The need for ethical behavior in engineering professional practice has been demonstrated repeatedly over the years, and most, if not all, academic institutions provide opportunities for engineering students to learn about ethics and professional responsibility. While there has been some investigation of the effectiveness of these academic efforts on student learning of ethics, little attention has been paid to students’ ethical decision-making and behavior. The present study seeks to verify the use of a model of ethical decision-making to predict the tendency of engineering and humanities students to engage in cheating, an unethical behavior with which nearly all undergraduates are familiar. The study surveyed 527 randomly selected engineering and humanities undergraduate students from three academic institutions. Comparison between engineering and humanities students showed that engineering students were statistically more likely to cheat on tests and homework than humanities students, even when controlling for the number of tests or assignments. Hierarchical regression analysis confirmed that the hypothesized model could explain a considerable portion of the variance in students’ intention to cheat and in their actual behavior. The strongest predictor of behavior was an individual’s intention to cheat, as predicted by the model. In turn, the strongest predictors of intention were an individual’s attitude toward cheating, their sense of moral obligation to avoid cheating, and his/her perception of subjective norms pertaining to cheating. Past cheating was shown to be an important predictor variable for both intention and behavior.


Materials Science and Engineering

Publisher statement

Publisher website: http://www.asee.org.



URL: http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/mate_fac/53