What is plagiarism?
Plagiarism is something many students have a hard time grasping and often feel as if they have not purposely done anything wrong when they commit it. Plagiarism is the act of using another person’s writing, speech, thoughts, or images without attributing them as the rightful owner of their work. Essentially, plagiarism is an act of intellectual theft or fraud. When using an author’s or speaker’s words, students must attribute them as the original source of information. If a writer fails to do so, they are committing plagiarism.
The Oxford dictionary defines the word “plagiarism” as the “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own”. The act of plagiarizing, therefore, is not limited to copying a person’s words, and includes intellectual property in its much broader sense. Almost every day we hear of musicians, journalists, artists and even scientists filing lawsuits claiming that their work, ideas or concepts have been stolen by another person.
Why do students plagiarize?
Before tackling this this sensitive question, it is very important to make a clear distinction about two forms of plagiarism: intentional vs. unintentional or accidental plagiarism. The former is disgraceful and calculated attempt to cheat, while the latter is not necessarily ill-intentioned, but is still considered a violation of academic integrity.
Intentional Plagiarism: This is the deliberate act of cheating by knowingly copying from other sources without giving any credit to the original author. Intentional plagiarism includes:
- Copying/pasting text from Internet sources, mainly Wikipedia, journal articles, or other encyclopedia-type websites and presenting that text as one’s own.
- Asking a friend, a relative or a roommate to write your paper for you.
- Paying someone to write your own paper.
- Buying a previously written essay from a paper mills website.
- Re-submitting a paper you have written for a different class or from a previous semester.
Accidental Plagiarism: A student may inadvertently plagiarize as a result of his/her poor writing and research skills, misconceptions of what constitutes plagiarism, or cultural factors. Reasons for unintentional plagiarism include:
- Lack of basic writing skills such as summarizing and summarizing external sources.
- Confusion about citation rules like in-text citations, footnotes, bibliography…etc
- Poor note-taking skills, leading to the student’s inability to differentiate between his/her own writing and outside sources that have been consulted during the research process.
- Lack of library and research skills
- Most westerners are familiar with the concept of intellectual property. This is not the case for many international students who may see the idea of using someone’s words, ideas or concepts as a form of flattery.
Whether a student plagiarizes intentionally or inadvertently, the consequences can be very serious and may range from failing the course to being suspended from the school. Students who are entertaining the idea of cheating on their essays and final papers must realize that their future and their reputation are at stake. Those who are unclear about what constitutes plagiarism and the the rules of citing sources must speak to their professors. Libraries and academic writing centers are great resources to consider. Librarians are experts in academic research and are trained in helping students find reliable sources and effectively integrate those sources in their writing.