A qualitative, exploratory study of altruistic academic dishonesty : an honors thesis (HONRS 499)
Considerable survey researches on the topic of academic dishonesty, using widely differing parameters and measurements, have been conducted since the 1960s. Gender differences and committing an act of academic dishonesty for someone other than oneself (altruistic cheating) have been among the more frequently studied variables, although conclusions about both remain inconclusive.The purpose of this study was to explore underlying variables that might play an active role in how men and women handle requests from others for assistance in committing academic dishonesty. None of these variables had been previously considered. Four conditions were manipulated: relationship with the solicitor ("close friend" or "classmate"); active or passive compliance (doing the work for the solicitor or allowing the solicitor to copy previously completed work); seriousness of offense (small assignment or a term paper); and the solicitor's reason for needing assistance (tending to a sick mother or suffering from a hangover). A brief vignette was created to reflect the 16 possible combinations the four conditions. Undergraduate students (162 men and 201 women) responded to open-ended questions asking if they would comply with the request to assist another in an act of academic dishonesty and to describe the bases of their decisions. Responses were content analyzed, sorted into response categories, and tabulated.The results suggest a number of potentially fruitful directions that future research might take to better understand gender differences in altruistic cheating. Although men and women responded differently in some regards, both men and women would be more likely to help someone who is a close friend rather than someone described simply as a classmate. Both men and women would be more likely to help someone who aroused sympathy (caring for a sick mother) than one who brought suffering him or herself (hangover). Both men and women preferred to share previously completed work rather than create a new assignment for someone else. Both men and women were more likely to agree to help with a smaller assignment rather than a larger assignment. Findings also suggested that women were more likely than men to cheat because of the expectation of a return favor. Immorality of cheating was not a large deterrent for men or women. Other trends are presented.