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Open Access Research article

Self-reported attitudes and behaviours of medical students in Pakistan regarding academic misconduct: a cross-sectional study

Kulsoom Ghias1*, Ghulam Rehmani Lakho2, Hamna Asim3, Iqbal Syed Azam4 and Sheikh Abdul Saeed5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, P. O. Box 3500, Karachi 74800, Pakistan

2 Department of Physiology, Rehman Medical College, Rehman Medical Institute, 4/A-3, Phase V, Hayatabad, Peshawar, Pakistan

3 Medical College, Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, P. O. Box 3500, Karachi, Pakistan

4 Department of Community Health Sciences, Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, P. O. Box 3500, Karachi, Pakistan

5 College of Medicine, Mail code 6556, National Guards Health Affairs, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University, Jeddah 21423, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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BMC Medical Ethics 2014, 15:43  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-15-43

Published: 29 May 2014

Abstract

Background

Honesty and integrity are key attributes of an ethically competent physician. However, academic misconduct, which includes but is not limited to plagiarism, cheating, and falsifying documentation, is common in medical colleges across the world. The purpose of this study is to describe differences in the self-reported attitudes and behaviours of medical students regarding academic misconduct depending on gender, year of study and type of medical institution in Pakistan.

Methods

A cross sectional study was conducted with medical students from one private and one public sector medical college. A pre-coded questionnaire about attitudes and behaviours regarding plagiarism, lying, cheating and falsifying documentation was completed anonymously by the students.

Results

A total of 465 medical students filled the questionnaire. 53% of private medical college students reported that they recognize copying an assignment verbatim and listing sources as references as wrong compared to 35% of public medical college students. 26% of private medical college students self-report this behaviour as compared to 42% of public medical college students. 22% of private versus 15% of public medical college students and 21% of students in clinical years compared to 17% in basic science years admit to submitting a fake medical certificate to justify an absence. 87% of students at a private medical college believe that cheating in an examination is wrong as compared to 66% of public medical college students and 24% self-report this behaviour in the former group as compared to 41% in the latter. 63% of clinical year students identify cheating as wrong compared to 89% of their junior colleagues. 71% of male versus 84% of female respondents believe that cheating is wrong and 42% of males compared to 23% of females admit to cheating.

Conclusions

There are significant differences in medical students’ attitudes and behaviours towards plagiarism, lying, cheating and stealing by gender, seniority status and type of institution. The ability to identify acts of academic misconduct does not deter students from engaging in the behaviour themselves, as evidenced by self-reporting.

Keywords:
Lying; Cheating; Stealing; Academic misconduct; Academic integrity; Medical students