Cultural Approaches to University Students’ Academic Cheating: A review of English-language research
FOR DECADES NOW, researchers have studied cheating and plagiarism among university students. Focus has been on the prevalence of cheating/ plagiarism, the identikit of the “professional cheater” and the reasons why they cheat. The most used technique has been the survey. Τo a lesser extent, researchers adopted experiment and scenario techniques, as well as interviewing, alone or in combination. A large number of studies focus on individuals, trying to match cheating behaviour with individual traits such as demographic characteristics or personality features. The findings and analysis often refer to categories of people.
The present paper argues that there is much to be gained by examining cheating phenomena from a cultural perspective. Among others, this implies viewing people as members of groups. Categories are based on the sharing of a common trait (e.g., “students with low GPA”). They do not imply that members of a category interact nor that they attach meaning to their shared trait. Among members of a category there may develop relationships with psychological and social implications. In this case we have a group. In particular, we can talk of a cultural group when members tend to attach particular symbolic meanings to certain things or actions (e.g., cheating) and interpret experiences in similar ways on the basis of a more or less shared symbolic system.
In this paper I review studies that adopt to some degree a cultural approach. That is, studies in which a person’s (self-reported or observed) cheating behaviours and statements (e.g., about how acceptable cheating is) are correlated to their national, ethnic or generational background. Each individual is treated as member of a group and viewed as sharing a culture with the other members. The differences among individuals, e.g. about cheating, are correlated with differences in their cultural background, which is taken to shape or condition their behaviour and beliefs.
The review, originally carried out within the framework of a broader study, includes research published between 1993 and 2014. Studies that have adopted some form of cultural perspective (as defined above) may be grouped into three sets, focusing respectively on (a) organizational culture, (b) the concept of national culture and cultural difference and (d) the cultural gap between generations. Aims, methods and key findings from studies in each group are reported and commented.
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