create new tag
, view all tags, tagging instructions
Return to Browse by

Return to RCR Case Studies

Please Comment on the Teaching Quality of the CASE


Please rate the CASE:

  • 5 stars = highest rating
  • 1 star = lowest rating
  • SCORE = average of all votes

Graph Rating
Score: 0, My vote: 0, Total votes: 0

EthicsCaseStudyForm edit

Title Handling a Case of Cheating
Long Title Handling a Case of Cheating
Contributor/Contact John Banja, PhD? (jbanja@emory.edu)
Contributor Details John Banja, PhD?
Director, Section on Ethics in Research
Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute
Emory University
Atlanta, GA 30322
CTSA Emory
Case Study Provided Some years ago, I was a teaching assistant in an upper level, undergraduate, biology course. I presided over the last lab of the year, and when it came time to grade the lab reports, I came across two papers that were strikingly similar. When I put them side by side, I could see that not every word was the same, but each sentence of every paragraph of either paper was virtually identical in meaning to the other. While students were not disallowed from studying together, their lab papers were not a group project. So, these virtually identical papers looked like a clear violation of the rules, i.e., "cheating."

I went to my faculty advisor who agreed with me that cheating doubtlessly occurred. What happened next surprised me. Without directly saying so but through rather vague phrases and overall demeanor, my advisor made it clear that carrying through on a disciplinary action would be extremely time consuming. She asked me what "type" of students these two were. I told her that they had done well all semester and that none of their other work appeared plagiarized. She gave me no explicit directive but advised me to "take everything into account" and then make my decision. There was no question in my mind that she would rather I take a softer approach to a disciplinary action.

I then set up a meeting with the students. They did not admit to cheating but did say they worked together. After talking with them and thinking about my supervisor's ambivalent response, I decided not to carry through with the punishment. I gave each a slightly lower grade and the matter, with the full endorsement of my advisor, stopped there.

My conscience has bothered me ever since. I'm not exactly sure why I took the easier course because I do believe my advisor would have backed me had I proceeded along the formal, disciplinary route. Or so I think. Nevertheless, instead of doing what I thought and felt was right and just, I caved in to my intuitions and maybe my fears. Am I wrong in placing some blame on my supervisor? I trusted that once her suspicions were confirmed, she would categorically endorse a disciplinary action against the students. But I was wrong. And to this day I regret that I went against my moral instincts and did something that was more convenient than just.

Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing and Ownership Topics No Data acquisition_management_sharing and ownership Topics
Mentor and Trainee Responsibilities Topics No mentor and trainee responsibilities topics
Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship Topics No publication practices and responsible authorship topics
Peer Review Topics No peer review topics
Collaborative Science Topics No collaborative science topics
Research Misconduct Topics
Significance of misconduct,
Responding to observed misconduct
Conflicts of Interest, Law and Policy Topics No conflicts of interest_law_and policy topics
Human Subjects No human subjects


RCR Keyword Research Misconduct, Plagiarism, Research Paper, Lab Notes, Students
Other RCR Keywords Biology Course; Cheating; Disciplinary Action; Faculty Advisor; Grade; Institutions Honor Code; Lab Papers ; Lab Reports; Plagiarized; Punishment; Teaching Assistant; Time Consuming; Two strikingly Similar Papers; Undergraduate
Type of Case

Source for Topic Areas Du Bois, J., & Dueker, J. (2009). Teaching and Assessing the Responsible Conduct of Research: A Delphi Consensus Panel Report. Journal of Research Administration, 40(1), 49-70.


Topic revision: r1 - 01 Nov 2011 - 19:31:31 - DebieSchilling
Copyright & by the contributing authors. All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
Ideas, requests, problems regarding CTSPedia? Send feedback