Exploring the paradox: A cross-sectional study of academic dishonesty among Australian nursing students

Melanie Birks, John Smithson, Janene Antney, Lin Zhao, Camilla Burkot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Universities’ responsibility to ensure academic integrity is frustrated by software and communication tools that facilitate content reuse coupled with a growing international essay writing economy. A wide range of behaviours constitute academic dishonesty and while a complex phenomenon to examine, existing evidence suggests that there is sufficient proliferation (both in volume and variety) of these behaviours among Australian university students to warrant concern. This proliferation presents faculty and staff with new challenges in ensuring academic integrity. Objectives: This paper reports findings of a nationwide cross-sectional survey of 361 students enrolled in an Australian nursing degree program and describes the extent of academic dishonesty among those surveyed. Design: An online survey adapted from previous work was used to collect data on academic dishonesty, professional dishonesty and social desirability bias. Analysis of this data enabled identification of the prevalence of dishonesty, relationships between individual characteristics and dishonest behaviours, associations between academic and professional dishonesty, and the impact of deterrents to such behaviour. Results: Plagiarism was the most frequently reported form of academic misconduct. Most participants indicated that threat of severe punishment and signing of verification statements would deter undesirable academic behaviour. Despite this, a relatively high proportion of students reported engaging in at least one form of academic misconduct, the likelihood of which was higher among younger age groups. Of concern was that a correlation was found between academic and professional misconduct, the most common being the recording of inaccurate or fabricated vital signs and breaching client privacy. Conclusion: In health professional education, there is a tendency to assume that the nobility of these disciplines would result in a lower incidence of cheating behaviours. The findings of this study support existing literature that refutes this assumption. This study found troubling rates of academic and professional misconduct among the surveyed population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-101
Number of pages6
JournalNurse Education Today
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cheating
  • Education, nursing, baccalaureate
  • Plagiarism
  • Professional misconduct
  • Social desirability
  • Students, nursing

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