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Cheating In College And The Workplace: An Examination Of Engineering Undergraduates Ethical Behavior

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Engineering Education Research and Assessment I

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.301.1 - 10.301.12



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Paper Authors

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Donald Carpenter

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Trevor Harding

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

Cheating in College and the Workplace: An examination of engineering undergraduates’ ethical behavior

T.S. Harding, D.D. Carpenter and C.J.Finelli

Kettering University, Flint, MI / Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, MI / University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI


Research has demonstrated that engineering undergraduates report higher rates of cheating than those in other disciplines and that students who cheat in college are more likely to make unethical decisions as professionals. Therefore, better understanding the decision-making processes of engineering students and professionals who engage in dishonest behavior could lead to effective college-level interventions to cheating that have a positive impact on the ethical behavior of future professionals.

To explore the relationship between academic and professional ethical behavior, the authors launched the Work Experience Study (WES) that examines students’ decision-making in situations where they are tempted to engage in unethical behavior in academic and professional settings. This paper focuses on the interaction of several variables involved in this decision, including prior cheating, the perception of unethical behavior among one’s peers, the context of the unethical behavior and the frequency with which respondents are tempted to engage in unethical behavior.


For as long as tests and homework have been a part of higher education, students have been finding ways to cheat on these assessments. What has only more recently become apparent is that the extent to which individuals engage in cheating is dependent on the field of study of the individual. For example, Bowers [1] and McCabe [2] both showed that engineering students self-reported significantly higher rates of cheating than did students in other disciplines with the one exception of business. Explanations for elevated cheating among engineering students include higher work loads, the vocational orientation of the discipline, and the grade orientation of engineering students. However, the interaction of these and other explanatory factors is not understood, leaving faculty and academic institutions with little more than a trial-and-error approach to reducing cheating among engineering students.

Furthermore, recent research among professional disciplines has revealed a correlation between engagement in unethical behavior in college and engagement in unethical behavior in graduate school and/or professional practice [3,4]. This correlation may indicate causality between college cheating and professional dishonesty, in which a person who engages in academic

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Carpenter, D., & Harding, T., & Finelli, C. (2005, June), Cheating In College And The Workplace: An Examination Of Engineering Undergraduates Ethical Behavior Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15462

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