Good friend or good student? An interview study of perceived conflicts between personal and academic integrity among students in three European countries

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Students are often reluctant to report the academic dishonesty of their peers. Loyalty to friends and classmates has previously been identified as an important reason for this. This paper explores loyalty conflicts among students from upper secondary school, through bachelor’s, to Ph.D. level. Drawing on semi-structured qualitative interviews (N = 72) conducted in Denmark, Ireland and Hungary, we show that loyalty considerations among students can be complex and draw on a range of norms including responsibility. The study demonstrates how students are often willing to assume substantial personal responsibility for dealing with the academic dishonesty of a peer, often preferring this to reporting. However, when deciding on the right course of action, they also perceive tensions between the norms of the good researcher and student and their own norms of being a good friend and person. The loyalty considerations and tension were identified in all three countries and across the educational levels, which suggests that this is a cross-cultural challenge. We argue that institutions should formally decide whether they want students to take some degree of responsibility themselves for addressing less serious cases of academic dishonesty and communicate their decision to their students.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAccountability in Research
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)247-264
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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