Character Virtues and College Students: A Pilot Study
TWCF Number
Project Duration
March 15 / 2013
- March 14 / 2016
Core Funding Area
Character Virtue Development
North America
Amount Awarded
Grant DOI*

* A Grant DOI (digital object identifier) is a unique, open, global, persistent and machine-actionable identifier for a grant.

Byron R. Johnson
Institution Baylor University

Fifty years ago, William Bowers (1964) launched his seminal work on cheating behaviors among college students across the nation. He undertook a large-scale, multi-campus study of about 5,000 students in 99 colleges and universities. According to his findings, educational leaders greatly underestimated the magnitude of academic honesty violations among college students. He found that three-fourths of students admitted to at least one form of cheating and over half of students admitted to two forms (Bowers, 1964, p. 48).  Today, the percentage of students who report being engaged in academic dishonesty violations remains high. In a recent book reviewing the state of the literature on academic dishonesty, McCabe, Butterfield, and Treviño (2012) consistently found that more than two-thirds of college students report being involved in incidents of academic dishonesty (p. 71).

To better understand and address this problem, various scholars have undertaken a variety of studies of individual factors (e.g. age, gender, social class, ethically desirable traits, religiosity) and curricular as well as co-curricular contextual factors (e.g. honor code, peers’ behaviors, understanding and acceptance of integrity policy, faculty behavior and actions, etc.) that are linked with student dishonesty (for a thorough summary see McCabe et al., 2012). Despite this research, McCabe et al. (2012) noted in their review of individual factors, “Although we know quite a bit, we often don’t have enough high-quality research to make strong claims about such relationships. Clearly, more studies are needed” (p. 89). 

In light of this need, we are undertaking a national study of traditionally aged college students in partnership with Gallup®. For the quantitative portion of the study, we collected data from a national representative sample of 2,503 students. From the sample, Gallup® recruited 75 participants for the qualitative portion of the study.  In general, we are seeking to gain a greater understanding of individual and social factors that influence cheating.  In addition, we are exploring a promising new line of research that investigates the relationship between academic honesty and virtues such as self-control and life purpose.

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