Date of Award

January 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Jeffrey C. Sun


This phenomenological study expands the inquiry on perceived academic misconduct by investigating the experiences of graduate students who have reported a professor’s misattribution of their work. The participants include five graduate students who formally reported a violation of academic integrity because they believed a faculty member had misattributed their work. During the incident, the faculty and students both participated in an academic setting in one or more of the following types of relationships: committee chair–advisee, committee member–student, classroom professor–graduate student, and research supervisor–graduate assistant. Two central research questions frame this study: How do graduate students who have reported that their professor committed a violation of academic integrity experience the academic socialization process as well as power dynamics? How do graduate students decide to report when their work has been misattributed by a professor? Based on data collected primarily through interviews and documents, I employ an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to examine the graduate students’ experiences using the process developed by Smith, Flowers, and Larkin (2009). My research findings include (a) initial positive socialization experiences masked the reported dishonesty, which led to the graduate students’ lack of trust in their professors; (b) self-identity of the graduate students shifted as the events unfolded regarding the professor’s misattribution activity and the university’s response to reports of ethical breaches; (c) individuals in positions of authority to whom the graduate students formally reported the misattribution of their work failed to act in a manner that satisfactorily resolved the matter for the graduate student; and (d) advisement from trusted individuals can play a key role in assisting graduate students navigate power dynamics with professors and process the decision-making efforts of whether it is worth the risk to report the academic violation. These findings could have profound impacts on policies and practices within higher education. For instance, this study illustrates how important it is to have clear, readily available policies in place regarding research misconduct. In addition, this study calls for more education about authorship. Equally important, graduate socialization should involve stronger protective measures including having clear reporting procedures and protections in place for students when they report academic violations. Furthermore, this study highlights representational objectivity. In practice, it may be helpful in these cases of academic violations to have an unaffiliated (i.e., not associated with the student’s or reported wrongdoer’s academic unit) faculty member or administrator participating in reviewing cases of plagiarism.