Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Rick Keaster (Director)

Degree Program

Department of Leadership, Foundations, and Human Resource Education (University of Louisville)



Wren Allen Mills

B.A., Western Kentucky University, 1996; M.A., Western Kentucky University, 1999; M.A.E, Western Kentucky University, 2004

A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Louisville and Graduate Studies and Research at Western Kentucky University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Leadership, Foundations, and Human Resource Education, University of Louisville and College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Western Kentucky University

Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


This dissertation examined cheating attitudes and behaviors of undergraduates, especially those enrolled in online courses. While cheating is an established problem within the academy, it is also an issue on the job and has been in the spotlight in recent years, with ethics scandals in corporate America and plagiarism in the media. With this in mind, and the foundational philosophy of the Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education (Bureau of Education, 1928) and the American Council on Education’s (1937) Student Personnel Point of View, this study sought insight into students’ attitudes about cheating behaviors and practices of them in online courses in comparison with students in face-to-face courses.

A unique study design enabled examination of these ideas. In this deception study, a convenience sample of participants in face-to-face and online general education courses consented to a study on testing formats in online learning. They answered 18 items querying background information, took a 10-question reading quiz over an original topic, and answered 49 items about attitudes toward cheating and cheating behaviors. To mimic the drive for a good grade and encourage participants to do their best, the researcher offered a chance at a $400 incentive to those who scored high on the quiz. On the quiz, participants could answer only 7 of the 10 open-ended questions using the materials provided: to answer the others, participants had to cheat by looking up the remaining 3 on the Internet. The questionnaire’s final item asked them to report if they had used outside sources on the quiz to check the accuracy of self-reported cheating.

While analysis via t-tests revealed no significant differences between face-to-face and online students in their attitudes toward learning, nor did Pearson’s r reveal any significant associations between online students’ background variables and cheating, the study did provide a rate of accuracy of self-reported cheating. Analysis of qualitative data gave insight into undergraduates’ ideas on what cheating is, how students might cheat, what causes cheating, and how educators and administrators might work to prevent academic dishonesty.


Curriculum and Instruction | Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Psychology | School Psychology