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Benjamin Franklin said, "There is much difference between imitating a man and counterfeiting him." Throughout the years, the boundaries of plagiarism have derived many arguments among both journalists and editors. What exactly is Plagiarism? It can be defined as the imitation or unlawful submission of another person's words, ideas or expression, images or data as one's own work. Plagiarism is greatly increasing in today's world as advances in technology occur and information becomes more readily available. The World Wide Web has now become one of the most popular sources of research as it allows most people to gather information at a click of a button. In many instances, many young individuals commit plagiarism unknowingly as they are unaware of the proper ways to quote references. In other instances persons knowingly plagiarize, as the so called, "cutting and pasting" is practiced more often that in the past. Plagiarism is a serious academic offense and its forms and ways to avoid it should be known to all students. It is important for persons to develop good practices of academic integrity, according to Herman Melville, "It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation." This essay therefore furthers the discussion on the serious academic offense of plagiarism, and converses its types, causes, consequences and the many ways to avoid plagiarism.
In its simplest form, plagiarism is taking someone else's words, writing, research or ideas and passing it off as a person's own without giving appropriate credit to the originator. Society primarily believes that plagiarism is just copying another's work, or borrowing someone else's original ideas but in essence, it is more so intellectual theft. The boundary between plagiarism and research is often unclear, as many persons are sometimes unaware of what is acceptable without proper references. Primarily, plagiarism falls in-between two categories, that being Sources not cited and those which are cited but are still plagiarized. For sources not cited, plagiarism comes in forms of when a writer:
Gives up another person's work or copies significant portions of text/sentences, with no variety or alteration in words, meaning everything is word-for-word and uses it as his own.
In his own, tries to disguise plagiarism by taking it from different sources changing the words and altering the appearance or more so rephrase most of the information from the source and putting the different pieces together.
The most universally used form of this type of plagiarism that is not known to many, is when a writer borrows from their previous work, and reuses it in another project or assignment. This takes away from the originality of the work.
In the second category of plagiarism, which include sources that are cited but are still plagiarized, the most common example would be when a writer does an assignment and even though he or she may have proper referencing of the sources, he or she may neglect to include specific information on the location of the material referenced or even more so, provide accurate information regarding the sources used. This would more than likely hide the original source which the work could have been copied from. In addition, another example is when a writer may site his sources but neglects to add items like quotation marks, text, or if the writer rewrites material from sources which has no citation, this way they can pass it off as their own. Finally, one of the most difficult forms of plagiarisms to spot occurs when a writer, has an assignment that is physically well done, meaning all of their sources are referenced properly but the entire assignment contains quotations from others and paraphrasing.
In some cultures, the severity of plagiarism is highlighted only when students reach tertiary level education. Many primary and secondary schools students are given research but are sometimes never taught the different forms of plagiarisms and the proper methods to avoid it. Many teachers do insist on a Reference being included in projects but they themselves do not check to ensure that no instances of plagiarism take place. These bad habits are then practiced throughout the early stages of student's life and thus, at tertiary levels when consequences now become inevitable, students face difficulties as they are unsure of how to accurately reference research. There are many other causes of why students and writers plagiarize, some are a lack of understanding of academic integrity, lack of time and procrastination which leads to illegal shortcuts and sometimes poor language skills.
Besides these causes, there exist persons who blatantly plagiarize even when they are aware of the consequences. Wilson Mizner once said, "Copy from one, it's plagiarism; copy from two, it's research." It is apparent those people take this saying as fact. So why plagiarize when there exist consequences? Consequences which become more severe the higher up the educational ladder one goes. The least severe punishment expected would be a request to rewrite the assignment after it has been found that the student committed plagiarism unintentionally. On the other hand, the most severe consequence would be the withdrawal of a person's degree. Of course, the rules and guidelines depend on the University itself, as there is not a universal rulebook outlining which method of punishment to follow.
Some other common penalties include Suspension from school for a period of time stipulated by the University; during which the student would be unable to submit work due and would risk failing courses. Academic Probation; which involves a letter, stating the student's offence and warning them against committing it again, going on said student's permanent record, Expulsion, the second most serious punishment; requesting that the student withdraw from the University without the option of re-applying, and last but not least Criminal Action. Depending on the severity of the situation, the student may also have to pay fines and or serve jail time of up to $250 000 and ten years respectively.
"He that readeth good writers and pickes out their flowres for his own nose, is lyke a foole"Â (Gosson, 1579). Plagiarism produces nothing but hackneyed produce; persons should take pride in the production of originality. There do exist ways to avoid plagiarism and it is important for every person to practice them. Firstly, it is important to note that procrastination is one of the major causes and should thus be evaded at all cost. Practicing good time management plans can ensure that work is completed long before due dates and deadlines. When information is taken from a source, be sure to reference it. Simple procedures such as thorough note taking and keeping accurate records can also help in avoiding plagiarism. Proper referencing techniques such as citation, footnotes, reference list and bibliography should be observed. It is important to give credit where it is necessary and exercise the use of quotation marks if there is a need to include an extract from a writer's work.
It is not erroneous to read the work of others, if they did not want it to be read, it would not have been published. They would have keep it hidden, locked away somewhere, but what good would that be? Read the writings of others, understand it, paraphrase based on your own understanding and ensure that information is referenced. Teachers should implement methods to detect plagiarism. They can utilize available software that detects plagiarism, encourage students to submit thesis statements, introductions, and drafts of their work, annotated bibliographies, recent and printed sources and paragraphs on their composition process. The use of Oral presentation is also a good way to avoid plagiarism, since questions can be asked spontaneously to evaluate the students understanding of the topic being presented. More importantly, it is vital for teachers to help students to understand the need to avert plagiarism by conducting sessions on referencing so that the student knows how to combine their original ideas with the necessary facts that they feel they cannot leave out.
The word plagiarism was derived from the Latin word "plagiaries" which means "kidnapper". Plagiarizing is a serious offence and should not be taken lightly. There is a critical need to implement sessions from the primary school level to highlight the severity of plagiarism; students should be taught the suitable ways to avoid this transgression. Plagiarism is considered an act of fraud as it involves stealing someone's ideas then lying about it after. Would a person say he invented the telephone and publicize this? Well unless he was Alexander Graham Bell, he would not. Ideas are like inventions and laws against plagiarism exist to protect these intellectual properties of writers. Writers deserve to be given credit for their work. Even if a person plagiarizes and does so in a way that is so twisted and well hidden that it is undetected, he or she will always be a pilferer, a kleptomaniac of someone's intellectual possessions. According to Marcus Valerius Martial, "My books need no one to accuse or judge you: the page which is yours stands up against you and says, "You are a thief.""Â