A tradition of honor

Gail DiSabatino Showghi, University of Pennsylvania


The purpose of this study was to examine the question, “What has occurred at two institutions of higher education related to academic integrity and can more be done to address the issue of cheating?” Many schools have implemented honor codes as a means of being proactive in addressing academic misconduct. Current literature suggests that schools with honor codes have less incidence of cheating. (Bowers 1964; May 1993; McCabe 2000; McCabe 2001; McCabe and Trevino 2002; McCabe, Trevino et al. 2002). However, as many institutions discover, an honor code may not be enough. The specific research questions for the study were: (1) How does the university address issues of academic integrity? What policies and practices exist? Has the university faced any critical incidents over the past five years around issues of academic integrity? If so, what were they, what happened, and how were the issues addressed or resolved? (2) According to students, faculty and administrators at each institution, what exists in the campus culture that prevents or promotes cheating among students? Are these views similar or disparate? (3) What are the messages that students hear about cheating at the institutions? From peers? From faculty? From academic and student affairs administrators? Are the messages the same from each group? Are they clear? (4) What more might these institutions do to try to prevent cheating? Two universities with a long tradition of an honor code participated. The qualitative research methods that I used were document review, interviews and focus groups. I analyzed written documents from each institution. Interviews were conducted with presidents, provosts, college deans, department chairs, a student affairs staff person, and three to four faculty members. Five to nine student leaders of campus organizations participated in a focus group on each campus. Findings show that a tradition of an honor code alone is inadequate for aggressively addressing cheating. Faculty buy-in and use of the system is essential, yet difficult to attain. Campus-wide collaborations with strong presidential leadership and on-going assessment of attitudes and behaviors of students and faculty are necessary in order for an honor code to be effective.

Subject Area

Higher education

Recommended Citation

DiSabatino Showghi, Gail, "A tradition of honor" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3137313.