Ethnicity, Acculturation, and Plagiarism: A Criterion Study of Unethical Academic Conduct

Article excerpt

Ethics have received increased attention from the media and academia in recent years. Most reports suggest that one form of unethical conduct-plagiarism-is on the rise in the business schools. Stereotypes of Asian students as being more prone to plagiarize are frequently found in the literature, though not concretely substantiated. This study used a behavioral criterion to examine the relationships among ethnicity, acculturation, and plagiarism in a sample of 158 undergraduate and graduate students. Significant differences in plagiarism behavior were found based on level of student acculturation, but not ethnicity. Considerations and implications for training and managing international students and workers are discussed.

Key words: Ethics, plagiarism, acculturation, ethnicity, criterion study


Given the growing media attention business ethics have received in recent years, a substantial push towards incorporating ethics courses and standards into the business education curriculum has occurred internationally. More specifically, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) has included a requirement for business schools to include ethics components (if not courses) in curriculum to attain or receive continuing accreditation from this certifying body (Griffith 2006). While the question as to whether ethics can be learned at the undergraduate or the graduate level of education has yet to be answered, ethics classes have become standard in business schools.

Academic dishonesty comes in different forms, including providing another individual with answers to a test, providing copies of past exams and assignments to current students, or looking over another student's shoulder during a test to copy an answer. Plagiarism is a form of unethical behavior familiar to educators, administrators, and students that seems rampant in academia today. The Merriam- Webster Online Dictionary (2006) has defined plagiarism as follows: "to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source."

In the global arena, we find that ethics have an even greater relevance in both education and industry. Students, professors, and managers struggle to reconcile cultural differences and understand why they occur. In this study, we examine the relationships between ethnicity, acculturation, and plagiarism among university students. Our goal is to determine whether there are differences in the amount of plagiarism across ethnic groups and whether students' acculturation to western educational cultural norms affects their behavior. This study improves on prior research regarding plagiarism that has been based on self-report data by using a strong criterion variable - actual plagiarism by students. This study has implications for professors and those interacting with different ethnic groups and seeks to modify their behavior to create uniform codes of ethics, as well as programs that prepare students for study overseas.

Literature Review

Causes of Plagiarism

Prior researchers (Council of Writing Program Administrators, 2003 ; Whitley 1 998) have identified many potential reasons for plagiarizing. For example, students may not be confident of their writing skills, they may lack sufficient time to execute assignments, they may have a positive attitude towards cheating, they might anticipate rewards from success, or they may be ignorant of how to properly cite others' work. The cost of plagiarism is high because it turns professors into policing agents, ultimately costing time and effort that does not benefit the learning environment and misrepresents abusers' personal abilities (Hannabuss 2001). Research has suggested that while students understand that cheating is unethical and are exposed to the consequences of cheating in their academic careers, most acknowledge cheating at some point while in school (Davis et al. 1992). …