Why Do Students Cheat?

Students' six reasons

Learning to create academic work that aligns with academic integrity principles, and stepping back to acknowledge stressors that can provoke dishonest practices, can be troubling for instructors and students alike. The following six statements provide an accurate summary of reasons students offer when they’re asked to report - generally anonymously, on whether and how they cheat, plagiarize, or otherwise engage in actions that scholars and professionals would point to as instances of academic dishonesty or integrity “fails.”

The following pages provide examples of actions an instructor or student could take to address each of the six problem areas, while also pointing to resources that address what it means to create with integrity, demystify the process, and build requisite skills.

  1. I wasn't prepared, and I need the high grade
  2. I didn't know it was cheating
  3. I didn't think I'd get caught
  4. What I did wasn't really cheating
  5. None of this matters for my job in the real world
  6. Everyone cheats, so I have to do it to compete

Adapted from 6 Reasons Students Cheat...and how you can avoid them by Tory Peek and Why Students Cheat – And What to do About It by Kevin Yee from the University of South Florida. University of Minnesota teaching and learning consultants have adjusted some text and added UMN-specific resources.

Further Advice from Students & Teachers

  • Words from a student open Protecting Academic Integrity and set out the focus of this report: “A passing reference to academic integrity on the first day of class isn't sufficient. Reiteration highlights the importance of the topic. Initiate a short discussion or class e-mail on 'ways to avoid plagiarism' several weeks before a major paper is due.” Drawing on data and interviews, the report sets out strategies for incorporating integrity discussion throughout the term, for frankly discussing challenges and difficulties that students - even you as a student - have encountered and successfully navigated.
  • By mixing qualitative and quantitative data, the the Edutopia article on “Why Students Cheat” and research analysis providing “Insights on How and Why Students Cheat” pair to (1) convey - and personalize - the contexts and stresses that nudge students toward rationalizing chatting, and (2) provide strategies that help students overcome rationalization as part of reducing stress and increasing metacognition as part of our instructional efforts to reduce cheating.