Students’ Reasoning About Whether to Report When Others Cheat: Conflict, Confusion, and Consequences

Journal of Academic Ethics 20 (2):265-287 (2022)
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Abstract

Nearly all students believe academic cheating is wrong, yet few students say they would report witnessed acts of cheating. To explain this apparent tension, the present research examined college students’ reasoning about whether to report plagiarism or other forms of cheating. Study 1 examined students’ conflicts when deciding whether to report cheating. Most students gave reasons against reporting a peer (e.g., social and physical consequences, a lack of responsibility to report) as well as reasons in favor of reporting (e.g., concerns about welfare, justice, and fairness). Study 2 provided experimental confirmation that the contextual factors referenced by Study 1 participants in fact influenced decisions about whether to report cheating. Overall, the findings indicate that students often decide against reporting peers’ acts of cheating, though not due to a lack of concern about integrity. Rather, students may refrain from reporting because of conflicting concerns, lack of information about school policy, and perceived better alternatives to reporting.

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