Gender-Based Differences Among Pharmacy Students Involved in Academically Dishonest Behavior

Eric J. Ip, PharmD; Jai Pal, MS; Shadi Doroudgar, PharmD; Monica K. Bidwal, PharmD; Bijal Shah-Manek, PhD, B.Pharm


Am J Pharm Educ. 2018;82(4) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Objective. To determine whether differences based on gender exist among pharmacy students involved in cases of admitted cheating or other academic dishonesty and to assess perceptions of academic dishonesty.

Methods. Two cohorts of second-year male and female pharmacy students from four Northern California pharmacy programs were invited to complete a 45-item cross-sectional survey. Descriptive statistics and Pearson's chi-squared test were used for statistical analysis.

Results. There were 330 surveys completed with a 59% response rate. No significant gender-based differences were found regarding admitted cheating in pharmacy school and in regards to participating in various forms of academically dishonest behavior. Female students were more likely than male students to report witnessing a classmate copying another student's assignment. Male students were less likely than female students to perceive a student who distributed a stolen exam as a cheater.

Conclusion. No gender-based differences were noted in cases of admitted cheating or with regards to taking part in various forms of academically dishonest behavior. However, female students report witnessing cheating more than male students, and male students may have a more lenient perception toward academically dishonest behavior than female students. The information gathered from this study may provide further insight to pharmacy programs and educators regarding academic dishonesty at their institution.


Academic dishonesty has been reported in the literature from multiple health care disciplines.[1–7] Academic dishonesty is any form of cheating or dishonest behavior in an academic setting. It is especially concerning among health care professional students as such behaviors could lead to continued unethical acts after graduation, which may adversely affect patient care. Examples of academic dishonesty may include, but are not limited to, examination cheating, receiving or disclosing content of an oral or practical examination, copying another student's coursework, fabricating laboratory data, or plagiarism.[6,8,9] While academic dishonesty has been studied among various health care programs, limited data exists regarding potential gender differences, especially in professional pharmacy programs.

Few pharmacy studies have investigated gender differences concerning admitted cheating in pharmacy school, admission to performing various forms of academically dishonest behaviors, and perceptions of academic dishonesty. Regarding admitted cheating in doctoral-level pharmacy school programs, two studies did not show any significant differences between males and females.[10,11] Two studies analyzed differences in academically dishonest behaviors amongst male and female students.[10,12] Forinash and colleagues did not find any gender-based differences regarding examination cheating, group project cheating, laboratory assignment cheating, and plagiarism.[10] However, Henning and colleagues reported that males took part in more collusion (eg, observing but not reporting a student copying another student's exam, taking an exam for someone else, removing reference materials from the library to prevent access for others, resubmitting work from one course to another course, and not reporting a classmate who was under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs while on professional duty) than females.[12] One study analyzed perceptions of academically dishonest behaviors among male and female students in a bachelor of pharmacy program located in Australia.[13] Emmerton and colleagues, through the use of hypothetical scenarios, did not find any gender-based differences in perceptions of academically dishonest behaviors related to sharing details of an examination, copying another student's work, and plagiarism.[13] Additional investigation is warranted regarding gender-based differences in academic dishonesty and perceptions of academically dishonest behavior among US Doctor of Pharmacy students.

The purpose of this study is to determine whether differences in male and female students exist regarding admitted cheating in Doctor of Pharmacy programs, taking part in various forms of academically dishonest behavior, and perceptions of academically dishonest behavior.