It is important to understand what motivates students to cheat because having alternative solutions to the pressures that lead good students to be dishonest may be helpful as you work to encourage your students towards moral behavior. Below is a list of the most commonly expressed reasons for student cheating.

  1. Performance concerns

    • Need to excel at any cost
  2. External pressures

    • Academic
      • Semester workload too heavy
      • Others’ cheating puts me at disadvantage
      • Professor/text did not adequately explain material
      • Too many tests on one day
    • Nonacademic
      • Pressure from parents
      • Job leaves no time for study
      • Illness prevents adequate preparation
      • GPA for athletic qualification
      • Financial aid depends on GPA
      • Good grades needed for job or graduate school
  3. Unfair professors

    • Overly harsh grading
    • Unfair tests designed to fail students
    • Unreasonable workload in course
  4. Lack of effort

    • Did not attend class
    • Did not study, do reading, etc.
  5. Adherence to other loyalties

    • Helping a friend
    • Loyalty to a group (fraternity)
  6. All’s fair in love and academia

  7. Opportunity

    • Unexpected opportunity arose
    • Instructor left room during exam
    • Instructor wasn’t watching carefully
    • Other students didn’t cover their paper
  8. Campus ethos

    • Others do it
    • No one ever really gets punished/caught

Sources: Ann Lathrop and Kathleen Foss, Student Cheating and Plagiarism in the Internet Era.
Bernard Whitley, Jr. and Patricia Keith-Spiegel, Academic Dishonesty.