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Academic Integrity Among Engineering Undergraduates: Seven Years Of Research By The E^3 Team

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Teaching Ethics

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.161.1 - 12.161.13



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Paper Authors

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Cynthia Finelli University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Trevor Harding California Polytechnic State University

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Donald Carpenter Lawrence Technological University

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Matthew Mayhew New York University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Academic Integrity among Engineering Undergraduates: Seven Years of Research by the E3 Team

The E3 Team (Exploring Ethical decision-making in Engineering) is a group of engineering educators and educational researchers who have worked collaboratively since 2000 to understand the underlying causes of academic dishonesty in engineering undergraduates. The team was especially motivated by decades of others’ work showing that, when surveyed, engineering students were among those most likely to report frequently cheating. This paper summarizes some of the team’s more important findings from three major studies that surveyed a total of 1300 undergraduates at eleven institutions. The paper also describes the next phase of the team’s research and presents implications of that work for engineering educators.


Academic dishonesty (i.e., cheating) is widespread in the United States. A 2006 report by the Josephson Institute for Ethics35, indicates that 60% of 34,000 students surveyed in high school admitted to cheating on an exam at least once in the previous year, and 35% did so two or more times. Academic dishonesty is also evident on college campuses, with upwards of 80% of undergraduates reporting that they have cheated at least once during college8, 10, 41, 42, 55. Although the percentage of undergraduate students who report having cheated during college has remained relatively consistent (from 82% in 19638 to 84% in 199342), participation in several specific types of cheating has increased over thirty years. For instance, the percentage of students who admits to collaborating on assignments has increased from 11% to 49%, and the percentage who admits to copying on examinations has increased from 26% to 52%.

It has been well documented that the rate of undergraduate cheating differs by college major4, 8, 9, 31, 33, 40, 44, 49, 52, 53 , and for the E3 Team, the pattern of cheating among engineering students is of particular interest. The findings in this regard are consistent, and they reflect those reported by McCabe40–the percentage of undergraduates who report engaging in any type of cheating is highest for those students enrolled in “vocationally-oriented majors such as business and engineering”: business (91%), engineering (82%), social sciences (73%), and natural sciences (71%).

Over the past seven years, the E3 Team has designed and completed several empirical studies to address its concerns about the high levels of cheating in engineering undergraduates. The work ranges from identifying factors that influence engineering students’ decisions about cheating to analyzing the relationships between this decision and unethical behavior in the workplace. Major findings from these studies are presented in this paper.

The PACES-1 Study

The E3 Team designed the Perceptions and Attitudes about Cheating among Engineering Students (PACES-1) Study to investigate general issues related to undergraduate cheating. The team conducted an extensive review of literature on the subject and developed the PACES-1 Survey primarily based on the work of two researchers16, 40. It is a seven-page instrument that

Finelli, C., & Harding, T., & Carpenter, D., & Mayhew, M. (2007, June), Academic Integrity Among Engineering Undergraduates: Seven Years Of Research By The E^3 Team Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2805

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