When it comes to cheating, University of Arizona students seem a little schizophrenic.
A vast majority - 84 percent - think cheating is wrong and should be punished. Yet most have done it themselves at least once, a first-of-its-kind local survey has found.
From copying others' homework to getting test answers by text message, UA students use a mix of high- and low-tech methods to skirt the rules on academic integrity, said the study done by the office responsible for discouraging cheaters.
The local results mirror those at other U.S. universities, said Angela Baldasare, who worked on the UA research for the Division of Student Affairs.
The survey of more than 2,000 UA students and more than 600 instructors is an effort to find new ways to combat the problem.
"This is something that happens at every school, and we can't be afraid to talk about it," Baldasare said.
Survey participants answered questions last spring through an online setup that guaranteed anonymity.
Results still are being analyzed, but some trends are evident. Among them:
• Cheating on homework is the most prevalent form of academic dishonesty. Sixty percent said they'd given or received homework answers from other students, or got group help for what was supposed to be an individual assignment.
• Twenty-eight percent said they'd paraphrased text without crediting its source. These were the cheaters most likely to get caught, because of software that lets professors screen written assignments for plagiarism.
• Nineteen percent admitted cheating on exams by various methods. A smaller group, less than 10 percent, said they'd used a cellphone to do so by having answers texted to them.
• Fraternity and sorority members were more likely to cheat than nonmembers, though an exact percentage isn't yet available.
• Cheating was lowest among freshmen, needy students receiving financial aid, and those who are first in their families to attend a university.
UA officials were taken aback by some findings.
"We were somewhat surprised by the amount of cheating on homework assignments," said Kendal Washington White, senior associate dean of students.
The results will be used to support new anti-cheating measures, such as plagiarism workshops that spell out what is and isn't allowed and new student orientation sessions that stress academic integrity.
Baldasare said the extent of cheating historically has been hard to track. Professors can use their discretion to deal with it and often don't file formal reports.
Many opt to punish cheaters on a case-by-case basis, such as by giving a failing grade for a course.
From July 2009 to February 2011, 67 cheating cases were presented to college deans. Of those, 60 were upheld and seven overturned.