More than half of undergraduate accounting students admitted to cheating, a proportion roughly comparable to that of other business majors, according to a newly released academic study.

The study, by David E. Morris of North Georgia College & State University, and Claire McCarty Kilian of the University of Wisconsin at River Falls, found that 54 percent of the accounting students they surveyed admitted to cheating, compared to 52 percent of business majors overall. They surveyed 569 undergraduate business majors, including 294 accounting majors, from seven universities in Georgia, Mississippi and Texas.

Despite the similarities with other business students, the researchers saw differences in the impact of dishonesty among accounting students. "The nature of an accountant's work requires that society place a great deal of trust in his or her professional character," they wrote. "Accounting educators have an obligation to find better ways to instill in students the need for them to act in the highest ethical manner."

The study found that 82 percent of the accounting students who cheated in college reported that they also cheated in high school. Accounting students also disagreed about what constituted dishonest behavior under some theoretical scenarios. Some students did not believe it was dishonest for a sick student who had been allowed a one-day reprieve from an exam to learn about the questions from a fellow student who took the exam. Others did not think it was dishonest for a student to receive co-writing credit for a paper that two other students actually produced.

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