For many institutes of learning throughout the world the problem of plagiarism has become an unwelcomed guest to its doors of learning and The University of Trinidad and Tobago (U.T.T.) is certainly no exception from this, or any different. In this essay we shall firstly define plagiarism and then attempt to discuss the severity of plagiarism within the school system. One must take into consideration and realize the duality of this essay as it seeks to inform its readers about plagiarism while acting as a deterrent to would be plagiarists.
Some may think of plagiarism as copying another's work, or borrowing someone else's original ideas. However, terms like "copying" and "borrowing" can disguise the seriousness of the offence. The act of plagiarism defined and put simply is: to plagiarize is to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own; to use (another's creativity and production) without proper acknowledgment, or amply crediting the source. In this specific case, to commit literary theft, or to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an already existing source: (The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 2011). In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and then suggestively inferring it to be one's own, in a sometimes slightly masked presentation package and lying about it afterward.
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Within most educational institutions incidents of plagiarism can be found in assignments, labs, quizzes and in some extreme cases, even in final exams. In a recent survey on plagiarism conducted amongst students of the U.T.T. San Fernando Campus, sixty five percent of the students admitted to plagiarism (See: Appendix1, PWK110B Questionnaire). Some of the reasons for such a high rate of plagiarism include: Confusion about properly citing sources; the lack of proper research and organizational skills and the perception that online information which is being viewed as public knowledge further fuels the misconception that it belongs to the public and thus has public ownership, and thus does not therefore necessarily bound one as it's being imperative as to provisional lucidity of clear and ample acknowledgment of one's source of information.
One may wonder what effect plagiarism has on oneself, or you may say I do not plagiarize. However, let us think for a minute, surely you have taken a solution from someone for a problem that you could not have figured out on your own, "an assignment perhaps" and then subsequently submitted it as your own. Have you ever in a presentation quoted someone else's words as yours? Have you ever edited a lab script slightly for a course, modified a piece of artwork, literary work, poetry or song, stole an initial production or invention that you were privy to, that was not as yet copyrighted or properly registered by its original producer and creator or inventor and then subsequently presented it as your own and handed it in as your work? Well this is plagiarism, and it is morally wrong. Plagiarism predisposes one to creative laziness and thus suppresses the creativity of the student and hinders intellectual development, thereby preventing them from becoming individual and independent thinkers.
Consequences! There are dire and certain resultant ones sometimes indeed. At the University of Trinidad and Tobago the penalties vary from either simple to severe punishments (with no redress) such as: failure of either the particular component of assessment or the entire course taken by the student in that trimester, failure of the entire program taken by the student with no right to any form of re- assessment or re entry to this program, or permanent withdrawal from the University. With the consequences of plagiarism being so intense and sometimes severe you may be asking yourself is there anything as a student that you can do to prevent committing plagiarism? The answer is yes, there are three simple steps, and if done correctly can help you totally from being guilty of plagiarism. These are firstly by changing your attitude about using citations. Citations must allow you to demonstrate clearly how well you understand the course material whileÂ alsoÂ making clear distinctions between what the authors have to say and your analysis of their ideas. Secondly improve your note-taking skills. Taking careful notes is simply the best way to avoid plagiarism. And improving your note-taking skills will also allow you to refine your critical thinking skills. Locate and properly research the appropriate style manual. Citing your sources appropriately is a matter of firstly determining which style your instructor wants you to use. During this step, one must carefully read the assignment to determine what citation style your instructor wants you to use (APA, MLA, Chicago, and CSE are the most common). If the lecturer doesn't specify a specific citation style in the assignment, check your syllabus, course outline, and/or Blackboard site. If you can't find the citation style in any of those places, ask your instructor what particular style he or she prefers or may require. Secondly, finding the appropriate style manual, academic citation styles follow specific formats, so making an educated guess about how to structure your citations and works cited page is usually not a good idea. Instead, find the specified style manual in the reference section of the library, on the reference shelf in the Writing Center, or online. Finally copy the formats given for every type of source you use.
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A huge dilemma faced is the fact that many students around the world, as well as at U.T.T. believe that they should not be punished for plagiarism and for this reason a survey was taken asking some questions on the subject of plagiarism, the results of which, as well as the questions can be seen in appendix one. From this data we were able to get a better and clearer understanding of what the student population of U.T.T understands and desires when it comes to the topic of plagiarism from both the perpetrator's and the victim's points of view. In most cases however, in the occurrence of plagiarism with students, it is not done continuously or purposely, but usually simply when there is not enough time to conduct adequate research, or the availability of the resources or knowledge on how to give proper acknowledgement and due accreditation to the original author or authors.
To be honest, with each course or program the standard sometimes varies and at times may be very confusing to students, then what can be done to ensure that there is total and complete absolute clarity. For one, all lecturers from certificates straight up until doctorates needs to be strict proponents of the same idealistic standard in the acceptance of work from students (unbiased and irrespective of persons),(rigid upholders of individualistic creativity), and unreservedly enforce the consequential penalties of these immoral deviations and actions, as in the theft of creativity, resultant from mostly in part due to lackadaisical and improper organized research, which may then at least helpfully contribute towards and serve to discourage such similar future actions by potential perpetrators, thereby preventing and thus significantly curb the problem of plagiarism. These implemented strategies therefore, may be the solution for this problem to be stopped permanently, or even wiped-out or eradicated completely.
Not all cultures possess 'an alike outlook' or understanding, or take the same viewpoint of plagiarism. The Western notion that ideas and thoughts considered as individual possessions, and creative inventions in whatever sphere or field should be shared and privy to all, for the benefit and common good of all, may be perceived as alien in thinking, baffling to comprehend, and in understanding to other cultures where the consideration of the exclusive and sole creative property rights of individuals may actually seem absurd to those with different views on what constitutes shared information to be pooled, or public discourse. Students from cultures which have a more collective and nationalistic sense of identity, may therefore have a difficult time understanding the distinctions some cultures draw between individual and public property. Since we tend to follow the Western notion and ideals, the need to be ever careful of either being victimized, or preventing plagiarism is most imperative and ever important, for if we are not always ever cautious, for example, through the copyrighting and patenting of our inventions; our academic formulas for engineering feats on specific creations; our literary masterpieces and artworks, etc. we will continue to duel with this 'creative parasite'/opponent from the classroom to boardroom and even into the political arena and will therefore 'stymie' or stunt the naturally creative, academically talented, originally inventive, and spectacular productive ability as uniquely and unusually gifted Trinidadians and Tobagonians to constantly provide, produce and create fresh new ideas and views in the many fields and on the many subjects of life and challenges that cross our paths.
So let us all band together and begin to walk hand in hand, upon a new path where there is always truth with clarity; honesty with transparency; demonstrated in our academic institutions, and in all things in our personal lives. So with a 'one-two knock-out punch' let us deliver a total decimating blow to plagiarism, before it delivers it to us as a global society, before it saps our creativity by robbing us one way or another and consume us all.
What is Plagiarism? (n.d.) Retrieved February 17, 2011, from <http://www.plagiarism.org/plag_article_what_is_plagiarism.html >
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Retrieved February 18, 2011 from
The University of Trinidad and Tobago Student Information and Regulation Handbook
Excerpt from Student Prospectus 2006/2007
Why Students Plagiarize?(n.d) Retrieved February 18, 2011 from
Plagiarism (n.d) Retrieved February 18, 2011 from
< http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/plagiarism.html> 1998-2007
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2011)
Guide to plagiarism and cyber plagiarism- University of Alberta Library Guides at University of Alberta Libraries.
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