Research Proposal

Academic Integrity Among Nursing Students

Researchers have identified a relationship connecting academic integrity in both the classroom and clinical setting among students enrolled in a Bachelor of Science Nursing program (Bultas, Schmuke, Davis, and Palmer, 2017). Acts of dishonesty among nursing students include the following; obtaining exam answers from students who previously took the exam, plagiarizing assignments, and falsely reporting findings in the clinical setting (Bultas et al., 2017). A lack of academic integrity poses a major threat to nursing students regarding their learning, teaching, and research skills (Birks, Smithson, Antney, Zhao, and Burkot, 2018). Nurse educators must uphold and promote the moral development of students, and the high moral standards of the nursing profession, all while fostering academic integrity (Woith, Jenkins, & Kerber, 2012). Research has shown that often times nursing students are unaware that they are participating in academic dishonesty, however, many are completely aware they are engaging in this offence (Hart & Morgan, 2010). Yu, Glanzer, Sriram, Johnson, and Moore (2017) state that although there is information relating to the issue of academic misconduct there is a lack of high-quality research making it difficult to draw conclusions as to why students will part take in cheating or plagiarism while knowing the potential consequences they may face. It is known that students often participate in acts of academic dishonesty because of the want or need to achieve higher grades on tests or assignments (Yu et al., 2017). Academic dishonesty has become a major concern for healthcare educators as they fear that those involved in academic cheating will extend their unethical behvaiour into the clinical setting following their graduation (Park, Park, and Jang, 2012). Academic integrity among nursing students is typically researched for the purpose of understanding the reasons why students will cheat or plagiarize either on assignments or tests despite knowing the consequences could end both their academic and professional careers (Moore and Gaviola, 2018).

Theoretical Framework

This descriptive research study specifically did not use a theoretical framework when gathering the qualitative data relevant to academic integrity among nursing students. A framework provides a general understanding of a phenomenon of interest while including significant factors relating to the topic (LoBiondo-Wood, Haber, Cameron, and Singh, 2013). It is important to recognize that a theoretical framework does not necessarily explain how factors relate to one another, therefore, if a research study does not include a theoretical framework it is not crucial to incorporate one (LoBiondo-Wood, Haber, Cameron, and Singh, 2013). A theoretical framework was not used in this in this study as the researcher determined that having a framework guide the study may cause further limitations in regards to the method and data collection used.

Problem Statement

It has become apparent that academic dishonesty is increasing among nursing students year after year, therefore, the issue of cheating and plagiarism is very prominent among universities and colleges all over the world (Lynch et al., 2017). There is a gap within the research relating to the specific reasoning as to why nursing students engage in academic dishonesty within the clinical and classroom setting. Therefore, the gap in the research formulates the problem of not having enough pertinent research specific to why nursing students participate in academic cheating fully aware that they are putting their future careers in jeopardy. This research study aims at solving this gap by asking nursing students, who have participated in academic honesty, to explain why they chose to cheat, plagiarize, or falsify data in either the classroom and clinical setting while knowing that if they are caught they could face expulsion from the nursing program. Students who choose to cheat in the classroom setting are more likely to falsify data in the clinical setting as well as in their future careers (Devine and Chin, 2017). Academic educators fear that nursing students who engage in cheating behaviours will continue to display unethical behaviours while in professional practice (Devine and Chin, 2017). If researchers were able to discover why nursing students choose to cheat or plagiarize there could be potential solutions on how professors could help their students become successful without feeling the need to cheat.

Research Purpose/ Questions 

The purpose of this qualitative descriptive study is to determine the reasoning behind nursing students choosing to cheat on or plagiarize their assignments and tests with the understanding that they may face major consequences for participating in this offence. A qualitative descriptive design was of most significance to this research study as it allowed the researcher to gain insight into how nursing students involved in academic cheating perceive their social realities and the potential consequences. This research study hopes to improve academic integrity among nursing students by seeking to understand why they choose to cheat on assignments and tests while finding strategies on how to overcome this problem. The question of study is “why do nursing students engage in academic dishonesty”? As this is a qualitative study some of the subquestions asked include a) Are these students aware they are plagiarizing? b) What are some consequences of academic dishonesty enforced by the school? c) What are some consequences of academic dishonesty in the professional/clinical setting? d) What are some solutions to academic integrity moving forward? This study will determine why students are participating in this unethical act and how academic educators can terminate this issue.

Design/ Methodology

The methodology used to guide this study is a descriptive research method. Descriptive research looks at analyzing key ideas that contribute to significant factors pertaining to a particular research study (Aquino, Lee, Spawn and Bishop-Royse, 2018). Using a survey where only general demographic questions are used to gather pertinent data allows for participants to involve themselves anonymously (Aquino et al., 2018). Researchers may use a descriptive method as it allows the gathering of pertinent data from an individual’s personal experience to coincide with the research topic at hand (Willis, Sullivan-Bolyai, Knafl and Cohen, 2016). In this case a descriptive research method was used as the study examines the variables that contribute to the reasoning behind nursing students participating in acts of academic dishonesty. A descriptive study allows for the researcher to observe and comprehend the reasoning behind participants’ behaviour and actions specifically relating to the research topic (Ott, Thomas and Fernando, 2018). A descriptive method was best suited for this research study as this method is best suited for describing the rationale behind why nursing students participate in academic cheating. This method allowed for the researcher to ask participants both why they participate in academic cheating and why they choose to do so when knowing that it could end their future nursing career. This research study aims at exploring the rationale behind nursing students agreeing to engage in academic deception.


This research study will take place in Sudbury, Ontario, specifically at Cambrian College. This location was deemed appropriate as there is a great lack of research pertaining to the topic of academic integrity in Canada (Gallant and Drinan, 2008). Often times the selected participants have either lived the experience or in some way have been exposed to an experience that the researcher is inquiring about (LoBiondo-Wood, Haber, Cameron, and Singh, 2013). The participants will complete the survey in an office at Cambrian College where the only individual present will be those participating in the study, specifically excluding the researcher. The researcher has hired two research assistants to set up the participants with a laptop where they will complete the survey using SurveyMonkey. This website allowed the researcher to create customizable questions specific to the topic of study. This setting provides students with a comfortable environment as their classes and other curricular activities take place in the building, ultimately providing a sense of familiarity.

In this study there will be approximately 40 nursing students recruited who will voluntarily participate in completing the surveys. Having 40 participants is appropriate for this study as small sample sizes decrease the risk for saturation (LoBiondo-Wood, Haber, Cameron, and Singh, 2013). Participants will be notified by email of the date the research study will be taking place at the college. Researchers must receive approval from the dean of Health Sciences at Cambrian College before the study begins. It is essential that all participants are properly informed by the researcher of the particulars of the study and must sign the consent form before participating. The researcher determined that purposive sampling was the best method to use as the researcher’s knowledge of the population would assist in determining which participants meet the criteria for this study (LoBiondo-Wood, Haber, Cameron, and Singh, 2013). Inclusion criteria for this study consisted of: participants must be enrolled in any year of the nursing program at Cambrian College and must identify that they have engaged in academic dishonesty. If participants who have never been involved in academic cheating choose to participate they will be asked a series of separate questions pertaining to their personal opinion as to why their fellow colleagues choose to engage in this offence. Exclusion criteria included: participants who are not currently enrolled in a nursing program, and nursing students from other college or university campuses. This sampling framework reflects the purpose of the research study as it will allow the researcher to realize the common themes as to why nursing students engage in academic dishonesty and why they continue to engage in this matter knowing the consequences they may face. This process will maintain ethical standards by protecting the confidentiality of the participants involved in this study. This study is meant to be unbiased as the researcher wishes to encourage the participants to be honest about their relationship with academic integrity.

Data Collection

Descriptive research methods provide researchers with the ability to analyze characteristics pertaining to nursing students and their decision to break ethical and moral policies within the nursing program (Kececi, Bulduk, Oruc, and Celik, 2011). The researcher will prepare a structured survey using SurveyMonkey that the participants will complete in a private office using provided laptops at Cambrian College. The participants will be asked to answer the questions by circling “yes” or “no” followed by the request to provide a rationale as to why they participated in such acts in either the classroom or clinical setting. By having the participants provide a rationale as to why the took part in academic cheating will allow the researcher to gather common themes and have more concrete data. Concrete data will allow for the researcher to draw a more accurate conclusion of the data collected, which could assist with potential solutions to decrease academic dishonesty. A survey allows participants to answer the questions without the feeling of being put on the spot (Ott, Thomas and Fernando, 2018). This survey will not ask personal identification questions, however, it will ask the students what year of the nursing program they are in.

Data Analysis

The goal of the data analysis to logically describe the methods and techniques used to evaluate the data. Analysis of a qualitative method requires detailed information about specific techniques used throughout the research study (LoBiondo-Wood, Haber, Cameron, and Singh, 2013). All of the stages in this analysis followed the seven step method for qualitative data analysis explained in the textbook written by LoBiondo-Wood, Haber, Cameron, and Singh (2013). The first stage of the data analysis includes typing all of the data received from the students who filled out the survey. The next stage includes identifying the thought process of the participants when they completed the survey. Thirdly, the researcher will go through each survey and look for similar characteristics in regards to reasoning behind academic dishonesty. Next, the researcher will separate each significant reason and group them based on similarity. Subsequently, the groups of similarities will be the primary focus of the study. The credibility of this research study is demonstrated through the accuracy of the data collected by using a survey method (LoBiondo-Wood, Haber, Cameron, and Singh, 2013). Having the participants complete a survey was seen as the most appropriate method for this study as it ensured confidentiality and an unbiased approach. By making the participants aware of the two factors above the researcher hoped that a survey approach would ensure more accurate data. Subsequently, audibility is shown in the study by the researcher informing the participants of what conclusions they have drawn from the survey’s completed (LoBiondo-Wood, Haber, Cameron, and Singh, 2013). For this study the researcher informed the participants that once the study is complete they will be allowed access to the researcher’s findings. Once the participants are made aware of the findings they may be able to provide the researcher with feedback in regards to potential solutions aimed at decreasing academic dishonesty. Fittingness is represented in this study as academic dishonesty is a major problem in nursing programs all around the world, therefore this study looks at providing reasoning behind this issue (LoBiondo-Wood, Haber, Cameron, and Singh, 2013). The hope is that this study will provide insight, to colleges and universities, as to why nursing students feel the need to cheat or plagiarize in order to be successful in the nursing program and why they do not fear the consequences when they participate in this act.


There were limitations acknowledged when conducting this study. One limitation identified for this study was the issue of a small sample size. It was difficult for the researcher to gather participants for this study as cheating and plagiarism are taken very seriously by administrative staff at the college, which could lead to students getting expelled from the nursing program. If the sample size is too small it can interfere with the adequacy of the research study (Sandelowski, 1995).  Another limitation the researcher faced was the decision to collect the data by using a survey method rather than an interview process. If a participant were to admit to falsifying clinical documentation the researcher would then have an obligation to report the student to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), where they could face serious consequences and potentially interfere with the attainment of their future licence. Conducting a survey can be problematic as students may be more likely to falsify their answers on paper rather than when questioned face to face. The goal of this research study is for nursing students to admit the reasoning behind their dishonesty in regards to their academics. It is crucial that the researcher identify these limitations while attempting to overcome the obstacles around these challenges.


When conducting a research study it is important for the researcher to remember that humans are vulnerable participants and it is important to discuss ethical boundaries for these types of studies (Munhall, 2012). In this study the researcher identified that all participants must sign a consent form stating they are aware of what is taking place during this study. It will also be made clear that no participants will be put in harm’s way. If at any point during the study a participant feels uncomfortable or no longer wishes to take part in the study they are free to dismiss themselves. The researcher will also make the participants aware that if they are to complete the survey their name will not be revealed and will remain anonymous. The researcher is aware that by the participants admitting to being involved in academic dishonesty are very vulnerable during this time therefore confidentiality is crucial. By ensuring the participants that the survey will be conducted anonymously it will allow for them to answer the questions more honestly, ultimately giving the researcher more accurate results. If any of the ethical standards have been broken during this study the researcher will need to further evaluate the dilemma and make a decision as to whether it is appropriate for the study to move forward. Once the individual has completed their survey there will be a box to submit their survey so that the researcher is unaware of who completed which survey.

This research study had the potential to help the academic community understand why nursing students choose to participate in academic dishonesty whether it be cheating, plagiarizing or falsifying data. It is important to understand why nursing students feel the need to involve themselves in such actions. After understanding their reasoning potential solutions can be put in place to minimize this issue. The participants in this study may feel uncomfortable admitting to their actions of academic dishonesty, however it is the researcher’s hope that all participants will answer honestly to ensure accurate results.


Aquino, E., Lee, Y.-M., Spawn, N., & Bishop-Royse, J. (2018). The impact of burnout on         doctorate nursing faculty’s intent to leave their academic position: A descriptive survey research design. Nurse Education Today, 69, 35–40.

Birks, M., Smithson, J., Antney, J., Zhao, L., & Burkot, C. (2018). Exploring the paradox: A cross-sectional study of academic dishonesty among Australian nursing students. Nurse Education Today, 65, 96–101.

Bultas, M. W., Schmuke, A. D., Davis, R. L., & Palmer, J. L. (2017). Crossing the “line”:        College students and academic integrity in nursing. Nurse Education Today, 56, 57–62.

Devine, C. A., & Chin, E. D. (2018). Integrity in nursing students: A concept analysis. Nurse    Education Today, 60, 133–138. 2017.10.005

Gallant, T., Drinan, P. (2008). Toward a Model of Academic Integrity Institutionalization: In forming Practice in Postsecondary Education. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 38(2), 25-43.

Hart L, & Morgan L. (2010). Academic Integrity in an Online Registered Nurse to Baccalaureate in Nursing Program. Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 41(11), 498–505.

Keçeci, A., Bulduk, S., Oruç, D., & Çelik, S. (2011). Academic dishonesty among nursing stu dents: A descriptive study. Nursing Ethics, 18(5), 725–733. 10.1177/0969733011408042

LoBiondo-Wood, G., Haber, J., Cameron, C., & Singh, M.D. (2013).  Nursing research in

Canada: Methods, critical appraisal, and utilization (3rd Edition). Toronto, Canada:


Lynch, J., Everett, B., Ramjan, L. M., Callins, R., Glew, P., & Salamonson, Y. (2017). Plagiarism in nursing education: an integrative review. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 26(19/20), 2845–2864.

Moore, H. A., & Gaviola, M. S. (2018). Engaging Nursing Students in a Culture of Integrity. Journal of Nursing Education, 57(4), 237–239. 10.3928/01484834-20180322-09

Munhall, P. (2012). Nursing Research: A Qualitative Study. Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Ott, V., Thomas, J. A., & Fernando, H. (2018). First-year success in a nursing baccalaureate plan of study: A descriptive research study. Nurse Education Today, 67, 108–113.    

Park, E.-J., Park, S., & Jang, I.-S. (2013). Academic cheating among nursing students. Nurse  Education Today, 33(4), 346–352. 2012.12.015

Sandelowski, M. (1995), Sample size in qualitative research. Res. Nurs. Health, 18: 179-183. doi:10.1002/nur.4770180211

Sutton, J., & Austin, Z. (2015). Qualitative Research: Data Collection, Analysis, and Manage ment. Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, 68(3), 226–231. Retrieved from http:// live

Willis, D. G., Sullivan-Bolyai, S., Knafl, K., & Cohen, M. Z. (2016). Distinguishing Features and Similarities Between Descriptive Phenomenological and Qualitative Description Re search. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 38(9), 1185–1204.                              

Woith, W., Jenkins, S. D., & Kerber, C. (2012). Perceptions of Academic Integrity Among   Nursing Students. Nursing Forum, 47(4), 253–259. 1744-6198.2012.00274.

Yu, H., Glanzer, P. L., Sriram, R., Johnson, B. R., & Moore, B. (2017). What Contributes to   College Students’ Cheating? A Study of Individual Factors. Ethics & Behavior, 27(5), 401–422.

Appendix A

Consent Form

Researcher: Lauren Davidson

Title of Study: Academic Integrity Among Nursing Students

Why is this study being conducted?

This study is being conducted to determine the reasoning behind nursing students choosing to cheat on or plagiarize their assignments and tests with the understanding that they may face major consequences for participating in this offence. By having nursing students participate in this survey it will allow the researcher to determine common themes behind why students engage in academic dishonesty. Educators will find this study useful when determining future solutions on how to make students feel they can succeed and do just as well without cheating or plagiarizing.

Your rights:

Participation in this study is voluntary. If you become uncomfortable or wish to withdraw from the study you may do so at any point. All of the surveys submitted will remain confidential and will not ask for your name at any point during this study.

What will be asked of you during this study:

You will be asked to complete an anonymous survey online with one of the laptops provided using the website SurveyMonkey. You will be asked a series of questions about academic dishonesty and will also be asked to provide a rationale for some of the questions.


Cambrian College

1400 Barry Downe Rd, Sudbury, ON P3A 3V8

Contact Information:

Lauren Davidson

705-123-4567 ext. 1234


I have read this form I understand my rights, and have been given the opportunity to ask any questions I have regarding the study I am set to participate in. If I have further questions I will contact the researcher using the email provided above. I have agreed to participate in the research study and will also receive a copy of this signed consent form.

_______________________________ ______________________________

Participant’s name (printed)            Participant’s signature




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s