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Towards Consistency and Transparency in Academic Integrity

Edited By Salim Razı, Irene Glendinning and Tomáš Foltýnek

This book is an outcome of the 4th International Conference «Plagiarism across Europe and Beyond» organized by Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Mendel University in Brno, and the European Network for Academic Integrity. The conference is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships Programme of the European Union. It aims to be a forum for sharing best practices and experiences by addressing issues of academic integrity from a wide-scope global perspective. With regards to the crucial role of ethics and honesty in academic work, universities are in need of more effective policies against infringements of academic standards. The papers in this book therefore aim to contribute to the standardization of consistent and transparent approaches to issues of academic integrity from several perspectives.

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Students and Teachers’ Perceptions about Academic Dishonesty at a University in Pakistan (Muhammad Shahbaz)

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Muhammad Shahbaz1

GC Women University Sialkot, Pakistan

Students and Teachers’ Perceptions about Academic Dishonesty at a University in Pakistan

Abstract: In modern-day competitive academia, it has become a common practice for many students to use various cheating methods to secure better grades (usually more than what they actually deserve) on their courses. For students, access to information and sources is easier than ever while the spread of technology is making it difficult for institutions to discover and prevent such unethical practices. To avoid and prevent these practices, it is important that students and faculty members share perceptions about these malpractices and work together for a better solution. This research is an effort to explore the perceptions of students and teachers about academic dishonesty in Pakistan and how this understanding can help us in the creation of a more positive environment. Results of this survey study suggest that cheating and plagiarism are common practices among students at our university. Furthermore, there are large differences in the perceptions of students and teachers about academic dishonesty. In addition to other factors, all participants feel that the university should provide a clear policy and implement it strictly. It is recommended that more dialogue is needed among faculty members about what constitutes academic misconduct and teachers should provide more guidance to students to achieve positive outcomes. The University can outline a clear and strict policy to enforce rules related to academic dishonesty.

Keywords: academic dishonesty, higher education, Pakistani teachers and students, plagiarism


Rapid developments in communication and information technologies have provided access to unlimited resources that students can use for learning and development. The Internet and technologies provide countless opportunities to obtain the desired data and use it for various purposes. However, this free-information flow can be disastrous and misleading for many students who fail to understand/follow ← 89 | 90 → the ethical issues attached to using this data. University students might engage in unethical practices by using others’ publications for their assignments and papers (Chen & Chou, 2014). Many university students might not know or lack awareness about various rules that govern writing in academic settings. Many students, especially in developing countries, fail to follow proper citation guidelines that might become the basis for plagiarism or amoral behavior. Students usually ignore the consequences of plagiarism and do not worry about copying one/two lines from different sources without proper citation (Blum, 2009; Stapleton, 2010). Conversely, plagiarizing and copying are not new among students; however, in this digital age students might perceive plagiarism differently.

Despite efforts from governments and academia, the practice of academic dishonesty in universities is increasing. Plagiarism and foul practices are a serious threat to academia and society because it hinders the proper assessment of students’ knowledge. Plagiarism is harmful for developing trust between institutions and students and it is dangerous for those who earn grades honestly (Jurdi, Hage, & Chow, 2011). This negative behavior and academic fraud during studying can lead to serious unethical conduct at the workplace in later stages (Deshpande, Joseph, & Berry, 2012). Perceptions towards sharing and ownership of information and knowledge are rapidly changing and it is highly relevant to understand this phenomenon to control dishonest practices.

According to Hosny and Fatima (2014, p. 748) academic dishonesty is “the students’ use of illegal activities, techniques and forms of fraud during their examination or evaluation process, usually for the purpose of achieving better grades”. There can be different ways of cheating including copying assignments from other students, taking the help of others for tasks when it is not allowed, using the internet for solutions to difficult individual assignments, submitting one assignment for multiple subjects, stealing from online sources, taking solved assignments by payment, using material during exams, and other different ways (Sheard, Markham, & Dick, 2003). Researchers (e.g., Moon, 2006) usually divide academic dishonesty into three broad categories, namely, i) collusion, ii) cheating, and iii) plagiarism. The later ones are common among young students; which include obtaining academic advantages through unfair means and presenting other people’s ideas or works without proper acknowledgment. Collusion is when students help other students like their friends/peers to do a class assignment or task and then submit it as an individual work. Teachers consider collusion as the deliberate collaboration of students on a task to deceive their instructors (Yeo, 2007). Students indulge in these actions without truly understanding the legal consequences, only as a way of passing a course or improving their grades. ← 90 | 91 →

Conversely, academic integrity serves as the foundation of the academic and social world. Young people develop habits of honesty and integrity during their academic endeavors which help them to practice these virtues throughout their lives. Responsibility, trust, respect, fairness, morality, quality and honesty are the backbone and pillars of academic integrity (UTC Walker Teaching Resource Center, 2006). Gallant (2008, p. 2) explains the goal of academic honesty as “to highlight the expectations that truth, freedom, courage, quality and the spirit of free intellectual inquiry will guide the academic work of students and faculty”. The purpose is to ensure that one carries out work with understanding and belief in the ownership of one’s work.

Many academics, scholars, researchers, policy-makers and governments are trying to control illegal practices in academic settings to develop social and cultural standards in line with international standards. There are many online tools to detect cheating and plagiarism; however, they might fail to locate plagiarised text which students translate from other languages like Urdu. Students cheat for many reasons and the literature has offered different factors such as peer/group pressure, defying the instructor, low grades compared to perceived effort, fear of disappointing people with low grades, difficult assignments, poor time-management skills, and also just because students think they can do it (Yeo, 2007).

Even with all the efforts and policies of academic and government institutions, the practices of cheating, immoral behavior, plagiarism and academic misconduct appear to grow in number. One approach might be a focus on the detection of such actions through advanced technological tools and awareness among faculty members which might have gone unnoticed in the past. However, Glick (2001) opines that we are facing a gradual decline in ethical values and moral behavior at a global level, which is a major reason for the academic misconduct of students at different levels. He further suggests that detachment from high ethical standards and the sameness of modern popular culture can be major reasons for causing illegal practices in higher education. Researchers have been trying for a while to explore the reasons and factors that cause cheating and plagiarism among students. Any understanding of the real issues related to plagiarism and cheating would not be reliable without adding the perspectives of faculty members in addition to other stakeholders. Traditionally, scholars basically focused on students’ attitudes and perceptions towards academic dishonesty. There is a limited number of studies that investigate the experiences and perceptions of teachers about academic integrity and only a few make a comparison between the perceptions and attitudes of faculty and students towards academic dishonesty and integrity in academic institutions. ← 91 | 92 →

Kwong, Ng, Mark, and Wong (2010) utilised mixed methods and a sequential explanatory design to collect data through a survey with faculty members (n = 113) as well as students (n = 268); individual interviews were also conducted with faculty and focus-group interviews with learners in Hong Kong. The authors observed significant differences between the faculty and students’ understanding of plagiarism and cheating. Students cheat for many reasons and teachers do not usually report cases of academic dishonesty to higher authorities. They are urged to implement programs about honesty and integrity in the academic context for the development of a moral, trustworthy and honest nation. Based on quantitative data from 400 Chinese students and teachers, Clark et al. (2012) highlighted stress, environmental factors, bad instruction and poor communication as playing a major role in uncivil behavior. In addition, teachers and students seemed to agree on possible ways to improve behavior through vibrant policies, learner autonomy and clear behavioral expectations. Hu and Lei (2016) compared data from 142 EFL teachers and 270 students at a Chinese university for their views on intertextuality, which is normally considered plagiarism. Analyses of data illustrated that almost all participants disapproved recognised forms of plagiarism. Furthermore, greater awareness of academic dishonesty and exposure to academic writings helped participants to take a strict stance on the unacknowledged use of materials. Authors also emphasised the significance of academic socialization and awareness of attitudes towards academic dishonesty.

Ewing, Mathieson, Anast, and Roehling (2017) assessed perceptions of health sciences doctoral students and faculty at a public university in the USA about unethical academic behavior, specifically plagiarism. Data from 92 faculty members and 238 students demonstrated that faculty believed that more students plagiarise compared to students’ self-reported perceptions. Both students and teachers agreed about the prevalent practices of plagiarism, collusion and cheating; however, not many students self-reported this unethical behavior. Chen and Chou (2017) compared the perceptions of college students and faculty about academic misconduct in Taiwan. Results from 634 students and 229 instructors revealed that teachers believed in higher standards compared to students for academic integrity. In addition, significant discipline-based differences contributed to students’ perceptions about plagiarism.

As a developing country, Pakistan faces many challenges in the development and implementation of policies. Academic dishonesty, uncivil behavior, collusion, cheating and plagiarism are fairly recent trends for policy-makers and higher authorities. National and regional authorities have been trying to counter malpractices in academia through strict policies and implementation. However, research ← 92 | 93 → about the existing situation of academic misbehavior, plagiarism and cheating is still at an early stage; which makes it difficult to make informed decisions for policy development and implementation. Academic dishonesty is a serious threat to the social and moral values of a society; therefore, we need to highlight issues related to it to create a well-informed and ethical generation of students and teachers. Different researchers (e.g. Mansoor & Ameen, 2016; Murtaza, Zafar, Bashir & Hussain, 2013; Nazir & Aslam, 2010) have tried to explore the perceptions and attitude of students towards academic misconduct; however, there is no single study to the best of my knowledge that focuses on comparing faculty and students’ points of view on this issue. Therefore, our research is novel in the Pakistani context in that it fills the existing gap and develops our understanding of the perceptions of faculty and students towards uncivil behavior in higher education in Pakistan. The following research questions directed this research:

1. In what ways do teachers and students perceive academic dishonesty differently?

2. In what ways do teachers’ and students’ perceptions differ about the engagement of students in unethical and uncivil academic behavior?

3. What are the some of the differences in perceptions of students and faculty about instructions provided about dishonest academic practices?

4. In what ways do student and faculty perceptions differ about ways that help students gain awareness of academic misconduct?

The following hypotheses were designed for this research:

H1: There are differences in the perceptions of students and faculty members towards academic misconduct.

H2: Teachers and students differ in their perceptions about the engagement of students in academically-dishonest practices.

H3: Students and teachers have different perceptions about the frequency of guidance provided to students about unethical and uncivil academic behavior.

H4: Teachers and students differ in their perception of how students become aware of academic misconduct and dishonesty.

Methods and Data Collection

We are witnessing increased interest in concerns related to ethical behavior and academic integrity among students and their perceptions about academic dishonesty. Scholars have been trying to provide empirical evidence to illuminate the existing scenario; however, there are still many gaps, particularly in Pakistan. ← 93 | 94 → Creswell (2009) and others like Stevens (2012) suggested exploring perceptions through a well-vetted survey instrument. To address the gaps in the Pakistani context, a quantitative design was employed using two questionnaires. To explore the research directions, the instruments of Stevens (2012) and Ford (2015) were used and modified to meet the local needs of learners (Academic Dishonesty Perception Questionnaire (ADPQ).

For the ADPQ, data collection took place within a small women’s university in Punjab, Pakistan. Data collection occurred during the Spring 2017 semester from different arts, humanities, social sciences and science faculties. There were more than 5,000 female students enrolled in different degree programs at that time. There were also 185 faculty members working in 18 departments of the university at the time of data collection. A purposive-stratified random sampling methodology helped in collecting data from students, as well as faculty members. After permission from the concerned deans of faculties, all heads of departments were approached for permission and data collection. Fifty questionnaires for students were distributed among the final year undergraduate students of each department while 8 questionnaires were distributed to faculty members from each department. From 900 questionnaires, 576 questionnaires were returned from the student sample while out of 144 faculty questionnaires, 103 were returned. Out of the 576 questionnaires, significant information was missing from 25 questionnaires and hence those were discarded and only data from 551 questionnaires were used for this research on the student population. All returned questionnaires from faculty members were good; hence data from 103 questionnaires from lecturers were included for analysis.

In order to understand the existing scenario, a modified version of another short questionnaire (Tabsh, Abdelfatah, & El Kadi, 2017) was distributed among the sample along with the first questionnaire. There were only 5 items about the perceptions of students and faculty related to academic misconduct and cheating. From 900 questionnaires, 611 students returned the survey while 113 faculty members sent the survey back. However, for conformity purposes, data were used from 551 student questionnaires and from 103 faculty members. The 551 and 103 questionnaires were randomly selected by excluding every 10th response.

Results and Discussion

For analytic purposes, data were inserted in SPSS 23 for Windows and descriptive analyses were carried out to answer questions and to test hypotheses. Cronbach Alpha (Table 1) was explored, which demonstrated that the constructs are dependable and reliable. For items related to perceptions of students and teachers towards cheating and plagiarism, Alpha values are good at α = .80 for teachers and α = .74 ← 94 | 95 → for students. Items related to perceived students’ dishonesty, faculty responses yielded α = .81 while α = .74 for responses from students. Items about received instruction revealed α = .78 for teachers and α = .71 for students’ responses. For items about perceived ways of acquiring knowledge about unethical practices, the collected responses revealed α = .76 for teachers and α = .73 for students.

Table 1: Internal Reliability (Cronbach Alpha) of ADPQ Scales


There was also good reliability for all five items in the short questionnaire, with an overall Cronbach Alpha value of .91. There was only a slight difference between students and teachers with α = .91 for students and α = .92 for teachers. This indicates that almost all the participants understood the short questionnaire in a clear manner.

Table 2: Independent Samples t-Test Results for Variation between Student and Faculty Perceptions


For answers to the questions and testing of hypotheses, descriptive and inferential tests were carried out on the collected data using SPSS. For question 1 and hypothesis 1, independent samples t-test highlighted statistically significant differences between the two groups, where t = -2.52, df = 421 and p < .01. The group mean for teachers (M = 0.71, SD = 0.54) was comparatively lower than the group mean of students (M = 0.83, SD = 0.42). Normally, the responses of students and teachers ranged from neutral to disagree; however, responses of students have a stronger inclination towards “disagree” on this scale. These results support hypothesis 1 presented in the previous section. ← 95 | 96 →

Independent samples t-test for question and hypothesis 2 also exhibited statistically significant difference values for both the groups, where t = -21.86, df = 413 and p < .001. The faculty sample mean (M = 2.41, SD = 0.84) was comparatively higher than the students’ sample mean (M = 0.53, SD = 0.62). Typically, faculty demonstrated an inclination towards “strongly agree”, whereas students gave responses ranging from strongly disagree to neutral for this scale. Results for question 2 support the second hypothesis of this research.

Results from data about question 3 and hypothesis 3 independent samples t-test analysis revealed no statistically striking differences between the groups of teachers and students with values of t = – 0.59, df = 398, and p > .05. Faculty sample mean (M = 2.67, SD = 0.78) was slightly higher than the mean of the student sample (M = 2.59, SD = 0.81). Results for this scale do not support hypothesis 3, which means that students and teachers perceive the frequency of instruction about unethical academic behavior in quite similar ways.

For question 4 and hypothesis 4, results of independent samples t-test spotlighted that there is a difference in the perceptions of teachers and students about the ways of learning about academically dishonest behavior, where values for the test are t = -4.65, df = 401 and p < .001. The mean for the faculty sample (M = 1.57, SD = 0.40) was comparatively higher than the mean for the student sample (M = 0.99, SD = 0.47). This supports hypothesis 4 of this research.

To further understand the perceptions of students and teachers, now we will discuss data from the short survey.

Figure 1: Perceptions of plagiarism on projects and some assignments


← 96 | 97 →

In first item, students and teachers offered their opinion about plagiarism of students on projects and homework. Figure 1 highlights the answers of the two groups, which suggest that faculty members have a more positive attitude compared to students. Overall, more than 75% of teachers think that fewer students (less than 50%) plagiarise in out-of-classroom work, compared to 55% for students. This result is in line with observations from other contexts (McCabe, 2005), where teachers usually provided positive perceptions of students’ academic behavior.

Item 2 asked about the percentage of students who indulge in unauthorised collaboration. The perceptions of students and teachers are quite similar, as can be seen in Figure 2, which is consistent with results from Brown, Weible, and Olmosk (2010). Almost 30% of the sample from both groups believed that less than 25% students carry out unsolicited collaboration with others. Around 20% from both groups reported between 25%-50% collusion while more than 45% in both sample groups stated more than 50% of students are involved in these activities.

Figure 2: Perceptions concerning inappropriate collaboration


Item 4 focused on the question about the percentage of students who tend to cheat in their exams. Responses of teachers were quite different from students. Data presented in Figure 3 highlight that 90% of teachers perceived that less than 25% students cheat during exams while only 61% of students opined that less than 25% students cheat. Teachers might consider this as only being caught or recognised cases; whereas students might be aware of other cheating cases which went unnoticed by the teachers. Therefore, we might need to develop certain practices where students can come forward to report cases of cheating during exams. Findings ← 97 | 98 → from these three items match results from other contexts (Young, 2010), where students who plagiarise and collate also tend to indulge in cheating during exams.

Figure 4 below offers a summary of responses with reference to the frequency of discussion about academic integrity and academic misconduct by professors in their classrooms. Teachers have exposure to different ideas and concepts that they can explain to their students. The perceptions of students and teachers suggest that professors do mention and talk about academic integrity and academic misconduct.

Figure 3: Perceptions about cheating during exams


Figure 4: Perceptions about frequency of discussion about academic integrity


← 98 | 99 →

The final item on the short survey asked participants about different ways that may help in reducing dishonest practices in academia. Results presented in Figure 5 highlight that there are differences in perceptions about how we can reduce academically dishonest behavior. Students think that pressure should be reduced and there should be less rigid deadlines and assignments. Teachers think that strict penalties and educating students may serve a better purpose.

Figure 5: Perceptions about how we can control academically dishonest practices



Results from this small-scale university demonstrate that students and teachers perceive academic misconduct differently. Students lack true awareness about unethical and uncivil behavior related to cheating and plagiarism. We need to introduce more programs like training and workshops to provide awareness to students about academic integrity and about practices that are not tolerated in academic settings. Faculty members and teachers need to work together to control and decrease existing malpractices. Many students fail to understand actions that fall in the categories of cheating and plagiarism and therefore, fail to direct their behavior in the proper direction. Policy-makers and institutional administrators need to devise strict guidelines and they should make sure that frequent guidance is provided to students through training, workshops and full-length courses. Without clear perceptions, it would be hard for faculty members to eradicate these practices on their own. ← 99 | 100 →


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1 Dr., Department of English,