Book Reviews

Review by Matt Church
Academic Advising Coordinator
Arts & Sciences Advising
University of Louisville

Why do students cheat? Cheating and academic dishonesty are an increasing problem in higher education. In Cheating in College: Why Students Do it and What Educators Can do about It, McCabe, Butterfield, and Trevino present their findings related to cheating in American universities, outline the causes of student cheating, and offer solutions.  The work explores the entire scope of academic dishonesty in higher education. The authors state that their focus is on honor codes and part of the work is geared towards promoting the benefits of honor codes at universities. Despite this end goal, the information on cheating is beneficial to all individuals working in higher education.

The authors discovered six major findings:  Cheating habits among college students develop prior to arriving at college,  more than 2/3 of college students report in engaging in some form of cheating,  cheating is rampant in professional schools, a major shift has occurred in cheating related attitudes, individual and contextual factors influence academic cheating and integrity including peer behavior and ethical environments, and  a deeply embedded honors code can play a key role in creating an ethical environment (McCabe et al., 2012). For purposes of their research, the authors defined cheating as copying material without proper citation, padding bibliographies, getting exam questions in advance, collaborative homework, turning in paper done by others, and using notes during exams. The operationalization of cheating lends itself to the 2/3 figure, though collaborative homework and improper citation presumably form the bulk of this figure. 

The text focuses on both promoting academic integrity and cheating. The most interesting contention is that student attitudes towards cheating are shaped and determined prior to college. Given the examples of cheating, students appear to use the same form of cheating in higher education as they did in high school. The authors also include a nomenclature of cheating tendencies, finding that men, younger students, athletes, fraternity and sorority members, and those involved in extra-curricular activities are more prone to cheating.  Unfortunately, these findings are mentioned only in passing and there is little explanation of why these groups are likely to cheat. The authors conclude there is a need for faculty to be involved in safeguarding academic integrity and recommend creating a culture of integrity involving all university stakeholders.

In relation to academic advising, the text includes several useful findings. As noted earlier, student habits and views on cheating are developed in high school. Since academic advisors often serve as an initial and major point of contact for first year students, there is need for advisors to find ways to convey that the definition of cheating is different in college than high school and the penalties much more severe. The identification of groups as more inclined towards cheating is beneficial, but there is need for discussion on why these students are more apt to cheat and what can be done?  Summarily, the text provides some very useful information, but only offers the solutions of honor codes and creating a culture of integrity. While these solutions are admirable, there is a greater need to focus on altering student attitudes towards cheating since these attitudes are developed in high school, identifying the reasons that particular groups are more inclined to cheat, and what can be done to address these tendencies.

Cheating in College: Why Students Do It and What Educators Can Do about It. (2012) Book by Donald McCabe, Kenneth Butterfield, & Linda Trevino. Review by Matt Church. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 240 pp. $39.95, (Hardback), ISBN # 978-1-421-40716-6

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