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Ethics & Behavior

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Toward an Analytical Model of Ethical Decision

Making in Plagiarism
Gervas K. K. Lau , Allan H. K. Yuen & Jae Park
To cite this article: Gervas K. K. Lau , Allan H. K. Yuen & Jae Park (2013) Toward an Analytical
Model of Ethical Decision Making in Plagiarism, Ethics & Behavior, 23:5, 360-377, DOI:
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Accepted author version posted online: 28

Mar 2013.

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Date: 12 April 2016, At: 08:47

ETHICS & BEHAVIOR, 23(5), 360377

Copyright 2013 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1050-8422 print / 1532-7019 online
DOI: 10.1080/10508422.2013.787360

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Toward an Analytical Model of Ethical Decision Making

in Plagiarism
Gervas K. K. Lau and Allan H. K. Yuen
Faculty of Education
The University of Hong Kong

Jae Park
Department of International Education and Lifelong Learning
The Hong Kong Institute of Education

Plagiarism by students is a common and worldwide phenomenon with a significant impact on our
society. Numerous studies on the pervasive nature of plagiarism among students have focused on
the behavioral aspects of plagiarism and how to prevent it. Based on an empirical study of a sample
of 463 eighth graders in Hong Kong, this article offers an analytical model to understand the ethical decision-making process in plagiarism among students. Using this model, students plagiaristic
behavior can be analyzed in terms of their moral judgment, moral intensity, and perceived risks.
Keywords: plagiarism, ethical decision, analytical model

Plagiarism is a common and worldwide ethical problem, especially among students. It is possible that literary plagiarism existed as early as in the 16th century, when writers were almost
encouraged to draw from others works (Hansen, 2003; Mallon, 1989). By the early 19th century, written papers over oral examination became the preferred practice in student assessment
(Simmons, 1999). Plagiarism became an issue for colleges and universities in the 1890s (Hansen,
Plagiarism is likely to parallel advances in technology, particularly the massive access to the
Internet that makes plagiarism easier, more serious, and less expensive than ever before (Wood,
2004). It could be said that students in the past had fewer technological facilities with which
to plagiarize. Contemporary students find it easier to plagiarizewith a keyword search on the
World Wide Web, they can access millions of related entries and, with another click for a cut
and paste, they can appropriate the desired text as their own intellectual work without leaving
their seats (Hansen, 2003). Not surprisingly, Internet plagiarism has become a subject of concern
all over the world. Sisti (2007) reported that 98% of his American high school students surveyed
used the Internet as a tool to do their assignments, and about 35% of them just copied the content
from the Internet into their assignments without any citation.
Correspondence should be addressed to Gervas K. K. Lau, Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong,
Pokfulam, Hong Kong. E-mail:

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It has been reported that many students recognize that plagiarism is wrong and often admit
their own involvement in such acts. Scanlon and Neumann (2002) found that 24.5% of their
sampled college students self-reported that they plagiarized online very frequently, although 89%
of the same group knew that it was wrong. Comparable results were reported by Rimer (2003),
who found that 38% of her surveyed undergraduate students were engaged in cut-and-paste plagiarism at least once a year. However, of interest, almost half of them considered their acts trivial
or not cheating at all. Many students consider the Internet as a free zone and its materials as
having no legal proprietary rights (Sutherland-Smith, 2005). Furthermore, some students who
know that the cut-and-paste type of plagiarism is wrong tend to argue or even justify to themselves that it is not cheating (Hansen, 2003). Cheating and plagiarizing appear to be so widely
accepted by students that the byword has changed from Dont cheat or plagiarize to Dont get
caught (Lathrop & Foss, 2000, p.33).
A score of studies have explored the pervasive nature of plagiarism among students (e.g., Love
& Simmons, 1998; Marsden, Carroll, & Neill, 2005; Thomas, 2004; Whitley, 1998). Most of the
related researches have tried to identify and examine the various factors influencing plagiaristic
behavior, such as peer culture, lack of punishment, and pressure for achievement (Ma, Wan, & Lu,
2008). This research offers an analytical model to understand junior secondary school students
(Grades 79) ethical decision making in plagiarism by categorizing their moral reasoning into
moral judgment, moral intensity, and perceived risks.

The word plagiarism derives from the Latin plagiarius meaning kidnapper (Gibaldi, 2009). Its
Latin root plagiare means to kidnap, and to many of those who have seen their words or ideas
thus appropriated, there is that feeling that their child has indeed been stolen (Sharkey & Culp,
2005, p. 104). The etymology of plagiarism reveals two kinds of wrongs. One is the intellectual
theft of anothers words or ideas without proper attribution, regardless of format. The other is
passing off anothers words or ideas as ones own in order to obtain some benefits for oneself
(Gibaldi, 2009).
Plagiarism is a type of academic dishonesty (Phillips & Horton, 2000), ranging from very
subtle forms such as insufficient paraphrasing of the original text to blatant cases such as copying the entirety of others work (Marsden et al., 2005; Roig, 1997). Hacker and Sommers (2011)
explained in their college handbook of composition that any one of the following three acts can be
considered as plagiarism: (1) failing to cite quotations and borrowed ideas, (2) failing to enclose
borrowed language in quotation marks, and (3) failing to put summaries and paraphrases in your
own words (p. 376). With respect to assignment submission, plagiarising can involve either submitting an identical or nearly identical assignment to that of another student through unpermitted
collaboration (McCabe & Cole, 1995, p. 3) or inappropriate collaboration (Student Advocacy,
The University of Manitoba, n.d.), especially in courses encouraging collaborative learning, or
submitting a paper wholly authored by others (e.g., peers and senior students), or even purchased.
This is related to the advent of the Internet technology with an explosive increase in the number
of online paper mills (Campbell, Swift, & Denton, 2000; Groark, Oblinger, & Choa, 2001).
Plagiarism mediated by the Internet is currently termed cybercheating (Stebelman, 1998),
cyberplagiarism (Anderson, 1999), cyber-sloth (Carnie, 2001), digital plagiarism (Barrie,

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2003), and mouse click plagiarism (Auer & Krupar, 2001). McCabe (2005) highlighted the
growing problem of Internet plagiarism. Only 10% of students admitted to Internet plagiarism by
cut and paste in 1999, but such percentage was increased to nearly 40% over a 3-year period from
2002 to 2004. In addition to the easy access to and copying of Internet materials, one of the major
concerns about Internet plagiarism is the students perception of web-based resources. McCabe
claimed, We are raising a generation of students who think anything thats on the Internet is free
(as cited in Clayton, 1997, p.1). Nowadays, digital information is widely transmitted via various
media, but often without any authorship. This phenomenon could have led to a number of high
school students believing that such information is a kind of public knowledge (Taylor, Usick, &
Paterson, 2004, p. 155), and crediting the source of information has not been clearly compulsory
even in verbatim cases (McCabe, 2001). Wood (2004) further elaborated the common belief of
students that all information on the Internet is equal, truthful, and has the same valuefree and
available (p. 238), and students do not analyze critically such information.
To gain a better understanding of student plagiarism in the use of printed resources and the
Internet, Scanlon and Neumann (2002) conducted a self-reporting survey among college students
to obtain data for a comparison between the two types of plagiarism. The students were asked the
likelihood of their engaging in conventional plagiarism and Internet plagiarism, such as copying
text without proper citation using printed sources and online sources. The results showed only
a small difference between the two types of plagiarism. For instance, 28.6% and 24.5% of the
college students reported that they had copied text without citation from printed sources and the
Internet respectively (Scanlon & Neumann, 2002, p. 379). Nevertheless, the report indicated a
significant difference between the students own self-reporting plagiarising activities and their
perceptions of others actions. For example, 3.1% of students reported that they often/very frequently copied papers without citation from the Internet, but they believed 28.0% of others would
do the same thing (Scanlon & Neumann, 2002, p. 379).
Stephens, Young, and Calabrese (2007) also conducted a similar survey among 1,305 undergraduate students in two universities. The results indicated that students used conventional means
more often than digital means on copying homework. On the contrary, they preferred using digital
means to conventional means in plagiarizing sentences. 61.8% of students reported no plagiarising sentences of any kind, 8.6% reported using only conventional means, 7.4% reported using
only digital means, and 24.7% reported using both means.
As a social problem, plagiarism has been considered as an ethical-behavioral and a legal issue
by researchers. Scanlon argued that plagiarism is not a technological problemits a problem
that has to do with ethical behavior (as cited in Hansen, 2003, p. 791). A consensus exist with
regard to moral or ethical offense of plagiarism but whether it is totally illegal has been argued
both against (Garner, 2009; Gibaldi, 2009; Goldstein, 2003) and in favor (Vogelsang, 1997).
In this research article, we treat plagiarism as an ethical problem, which calls for moral reasoning and ethical decision making by junior secondary students (Grades 79). We put forward
a novel analytical model for such ethical decision making. The following section offers a review
of existing models.

Several models had been proposed for individuals ethical decision making in the past three
decades. Some models suggested guidelines for ethical decision making. For example, Eberlein

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(1987), Tymchuk (1986), and Keith-Spiegel and Koocher (1985), proposed problem-solving
models for personal ethical decision-making processes. A common pattern of such models
involved understanding of ethical principles, analysis, choice of action, and evaluation (Eberlein,
1987, p. 356). Sileo and Kopala (1993) went as far as to suggest the use of worksheet to enhance
ethical decision-making process. They used the mnemonic device of A (assessment), B (benefit),
C (consequences and consultation), D (duty), and E (education) to help in memorizing key aspects
of any ethical decision. Kiehl (2006) successfully applied this mnemonic device for developing
nursing students ethical decision making on plagiarism.
There were also a number of models developed for describing peoples ethical decisionmaking process. Kohlberg (1976) pioneered this field with his view that moral reasoning is
essential for ethical decision making. Rest (1986) proposed a four-component model based on
Kohlbergs moral development theory and attempted to model individual ethical decision and
behavior. This was the basis for the models of Trevino (1986) and Jones (1991), who proposed
the person-situation interactionist model and the issue-contingent model respectively. The most
complex model is the behavioral model developed by Bommer, Gratto, Gravander, and Tuttle
(1987), which included a number of factors affecting ethical and unethical behavior of individuals in organizations including individual attributes, his or her personal, social, work, professional,
government, and legal environments. Other models have been developed in various fields, particularly in marketing, such as Ferrell and Greshams (1985) contingency framework, and Dubinsky
and Lokens (1989) ethical decision-making model based on Fishbein and Ajzens (1975) theory
of reasoned action.
However, far fewer ethical decision-making models account for the phenomenon of plagiarism
exclusively. Harding, Mayhew, Finelli, and Carpenter (2007) followed Ajzens (1991) theory of
planned behavior and developed a model for describing the decision-making process on undergraduate students cheating intention and its subsequent behavior. The model demonstrated how
moral constructs and the demographic variables, such as gender and high school cheating experiences, are related to students cheating intention, attitudes toward cheating, moral perceptions on
cheating, and their cheating behaviors.
In addition, among remotely related works, Eining and Christensen (1991) also followed
Ajzen and Fishbeins (1977) framework and developed a model to conceptualize the factors
of unethical behaviors in software piracy. This model identified five behavioral factors: attitude toward computers, material consequences, normative expectations, sociolegal attitudes
and beliefs, and effective factors. Simpson, Banerjee, and Simpson (1994) enhanced Eining
and Christensens (1991) model with Ferrell and Greshams (1985) contingency framework
and proposed their own ethical decision-making process model in software piracy. It included
five factors in the ethical decision-making process: the stimulus to act, sociocultural factors, legal factors, personal factors, and situation factors. Peace, Galletta, and Thong (2003)
also proposed another model in the same field of software piracy based on previous models with reference to the theory of planned behavior, expected utility theory, and deterrence
theory. Furthermore, Tan (2002) developed an issue-risk-judgment (IRJ) model of ethical
decision making mainly based on Joness (1991) issue-contingent model. This model suggested that the ethical decision making of an individual is dependent on three factors: moral
judgment, moral intensity, and perceived risks. Despite the fact that this latter model was developed in the field of software piracy, Tans IRJ model is of special relevance for the present



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The aim of the present research was to propose an analytical model for the ethical behavior of
junior secondary school students (Grades 79) in plagiarism. Our proposed model adapted Tans
(2002) IRJ model for software piracy with a number of modifications relevant to our study. Our
model, which is shown in Figure 1, is an analytical tool to understand better the ethical decisionmaking process in plagiaristic behavior (Appendix: items B1, B2, and B3) by observing junior
secondary school students (Grades 79) moral judgment, moral intensity and perceived risks.
These three factors are further explained in the following three subsections.
Moral Judgment
The four-component model by Rest (1986) articulated four psychological processes that are common to all moral acts: recognizing a moral issue, making a moral judgment, establishing moral
intent, and engaging in moral behavior. Recognizing moral issues refers to the initial stage, in
which an individual becomes aware of a moral issue (Rest, 1986). If an individual fails to recognize a moral issue, he or she will be unable to apply any moral schemata in making a decision.
In the second stage of making a moral judgment, the individual should be able to justify which
courses of actions are morally correct and which are morally incorrect (Rest, 1986). In the third
stage, the individual establishes moral intent. In this stage, the individual should assign priority to the action with higher moral values (Rest, 1986). It is commonly agreed that moral intent
has a high correlation with behavior (Dubinsky & Loken, 1989; Hunt & Vitell, 1986; Jones,
1991). Thus, in the last stage, the individual should have sufficient perseverance, ego strength,
and implementation skills to be able to make the decision and behave accordingly (Rest, 1986).

Internet Plagiarism



Ordinary Plagiarism
Social Consensus


Probability of Effect







Performance Risk


Prosecution Risk



Social Risk
FIGURE 1 Proposed model of ethical decision making on plagiarism
modified from Tan (2002).



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Tan (2002) simplified Rests model to examine how the moral judgment of an individual
affects his or her intention prior to decision making as well as his or her perception after
performed acts. Instead of Tans prefacto and postfacto dual categories, the present research categorizes moral judgment into two kinds according to the source of plagiarized material from the
Internet (Appendix: Item J2) and other ordinary sources (Appendix: Item J1). We posited the
following hypotheses:
H1: Students moral judgment is related to their plagiaristic behavior.
H1a: Students moral judgment is related to their cognitive judgment concerning Internet plagiarism.
H1b: Students moral judgment is related to their cognitive judgment concerning ordinary plagiarism.

Moral Intensity
Jones (1991) supplemented Rests model and developed the issue-contingent model by introducing the concept of moral intensity, which is a construct that captures the extent of issue-related
moral imperative in a situation (p. 372). Jones described this multidimensional construct as consisting of at least six components: magnitude of consequences, social consensus, probability of
effect, temporal immediacy, proximity, and concentration of effect. Tan (2002) adopted the first
four constructs in his model, but we instead adopted the following three components for our
1. Social consensus: the degree of social agreement that a proposed act is evil (or good)
(Jones, 1991, p. 375). From this standpoint, we ask the students whether plagiarism is a
commonly acceptable practice among their peers. If so, it is difficult for the students to
act ethically and not to plagiarize (Appendix: Item I1).
2. Probability of effect: a joint function of the probability that the act in question will actually take place and the act in question will actually cause the harm (or benefit) predicted
(Jones, 1991, p. 375). We aim at knowing whether they view plagiarism is an effective
means in saving time and obtaining good results (Appendix: Item I2).
3. Proximity: the feeling of nearness (social, cultural, psychological, or physical) that the
moral agent has for victims (beneficiaries) of the evil (beneficial) act in question (Jones,
1991, p. 376). People always care more for others who are close to them than those who
are distant. The victim of a students plagiarism may be either the author of the original
text, who is distant from the student, or a classmate who gets a lower grade due to the
students plagiarism. This component aims at knowing whether the students are aware of
the existence of distinct victims (Appendix: Item I3).
Tan (2002) also employed magnitude of consequences and temporal immediacy in his model,
but we did not incorporate them into our model. Magnitude of consequences refers to the sum
of the harms (or benefits) done to victims (or beneficiaries) of the moral act in question (Jones,
1991, p. 374). Temporal immediacy refers to the length of time between the present and the onset
of consequences of the moral act in question (shorter length of time implies greater immediacy)
(Jones, 1991, p. 376). Given the unique context of education and our research participants, these
two components were negligible.
Based on these arguments, we posited the following hypotheses:



Students moral intensity is related to their plagiaristic behavior.

Students social consensus affects the moral intensity in plagiarism.
The probability of effect affects the moral intensity in plagiarism.
The proximity affects the moral intensity in plagiarism.

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Perceived Risks
The idea of perceived risk was first introduced by Bauer (as cited in Tan, 2002, p. 97). Although
it was primarily developed for studying customer behavior, Rettig and Rawson (1963) found that
it was an important factor in inhibiting unethical behavior. For example, Grasmick and Bryjak
(1980) stated that peoples intention in committing unethical behavior is mainly affected by the
likelihood of being arrested and the resulting punishment. McCarthy and Hagan (2005) further
explained with similar idea with differential reinforcement theory that people would assess the
danger of an act, especially criminal act, before committing it. If the act is perceived to have a
higher level of danger, such as being arrested or even shot, than the potential benefit, the act will
have a lower chance to be committed.
Tan (2002) modified the aspects of risks summarized by Fraedrich and Ferrell (1992) and
included four aspects in the model: financial risk, performance risk, prosecution risk, and social
risk. We excluded financial risk from our plagiarism model, as high school students seldom pay
others for doing their assignments, or buy them from paper mills (Park, 2003). Thus, our model
included the following components:
1. Performance risk: the probability that there will be something wrong with the product
or service purchased (Fraedrich & Ferrell, 1992, p. 286). In plagiarizing, the students
may risk the quality of the copied text and a negative impact on their study (Appendix:
item R1).
2. Prosecution risk: the probability that the acquisition a product or service would subject
the consumer to legal prosecution (Tan, 2002, p. 100). Plagiarising students may risk the
possibility of punishment from teachers or school after being caught (Appendix: Item R2).
3. Social risk: the probability that a product or service will affect the way others think of
the individual (Fraedrich & Ferrell, 1992, p. 286). It depends on whether the discovered
plagiarism will be detrimental to students social image (Appendix: Item R3).
As a result, we posited the following according to the perceived risks:

Perceived risk is related to a students plagiaristic behavior.

Performance risk is a kind of perceived risk in plagiarism among students.
Prosecution risk is a kind of perceived risk in plagiarism among students.
Social risk is a kind of perceived risk in plagiarism among students.

The participants in this empirical study were Hong Kong Secondary 2 (Grade 8) students in the
2011/2012 academic year, in which the schools were implementing local curriculum. As the
students were divided into three levels (high, middle, and low) according to their academic

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achievement in primary education, the three schools were carefully selected for the pilot study by
nonprobability convenience sampling so that the majority of the students in each school were in
different levels of academic ability. All the eighth graders in the three schools were invited to participate in the survey. There were 468 students from the schools who were willing to complete the
questionnaires. We finally collected 463 valid questionnaires, among which 229 (49.5%) respondents were male students and 234 (50.5%) were female students. The age range of the respondents
was mainly 13 to 15 years. The detailed gender distribution and average age in each school were
shown in Table 1.
A self-report questionnaire was developed as the research instrument. The questionnaire included
two parts. The first part collected demographic data including gender, age, and religion of the
respondents. The second part collected respondents ethical views on plagiarism in terms of moral
judgment, moral intensity, and perceived risks, and aimed to determine whether students admitted
having plagiarized. All items in the survey were measured on a 5-point Likert scale (Appendix).
Anonymity was assured and preserved throughout the study by using a coding system for the
Estimation and Evaluation of Model
Partial least squares (PLS) path modeling method was employed in our data analysis. PLS is a
common technique for empirically testing theoretical models (Henseler, Ringle, & Sinkovics,
2009). It is a kind of least squares algorithm extending principal component analysis and
canonical correlation analysis to estimate (mainly linear) relationships between latent variables
(Lohmller, 1989). Its path modeling was first developed in the 1960s (Wold, 1985) and further
developed by Lohmller (1989) to become a useful tool in analysing and estimating the complex
paths relating the latent variables. There are several advantages in using PLS: (a) It is not affected
by indeterminacy problems like some causal modeling techniques, (b) it does not assume the
normality of data due to its nonparametric property, (c) it requires only a small sample size, and
(d) it is applicable in estimating the models with both formative and reflective indicators (Ruiz,
Gremler, Washburn, & Carrin, 2010, p. 545).
Our model was estimated with empirical data using the SmartPLS 2.0 application software
(Ringle, Wende, & Will, 2005). We then followed the approach suggested in Henseler et al.

Descriptive Statistics of the Sample Data

Academic Level

Average Age

No. of Males

No. of Females

Total No. of Students








(2009) in evaluating and analyzing the obtained results, which included the evaluation of the
outer model and the inner model.

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The descriptive statistics in Table 1 showed the average age and distribution of gender among
the three sampled schools. With it, an analysis of variance was carried out for the choices of
each question across different schools and genders. The results were shown in Table 2. They
indicated no significant difference in the responses between male and female students. Neither
was significant the difference in moral judgement and moral intensity observed among the three
schools. However, the students with higher academic ability showed more awareness of perceived
risks and a lower frequency in plagiarism. By contrast, students with lower academic ability
showed a lower awareness of perceived risks and a higher frequency in plagiarism.
The results of the tested path model are shown in Figure 2. The model evaluation is described
in this section including three main areas: the outer model, the inner model, and the unobserved
Evaluation of Outer Model
According to Henseler et al. (2009), reflective construct measures can be assessed using their
reliability and validity. The analysis of reliability includes the internal consistency and reliability
of indicators. Internal consistency is typically a reliability measure based on the correlations
between different indicators and can be assessed by using either Cronbachs alpha or composite
reliability (Henseler et al., 2009). Nunnally (1967) proposed 0.60 as a standard for modest reliability in the early stages of research, and a reliability of 0.80 is adequate for a standard in basic

Results of the Questions by School and by Gender


School 1

School 2

School 3

p value



p value








Note. ANOVA = analysis of variance.

p < .05. p < .01. p < .001.




3 Judgment

Internet Plagiarism
Ordinary Plagiarism



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Social Consensus


Probability of Effect








Copying Others
Copying Text from

Copying Text from

Ordinary Sources


Performance Risk

0.9544 Perceived

Prosecution Risk
Social Risk

FIGURE 2 Path model of ethical decision making on plagiarism.

Results of SmartPLS for Measuring Reliability and Validity
Moral Judgment

Moral Intensity

Perceived Risks

Plagiarism Behavior





Cronbachs alpha
Composite reliability
Average variance extracted
Note. PLS = partial least squares.

research. As shown in Table 3, the least value of Cronbachs alpha was 0.75, whereas that of composite reliability was 0.85, which all exceeded the modest threshold of 0.60, and thus the results
exhibited a satisfactory reliability. In addition, the reliability of indicators was assessed by the
outer loadings
of constructs. Such loadings were expected to be greater than the recommended
threshold 0.5, or 0.707 (Chin, 1998). The values of absolute standardized outer loadings in our
model are shown in Table 4. It was found that only one value was around 0.64, and the others
were all above 0.87. We considered it acceptable as the levels of significance were all less than
0.001 using the bootstrapping procedure (Henseler et al., 2009).
The assessment of validity includes convergent validity and discriminant validity. Convergent
validity signifies that a set of indicators represents one and the same underlying construct, which
can be demonstrated through their unidimensionality (Henseler et al., 2009, p. 299). For convergent validity, construct reliability and validity need to be assessed by composite reliability and
the average variance extracted (AVE) (Chin & Dibbern, 2010). The general threshold values for
the items are respectively 0.6 and 0.5 (Bagozzi & Yi, 1988, p. 82). The results in Table 3 indicate



Cross-Loadings of Each Indicator in Various Latent Variables

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Moral Judgment
Moral judgment
Internet plagiarism
Ordinary plagiarism
Moral intensity
Social consensus
Probability of effect
Perceived risks
Performance risk
Prosecution risk
Social risk
Plagiarism behaviour
Copy of ideas
Copy from Internet
Copy from ordinary sources

Moral Intensity

Perceived Risks

Plagiarism Behavior

















Note: The maximum value of each row is in bold.

p < .05. p < .01. p < .001.

Squared Correlation Among Latent Variables

Moral judgment
Moral intensity
Perceived risks
Plagiarism behavior

Moral Judgment

Moral Intensity

Perceived Risks

Plagiarism Behavior





sufficient convergent validity as all the obtained values of composite reliability and AVE are much
greater than the thresholds.
On the other hand, discriminant validity signifies that two conceptually different concepts
should exhibit sufficient difference (i.e., the joint set of indicators is expected not to be unidimensional) (Henseler et al., 2009, p. 299). There are two measures for assessing the discriminant
validity: the FornellLarcker criterion on the construct level and the cross-loadings on the indicator level (Henseler et al., 2009). The FornellLarcker criterion is ensured if the AVE of each
latent variable is greater than the variables highest squared correlation with all other latent
variables. The cross-loadings criterion is ensured if the loading of each indicator is greater
than all of its cross-loadings, otherwise the model may be inappropriate (Chin, 1998). The
squared correlations between any two distinct latent variables as shown in Table 5 were all
less than 0.66, the minimum value among all AVEs. Furthermore, the loading of each indicator, as shown in Table 4, was greater than all of its cross-loadings. Thus our model passed both



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Evaluation of Inner Model

We further evaluate the inner structure of our model after ensuring that the outer part was
reliable and valid. One indicator for this evaluation is the coefficient of determination (R2 ) of the
endogenous latent variables. Chin (1998) described the model as substantial, moderate, and weak
if the value of R2 of the corresponding model is 0.67, 0.33, and 0.19, respectively. As shown
in Table 3, the value of R2 in our model was about 0.66 and thus it could be considered as a
substantial model.
Another criterion for assessing the structural model is the estimated path coefficients in the
model. To test the level of significance of the path coefficients, the bootstrapping procedure in
SmartPLS 2.0 (Ringle et al., 2005) was used to estimate the t values of the paths (Henseler et al.,
2009), and our results were shown in Table 6. As the level of significance of all path coefficients
were less than 0.05, we can claim that our model passed this criterion.
Evaluation of Unobserved Heterogeneity
As this research included students of different levels of academic ability, we needed to address
the heterogeneity in the whole data set. For this sort of situation, a number of researchers, such
as Chin and Dibbern (2010) and Ringle, Sarstedt, and Mooi (2010) recommend carrying out the
finite mixture partial least squares (FIMIX-PLS) by Hahn, Johnson, Herrmann, and Huber (2002).
In such an analysis, the whole data set is split into a number of segments for individual calculation
so as to test whether the results on the aggregate data set are affected by the heterogeneity in the
structural model (Ringle et al., 2010). Sarstedt (2008) concluded that FIMIX-PLS is currently

Path Coefficients and Outer Loadings of the Structural Model
Path coefficients
Moral judgment Plagiarism behavior
Moral intensity Plagiarism behavior
Perceived risks Plagiarism behavior
Outer loadings
Internet plagiarism Moral judgment
Ordinary plagiarism Moral judgment
Social consensus Moral intensity
Probability of effect Moral intensity
Proximity Moral intensity
Performance risk Perceived risks
Prosecution risk Perceived risks
Social risk Perceived risks
Copy of idea Plagiarism behavior
Copy from Internet Plagiarism behavior
Copy from ordinary sources Plagiarism behavior

< .05. p < .01. p < .001.


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the most comprehensive and commonly used procedure for capturing heterogeneity within a
PLS path modelling framework (p. 140).
Before testing unobserved heterogeneity, it was important to determine the number of segments to be retained. The FIMIX-PLS module of SmartPLS 2.0 (Ringle et al., 2005) provided four
indicators for such determination: the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC) proposed by Akaike
(1973); the Bayesian Information Criterion (BIC) proposed by Schwarz (1978); the Consistent
Akaike Information Criterion (CAIC) proposed by Bozdogan (1987); and the Normed Entropy
measure (EN) proposed by Ramaswamy, DeSarbo, Reibstein, and Robinson (1993). By changing
the number of segments, it usually selects the one that minimizes the values of AIC, BIC, and
CAIC (Sarstedt, Becker, Ringle, & Schwaiger, 2011, p. 38). However, the value of EN indicates
the degree of separation between the segments (Sarstedt et al., 2011, p. 52), and a value higher
than 0.5 indicates a good separation among the set of data (Ringle, Wende, & Will, 2010). As the
results of the criteria may not be consistent, a combination of criteria may lead to a better decision concerning the number of segments (Sarstedt et al., 2011). Sarstedt et al. (2011) suggested
considering both AIC and CAIC when determining the number of segments using FIMX-PLS
Table 7 shows the values of criteria with the number of segments. As all the values of EN were
less than 0.5, there was relatively low disparity in the set of data. Thus, the effect of unobserved
heterogeneity was not significant.

Our model was examined according to various criteria that measure the PLS results, and it proved
to be reliable and valid in modeling students plagiaristic behavior. The model explained about
66% of the variation of students plagiarism behavior in terms of changes in the indicators.
In testing, the effect of moral judgment was significantly related to the plagiaristic behavior, and all its components significantly influenced the behavior. Thus H1 was fully supported.
In addition, the difference in outer loadings between Internet plagiarism and ordinary plagiarism, as shown in Table 6, was only 0.000846, and its p value was higher than .10. Thus, we
can conclude that there was no significant difference between students attitudes toward Internet
plagiarism and their attitudes toward ordinary plagiarism. Results in Table 6 reveal that all

Indicators for Segment Retention














Note. K = number of prespecified segments; AIC = Akaike Information Criterion; BIC = Bayesian Information
Criterion; CAIC = Consistent Akaike Information Criterion; EN = Normed Entropy measure.

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components in moral intensity significantly influenced students plagiarism behavior. Therefore,

H2 was also fully supported.
H3 was partially supported. Although results in Table 6 reveal that all components in perceived
risks significantly related to the construct, the level of significance of overall perceived risks
influencing students behavior was lower than 0.05, not as high as the others. This indicates that
some significant perceived risks may even be negligible in our model. Further investigation is
needed to explore this phenomenon.
It is common that many schools in Hong Kong and elsewhere resort to punishment and technology (e.g., plagiarism detecting software) to deter students from plagiarizing. These methods
certainly make students fear being caught and punished, with a subsequent increase in students
moral intensity, proximity, and probability of effect in particular. Given the high correlation
between moral intensity and plagiaristic behavior in our results, it could be thought that punishment and technology-mediated crackdowns would be effective and fast ways to reduce students
plagiaristic behavior. However, our results (H1 and H2 were fully supported, whereas H3 was
only partially supported) suggest that forming students cognitively and helping them to do things
right should be better than punishing them after plagiarism has been committed. In addition to
providing adequate instructions to students, improvement in pedagogy and curriculum are no less
important in reducing students plagiaristic behavioran ounce of prevention is always worth a
pound of cure.
As we have mentioned earlier, teachers could avoid giving unrealistic assignments (both in
difficulty and amount) or the same assignments every year. Furthermore, teachers should make an
effort to improve their pedagogy. For example, they could provide more interesting assignments
and interactive lectures so as to stimulate students interest in learning and doing the assignments.
They could also break down a large project into a series of small and manageable tasks. By doing
so, students could complete and hand in each small task week by week and effectively reduce the
time pressure in completing a large project. This kind of approach could prevent many cases of
last-minute plagiarism.
The enhancement and consolidation of a moral curriculum in schools appears to be necessary to help students to appreciate academic values and to act considerately and responsibly.
Our results in Table 5 show the weak correlation between perceived risks with other constructs
including moral judgment and plagiarism behavior. Although Greene, Krcmar, Walters, Rubin,
and Hale (2000) explained that most adolescents have the ability to perceive risks accurately yet
do not always weigh these risks in their decision-making (p. 439), the students in the present
study did not show awareness of the need to consider the risks before acting, and they failed to
recognize the risks apparent to others. The finding that students considered issues that harm others as moral, whereas regarding those that only affected themselves as personal decisions, may
be due to their nondeliberative risk taking and their own definition of moral issues. They fail to
recognize that plagiarism is harmful to the author and unfair to their classmates.

The last two decades have seen a significant increase in plagiarism, a kind of academic dishonesty,
which has paralleled the growth of the Internet and its information-searching capability. Although
several studies concerning plagiarism do exist in the literature, they have not used any analytical

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models to understand better this growing ethical and behavioral problem. Based on our original
data set from a sample size of 463 eighth graders in Hong Kong, the present study proposed a
novel model for analysis of plagiaristic behavior. This model consists of three main constructs that
make up students plagiaristic behavior: moral judgment, moral intensity, and perceived risks.
PLS path modeling was used to estimate our model on the aggregate data level in this study.
The results showed that our model was reliable and valid. Furthermore, FIMIX-PLS analysis was
performed to uncover any unobserved heterogeneity within the data set, and the results suggested
that there was no significant disparity in it.
The high correlation between moral intensity and plagiaristic behavior in our results could
lead to the punishment of students being considered as a means to reduce plagiarism. However,
our findings indicate that helping students by informing them about the nature, rules, and ethical
implications of plagiarism could be a more effective way than punishing them after plagiarism.
Our research also suggests that developing students cognitive judgement and informed awareness of the possible social impact (e.g., proximity and consensus) of their actions are likely to have
a greater effect on their moral judgment and actions than mere perceived risk of being caught or
punished. Paraphrasing the foregoing in simple language, plagiarism-related moral education has
a higher chance of being successful if students have a deeper understanding about plagiarism; in
this way, they will be able to link such understanding with hands-on moral reasoning, and they
will be fully informed and aware of the social consequences of acts of plagiarism.
The present research offers a valid and reliable model to analyze students plagiaristic behavior
and moral reasoning. Future research might be conducted to test this empirical model.

This study is a part of the public policy research projectEducational Inequality and ICT
Use in Schools: Bridging the Digital Divide (HKU7025-PPR-10)funded by the Research
Grants Council of the Hong Kong SAR Government. The research team would like to thank
the participating students, teachers, and school principals in the three schools for their valuable

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