Document Type



Biological and Biomedical Sciences


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.

Publication (Name of Journal)

BMC Medical Ethics

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.