Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Larry H. Ebbers

Second Advisor

Stephen R. Porter


Academic misconduct among students has been the focus of a tremendous amount of literature for a number of decades (Crown & Spiller, 1998). However, academic misconduct among faculty has received much less empirical attention (Steneck, 2006). This research was designed to contribute to the literature by empirically examining the possible effects of rational and moral judgments on faculty research misconduct, with a focus on the social sciences. The purpose of the study was to explore the application of a particular theory of human behavior - Rational Choice Theory - to the phenomenon of misconduct in research and to do so in the context of the James Rest, et al., moral decision-making framework.

A national survey was conducted involving 2,070 faculty members in sociology and psychology departments from a random sample of research-intensive universities, which resulted in a survey sample of 581 respondents. The relationship between moral assessments and rational choice measures of the perceived likelihood of detection and sanctions was explored using scenarios involving clear or ambiguous research misconduct. Participants rated the likelihood they themselves would take the action described in the scenario under the same circumstances while also rating the moral and rational choice features of the situation.

Multiple regression was used to predict the effect of moral and rational choice assessments on the probability of engaging in misconduct. Results showed significant effects for moral judgment as well as potential shame and embarrassment on reducing misconduct, but not for likelihood of detection or external sanctions.


Copyright Owner

Anita M. Gordon



File Format


File Size

92 pages