Studies have found the frequency of student cheating to range from 13 percent to 95 percent of sampled populations. In a 1984 survey of 380 American undergraduate college students (Cite), 54 percent of the students admitted cheating during the previous six months. In 1989, Michaels and Miethe found that 85.7 percent of their sample of 623 undergraduate students reported they had cheated in college (Michaels and Miethe, 1989, pp. 870-871, 876). In 1992, McCabe surveyed 6,096 students at thirty-one American colleges to determine the influence of situational ethics on cheating and found that 67percent of the responding students indicated they cheated at least once as an undergraduate (Cite) A 1996 self-report survey of 102 undergraduate criminal justice students at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Cite) found that 51 percent of the respondents admitted cheating while enrolled in the criminal justice major.
There is disagreement on the frequency of cheating. Karlins et al. (Cite) analyzed log cheating behavior in the 1,374 students taking a management course during two target semesters. The results of the study found only three percent of the students cheated. Karlins et al. proposed that college cheating is typically overestimated when students are asked to assess their level of academic dishonesty in a questionnaire format. Another problem in estimating the frequency of cheating was mentioned in the Coston and Jenks (1996) study of criminal justice students. They found that acts defined as cheating by the university or by the researchers were not considered cheating by some students. They found that excluding the students who cheated solely on homework would decrease the total frequency of cheating.
College student cheaters are usually ordinary students who do not come to college with the intention of cheating, but at some point, they decide to break the law by cheating. What makes them start cheating and how do these otherwise law-abiding students justify their law breaking?