Study finds honor codes deter cheating

By The Maroon Staff

(U-WIRE) STORRS, Connecticut – The symptoms: sore neck and strained eyes. The disease: chronic cheating. The cure: an honor code?

According to a series of surveys conducted between 1990 and 1999 by Duke University’s Center for Academic Integrity, honor codes rather than conduct codes, like those used by Universty of Connecticut, are more effective in reducing cheating.

The surveys involved more than 12,000 students on 48 different campuses and revealed serious test cheating on campuses with honor codes is typically one-third to one-half lower than on campuses that do not have honor codes.

At UConn, the steps taken by professors in large lecture classes and the warnings in the UConn student conduct code might not be enough to prevent cheating.

In many general education classes, such as Statistics 110V or Art History 137, professors take several measures to prevent cheating. They require students to present their UConn identification when turning in their tests, require students to sit one seat apart and hand out various versions of a test. But these measures aren’t always successful in preventing students from cheating.

Roger Travis, an assistant professor of classics, said he consistently observes cheating in his 300-person lecture. He said he has taken many common steps to prevent the “culture of cheating” in his class but recently has begun implementing a new tactic.

“I started doing something really heinous,” he said.

He recently had every other student stand up and move 10 seats down in order to break up clumps of people who may be inclined to cheat. Travis said cheating is detrimental to a learning environment.

“The whole thing demeans the process of education,” he said.

Travis said there needs to be more done to break down the sometimes “adversarial relationship between faculty and students.” He suggested something like an honor code could help the problem.

Cheating is not only a problem at UConn. According to a 1999 survey by Duke’s Center for Academic Integrity, more than 75 percent of students admitted to some type of cheating. The survey of 2,100 students was conducted on 21 campuses across the United States.

About one-third of the participating students admitted to serious test cheating and one-half admitted to one or more instances of serious cheating on written assignments.

The UConn student conduct code clearly outlines the importance of academic integrity. Professors often direct students to the Web address for the conduct code on their syllabi.

“A fundamental tenet of all educational institutions is academic honesty,” the code states.

According to the code, academic misconduct can include: providing or receiving assistance on a paper, project or exam; bribing or threatening faculty; or presenting the ideas or words of another as one’s own. The code also outlines the manner in which academic misconduct is handled.

“The appropriate academic consequence for serious offenses is generally considered to be failure in the course,” the code states. “For less serious offenses regarding small portions of the course work, failure for that portion is suggested with the requirement that the student repeat the work for no credit.”

The 1990 to 1999 surveys showed on campuses without honor codes, 20 to 25 percent of students admitted to chronic test cheating. On campuses with honor codes, typically less than 10 percent admitted to chronic test cheating.

The Center for Academic Integrity can be found on the Internet at