assignments are high-stakes and not well-scaffolded — think of the traditional final research project worth 50% of the grade in a lecture-based class — and there is some correlation between student anxiety and cheating. Structuring assignments to reduce anxiety can therefore help with issues of academic integrity. Students are also more likely to cheat when they don’t feel a relationship to the instructor or a responsibility to the classroom community. Strategies to improve classroom experience, then, can also have an impact on academic integrity.