Date of Submission


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice (Ph.D.)


Criminal Justice


David Myers, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Maria Tcherni-Buzzeo, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kevin Barnes-Ceeney, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Cathy Marcum, Ph.D.

LC Subject Headings

Cheating (Education), Education, Higher, College students, Web-based instruction, Rational choice theory


Academic dishonesty among college students has been an enduring issue within higher education. While prior research has explored this issue, the recent global pandemic has shifted collegiate demographics dramatically, particularly within online courses. As a result, previous findings may prove less applicable, warranting new research into student cheating within this current educational landscape. Given these new enrollment trends, this study investigated intentions to cheat in traditional and online class settings, and for criminal justice and non-criminal justice majors. Utilizing principles of rational choice theory, other factors related to academic misconduct also were explored.

For this study, original data were collected from one institution in the New England region of the United States. An online questionnaire was emailed to approximately 6,900 undergraduate and graduate students, resulting in 1,084 total submitted surveys. Using the email link, participants were assigned randomly to treatment and control groups based on course modalities. More precisely, 553 students responded to prompts related to cheating in traditional courses, while 531 students answered similar questions related to online courses. Using the obtained data, a series of univariate, bivariate, and multivariate statistical results were produced.

The results of the statistical models yielded numerous significant findings regarding influences on academic dishonesty among college students. Among these results, three findings were especially noteworthy. First, intentions to cheat appear relatively equivalent among traditional and online students. While certain distinctions were observed among online students, overall cheating behaviors were quite similar across the course groups. Second, criminal justice majors reported more concerning levels of academic misconduct than initially suspected. While cheating appeared similar across all academic majors, criminal justice students reported higher intentions to cheat in certain scenarios. Finally, perceptions of cheating benefits yielded the most consistently significant results among the rational choice variables. Overall, academic dishonesty was more likely to occur when such behaviors were perceived to positively affect a student’s academic, peer, and/or familial goals. This study reveals the significant factors influencing the likelihood of academic dishonesty, followed by a discussion of policy implications to remedy this issue and suggestions for future research.