Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Undergraduate and Postgraduate Pharmacy Students' Perceptions of Plagiarism and Academic Honesty

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Undergraduate and Postgraduate Pharmacy Students' Perceptions of Plagiarism and Academic Honesty

Article excerpt


Behaviors and attitudes that are acquired by students during their pharmacy degree program lay an important foundation for their ongoing professional practice. Of particular relevance to this practice are those behaviors and attitudes associated with academic honesty and dishonesty. De Lambert et al define academic honesty as "the submission of work for assessment that has been produced by the student who will be awarded credit, and which demonstrates the student's knowledge and understanding of the content or processes being assessed." (1) The nature and extent of academic misconduct is still not well understood, however, and terminology seems to be a source of confusion for students, academic staff members, and policymakers alike. Plagiarism and cheating behaviors are often differentiated on the basis of intent, with "negligent" or "accidental" plagiarism (such as in-text citation problems) at one end of the continuum and dishonesty (such as cheating in examinations) at the other. (2,3) There is also disagreement about how best to respond to academic dishonesty. McCabe noted that "rather than investing in detection and punishment strategies [such as] reacting to an increasing number of faculty complaints by simply subscribing to a plagiarism detection service ... we would do better to view most instances of cheating as educational opportunities." (4) Strong institutional pressure to maintain the integrity of academic work is a crucial determinant of students' decisions not to plagiarize. A useful framework to represent the interrelationships among intent to plagiarize, and the extent of the plagiarism, together with suggested relevant primary focus of response, is shown in Figure 1. (2)

The existence of academic misconduct in universities, particularly in the form of plagiarism and cheating, is widely acknowledged, and its incidence is evident in a series of major studies conducted in universities in the United States and the United Kingdom. (1,4,5) For example, in Web surveys involving 40,000 undergraduate students on 68 campuses across the United States and Canada, 21% of respondents acknowledged at least 1 incident of serious test or examination cheating, and 51% acknowledged at least 1 incident of serious cheating on written work. (4) There is also evidence that modes of academic misconduct have changed in recent years. The growth of Web-based information, paper mills, cheat sites, and easily reformatted text has blurred the boundaries of intellectual property.


In Australia, a large study of 954 students explored a range of self-reported plagiarism and cheating behaviors across 12 faculties in 4 universities. (6) The authors found no link between the incidence of plagiarism and cheating and the provision of information on academic honesty policies to the students, a finding echoed in a small American study of students' behavior in an online unit of study. (7) However, reminding students of academic honesty policies immediately before examinations had an impact on the incidence of cheating behaviors. (8)

While academic misconduct seems to be widespread in all discipline areas, there is a perception that there is more of such behaviors in some disciplines than in others. Differences among disciplines were found, but other factors such as workload and type of assessment task would need to be investigated and could possibly contribute to such differences. (6) A study of 31 US undergraduate colleges found that students planning careers in business were most likely to indulge in academic misconduct. (9) Two studies found the highest incidences of cheating (10) and "potential plagiarism" (11) in science, engineering and technology courses. For first-year undergraduate science and engineering cohorts in Australia, common assessment tasks given in the first year (group work and examinations rather than written tasks) were possibly connected with the incidence of collusion and cheating. …

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