Can engagement in academic dishonesty be described as planned behaviour or lack of self-control?


  • Marcus Henning Senior Lecturer, Centre for Medical and Health Sciences Education, Private Bag 92019, University of Auckland, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
  • Phillipa Malpas Senior, Lecturer, Department of Psychological Medicine, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
  • Sanya Ram Senior Tutor, School of Pharmacy, Private Bag 92019, University of Auckland, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
  • Iain Doherty Senior Lecturer, Learning Technology Unit, Private Bag 92019, University of Auckland, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
  • Fiona Kelly Senior Lecturer, School of Pharmacy, Private Bag 92019, University of Auckland, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
  • Susan J. Hawken Senior, Lecturer, Department of Psychological Medicine, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand


Planned behavior, excuses, attitude, self-control, pharmacy and medical education, academic dishonesty


Background: Students‟ engagement in dishonest behaviours is problematic and may influence future professional practice. Aims: To consider the antecedents predicting engagement in academic dishonesty.
Methods: A total of 433 pharmacy and medical students participated in a survey measuring engagement in academic dishonesty, self deception, justification, and acceptability. Hierarchical linear regression and path analysis methods were conducted.
Results: Engagement in academic dishonesty was predicted by later years of study, justification, responses to a case scenario and notions of acceptability (R2 = 34%). An appropriately fitted path model showed that each explanatory variable correlated with engagement in academic dishonesty separately rather than being mediated by notions of acceptability.
Conclusion: It is likely that students are establishing different ethical frames of references when engaging in dishonest behaviours such as rational self-interest or Machiavellianism. The prevention of academic dishonesty and its intervention needs to consider individualised, group-based and institutional processes.


Aggarwal, R., Bates, I., Davies, J. G., & Khan, I. (2002) A study of academic dishonesty among students at two pharmacy schools. The Pharmaceutical Journal, 269(7219), 529-533.

Ajzen, I. (1991) The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 179-211.

Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding attitudes and predicting social behavior / Icek Ajzen, Martin Fishbein. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall.

Anderson, M. S., & Steneck, N. H. (2011) The problem of plagiarism. Urologic Oncology: Seminars and Original Investigations, 29(1), 90-94.

Arbuckle, J. (2009) Amos 18 user's guide. Chicago: SPSS Inc.

Bates, I., Davies, J., Murphy, C., & Bone, A. (2005) A multi-faculty exploration of academic dishonesty. Pharmacy Education, 5(1), 69- 76.

Bentler, P. M., & Bonett, D. G. (1980) Significance tests and goodness of fit in the analysis of covariance structures. Psychological bulletin, 88(3), 588-606.

Berry, C. M., Page, R. C., & Sackett, P. R. (2007) Effects of Self Deceptive Enhancement on Personality–Job Performance Relationships. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 15 (1), 94-109.

Bili -Zulle, L., Frkovi , V., Turk, T., Azman, J., & Petrovecki, M. (2005) Prevalence of plagiarism among medical students. Croatian Medical Journal, 46(1), 126.

Blankenship, K. L., & Whitley Jr, B. E. (2000). Relation of general deviance to academic dishonesty. Ethics & Behavior, 10(1), 1-12.

Bolin, A. U. (2004) Self-control, perceived opportunity, and attitudes as predictors of academic dishonesty. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 138(2), 101-114.

Chang, M. K. (1998) Predicting unethical behavior: a comparison of the theory of reasoned action and the theory of planned behavior. Journal of business ethics, 17(16), 1825-1834.

Coverdale, J., & Henning, M. A. (2000) An analysis of cheating behaviours during training by medical students. Medical Teacher, 22 (6), 582-586.

Ercegovac, Z., & Richardson, J. V. (2004) Academic dishonesty, plagiarism included, in the digital age: A literature review. College & Research Libraries, 65(4), 301-318.

Field, A. P. (2005) Discovering statistics using SPSS : And sex, drugs and rock‟n‟roll (2nd ed.). London: SAGE.

Granitz, N., & Loewy, D. (2007) Applying ethical theories: Interpreting and responding to student plagiarism. Journal of business ethics, 72(3), 293-306.

Guthrie, C. L. (2009) Plagiarism and Cheating: A Mixed Methods Study of Student Academic Dishonesty. Unpublished unpublished Master of Social Sciences, The University of Waikato, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Hardigan, P. C. (2004) First- and third-year pharmacy students' attitudes toward cheating behaviors. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 68(5), BK1-BK5.

Harries, R., & Rutter, P (2005). Cheating by pharmacy students: Perceptions, prevalence and comparisons. Pharmacy Education, 5 (1), 53-60.

Latif, D. A. (2000) The relationship between ethical dilemma discussion and moral development. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 64(2), 126-132.

Li, A., & Bagger, J. (2007) The Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding (BIDR). Educational and psychological measurement, 67(3), 525-544.

Marshall, S. J., & Garry, M. (2005) How well do students really understand plagiarism? Paper presented at the ASCILITE 2005 conference, Brisbane, Australia. Retrieved from http:// 52_ Marshall.pdf.

McDonald, R. P., & Ho, M. H. R. (2002) Principles and practice in reporting structural equation analyses. Psychological Methods, 7(1), 64-82.

Muhney, K. A., Gutmann, M. E., Schneiderman, E., DeWald, J. P., McCann, A., & Campbell, P. R. (2008) The prevalence of academic dishonesty in Texas dental hygiene programs. Journal of Dental Education, 72(11), 1247-1260.

Muijs, D. (2011) Doing quantitative research in education with SPSS. London: SAGE.

Ng, H. W. W., Davies, G., Bates, I., & Avellone, M. (2003) Academic Dishonesty Among Pharmacy Students. Pharmacy Education, 3(4), 261-269.

Pennington, H. (1996) Cheating among New Zealand university students. Paper presented at the New Zealand Psychological Society Conference. Retrieved from research/1996/res967.htm

Rabi, S. M., Patton, L. R., Fjortoft, N., & Zgarrick, D. P. (2006) Characteristics, prevalence, attitudes, and perceptions of academic dishonesty among pharmacy students. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 70(4), 73(71-78).

Rennie, S., & Rudland, J. (2003) Differences in medical students‟ attitudes to academic misconduct and reported behaviour across the years: A questionnaire study. Journal of Medical Ethics, 29(2), 97- 102.

Roig, M., & Caso, M. (2005) Lying and cheating: Fraudulent excuse making, cheating, and plagiarism. The Journal of Psychology, 139 (6), 485-494.

Shepherd, J. (2007) When plagiarism is academic. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Sheridan, J., Alany, R., & Brake, D. J. (2005) Pharmacy students' views and experiences of Turnitin an online tool for detecting academic dishonesty. Pharmacy Education, 5(4), 241-250.

Simkin, M. G., & McLeod, A. (2010) Why Do College Students Cheat? Journal of Business Ethics, 1-13.

University of Auckland. (n.d.). Academic honesty, cheating and plagiarism. Available from central/shared/about/teaching-and-learning/academic-honesty-and- plagiarism/about-academic-honesty/academic-honesty-brochure- final.pdf (Accessed 11th September 2011)



Research Article