Study On General Plagiarism Issues English Language Essay

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While researching plagiarism, a person can find that copying another authors word, whether intentional or unintentional, has been occurring since what seems to be the beginning of the written word. Dating back to the early seventeenth and eighteenth century, writers considered it a form of flattery if someone else copied their body of work. It was a sign of honor and enhanced the original author's reputation if his or her words were copied and reprinted in someone else's words. For example, Shakespeare rewrote old plays, and others rewrote from Shakespeare. There are some very notable writers that have been accused of plagiarism. Some of these distinguished gentlemen would be Voltaire, Dickens, Milton, Pope, Keats, Longfellow, Poe, and Twain (Fedler, 2006). It was almost common for journalists to copy one another all the way into the 1990's. Thoughts and attitudes have obviously changed since the earlier centuries and the times of Romans and Greeks. Today, plagiarism is a serious issue and one not to be taken lightly.


Even though copying or plagiarism was very common in earlier centuries, literary writers starting sounding off about their literary works in the 1500's. In England, during this time, writers began protesting the loss of them being the owners of their own words they originally created. It was not until almost two hundred years later that one of the first copyright laws was finally instituted. It would become known as the Statue of Anne in 1710 (Sutherland-Smith, 2010). This would be an important part of legislation for authors, but it did not totally protect their works. It did, however, recognize the authors ownership over the written words of their works (Sutherland-Smith, 2010). In the United States, copyright laws were introduced early on. The first federal copyright law approved by the United States Congress was in 1790 (Fedler, 2006). Even though it was recognized by the federal government, it was not immediately and readily enforced.

So outside of the common source definition of plagiarism being that of using someone else's words or thoughts and presenting them as your own, what constitutes plagiarism? Most sources researched present plagiarism as five different types. The first type of plagiarism is plagiarism of words (MLA handbook, 2009). In this type of plagiarism the original author is neglected to be cited. The words from the original piece of work are used word for word with no author being cited or quotations being used to give proper identification of the work. The second type is merely paraphrasing or slightly changing the sentence structure (MLA handbook, 2009). In this type, the sentence structure from the original may be changed slightly, but the overall body of work remains the same. Also in this type, citation may have been used, but due to the nature of the paraphrasing, quotations should be used. In most cases of plagiarism here, quotes are not used. The third type of plagiarism is copying of another authors ideas (MLA handbook, 2009). This type of plagiarism can occur in two different ways. The first being using another authors ideas without giving the person any type of credit(MLA handbook, 2009). The second way would be to not cite any type of ideas or to incorrectly cite authors (MLA handbook, 2009). The fourth type of plagiarism is one of authorship (MLA handbook, 2009). Simply stated, this is turning in someone else's entire body of work. For example, turning in a paper found on the internet and presenting it as your own. The fifth general type of plagiarism is of one's self (MLA handbook, 2009). This is essentially copying one's own work. This also means turning in a paper that has already received a grade for another assignment. Although the thoughts and words are a student's own, because he or she has received previous credit for it, it is considered cheating.

As plagiarism is investigated further, it can be broken down into sources cited in a body of work, or sources not cited in a body of work (Mahmood, 2010). In the form of sources cited, there are essentially three different ways plagiarism occurs. In the first type, a person doesn't give all the information about the original source and purposely leaves out the exact information. The second type is providing the original source information in such a way that it cannot be traced. The third type is one where a writer provides a citation, but the information provided is totally incorrect. The writer in this case is trying to hide the original source all together. When dealing with sources not being cited, there are basically six different types (Mahmood, 2010). The first type is one that falls back to the five basic types of plagiarism. This is the case where a person uses another authors work word for word with no citation or quotations. The person is turning in someone else's work as his or her own. Next is the type where a writer copies portions a single work, word for word from different portions of the work and compiling them as the writers own. The third type can be referred to as the "potluck paper" (Mahmood, 2010). This type is one where a writer attempts to camouflage plagiarism by copying portions of several different works and pasting them together without citing them. Continuing with works not cited, another way is when a writer changes the sequence of an original work and does not quote or cite it. Even though the sequence has changed, the idea and words are the same, thus requiring quotation and citation. A fifth way of sources not cited is when a writer takes the words of many different authors and creates a new work with an all new citation. The last way of plagiarism without sources being cited also refers back to the five general types of plagiarism. In this way, a writer uses his or her own entire previous work or a very generous portion of his or her own work and presents it in a new work without citation. This violates most, if not all, academic institution policies on plagiarism. It is almost unanimously viewed as cheating.

Continuing with an operational definition of plagiarism, in 2011, Cheema described plagiarism as two different types. These were described as intentional or unintentional (Cheema, 2011). Some of the examples for intentional would be claiming the works of others as a writers own, taking information from the internet or database without proper quotation or citation, or failing to put quotation marks where they are necessary (Cheema, 2011). Unintentional examples would be changing a few words without changing the overall structure of the original work, providing fragmented information about an original source so that it is hard to find the original source, and finally the writer cannot distinguish between the primary and secondary sources of information (Cheema, 2011).

When dealing with plagiarism issues at a higher education level, the issue of copyright infringement is brought about. In 1989, the United States of America passed the Copyright Act. It essentially states that all creative bodies of work, whether they include the copyright symbol or not, are protected by the copyright act. Thus meaning that any work reused that is not in the original presentation, must have proper citation or it would be considered plagiarism. According to the Copyright Act, there are four types of knowledge when dealing with plagiarism (Cheema, 2011). The first type of knowledge is common knowledge (Cheema, 2011). The information that is common knowledge would be facts and information that is available in all public settings. This type of information can be used without citing an author. The second type of knowledge is copyright knowledge (Cheema, 2011). All of the information here is held under the Copyright Act. Any information that is used from this category is required to have a citation or else it is considered plagiarism. The third category is fair use of knowledge. This section remains unclear as to what is fair or unfair. There are no rules in this section as to how much information can be used or borrowed without the use of author citation. The government has issued a few main guidelines to follow regarding this category, but even these guidelines are not precise. The consensus on this category is that the information and the amount of information used is very subjective as to whether or not a citation needs to be used. The last section is unfair use of knowledge. This is the category where most of plagiarism issues will arise. Here a person knows that information is protected by copyright laws, and either intentionally or unintentionally plagiarizes another author's body of work.

Detecting plagiarism can be a very daunting task, especially in larger bodies of work. The internet has made the availability of information endless, which only enhances the hardship of detecting plagiarism. Due to the internet, the need for software to detect plagiarism has come to the forefront. Two of the more identifiable and widely used programs are Turnitin and Safeassign. These two programs work very similar in detecting plagiarism from student's assignments. They work along the lines of a search engine, looking for likenesses or similarities in wording or phrasing from internet sources or previously submitted works from other authors. There have been some who believe that using such programs infringed on their rights as the original authors of a certain body of work. In one such case "A.V. versus iParadigms, Limited Liability Corporation" (Mawdsley, 2008), high school students in Virginia filed a case against the creators of Turnitin. The students firmly believed that Turnitin and its creators had no right to archive their work in a database. In this instance they cited that the database was unlawful under the Copyright Act. However, the courts would go on to find in favor of the creators of Turnitin. The court simply stated that the students clicked the agreement button as they submitted their papers (Mawdsley, 2008), which then binded them to a contractual agreement. The court also stated that Turnitin operated under fair use of all four Copyright Act factors (Mawdsley, 2008). These findings became a basis for the fight against plagiarism not only from printed works, but also in the almost impossible battle in plagiarism regarding the internet.

The law has been and will continue to be an issue regarding plagiarism. There is not a lot of case law concerning copying and plagiarism. One aspect of law and plagiarism is the emotional harm and destruction of a reputation that is at stake for alleging plagiarism on someone. This can be especially sensitive when dealing with faculty and staff at an institution of higher learning. One such case that shows this point is "Slack versus Stream" (Mawdsley, 2008). This case actually made it all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court. It dealt with a faculty member who had been admonished for plagiarism by the department chair. The plaintiff in this case sued the university and the department chair for mental anguish and punitive damages (Mawdsley, 2008). The supreme court found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded two hundred thousand dollars for mental anguish and four hundred fifty thousand dollars in punitive damages (Mawdsley, 2008). The department chair contended state agency immunity, but the Supreme Court did not accept the immunity since it stated the department chair did not follow the obvious regulations of the university. This goes to show again how complicated a subject of plagiarism can be.

The education of plagiarism is also a main issue. Universities and places of higher education place the burden and the overall responsibility for proper citation and use of knowledge for properly authoring bodies of work solely on the student. This is the case whether it is in an undergraduate setting or in a higher level such as masters or doctoral setting. Placing the sole responsibility on the student begins to question what level of responsibility does the learning institution have as well? Merely putting an academic honesty policy in print in a handbook or syllabus for students to read is just not enough. Universities need to provide training for staff in the area of professional development when dealing with plagiarism (Sutherland-Smith, 2010). Universities should also be required to have training for the students at each level (undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral) in regards to plagiarism. It is asinine for universities to have penalties for plagiarism when there is no formal education on plagiarism. Another educational issue that has come to light due to the ever growing presence of the internet is off campus or distance learning. The lack of individual assistance about the techniques in academic writing in these two arenas of learning raises issues of equality for plagiarism (Sutherland-Smith, 2010). It becomes additionally challenging for the university to properly educate those not on campus about plagiarism and the academic honesty policies and procedures. Yet another issue in the area of higher learning is the overall consistency of the staff and faculty. This issue covers both ends from detecting plagiarism to properly instituting the penalties for committing an act of plagiarism. Some university policies do not state how a tenured or sessional staff member should become familiar with their responsibilities (Sutherland-Smith, 2010). There is also a lack of information about what faculty should do and what they actually do (Sutherland-Smith, 2010).


Secondary source plagiarism is a type where the original author is cited from a secondary source such as the internet, literary review, article, or book. In this instance, a writer cites the source of the original author versus the secondary author, where the writer actually obtained the information. This constitutes plagiarism because the writer did not actually read the content of the original author. He or she took the ideas from the secondary author instead of developing his or her own ideas from the content of the original author. Another issue with this is the secondary author is most likely never cited in any way. Therefore, the secondary author's words and ideas are not acknowledged.

The almost daily use of the internet and the ability to easily and readily find all types of information has elevated issues with secondary source plagiarism. Secondary source plagiarism has become prevalent in this realm because of how easy it has become to merely copy the information from the internet and paste into a piece of work. Plainly copying and pasting information from a secondary source on the internet is clearly a violation of plagiarism. However, the availability of countless pieces of information online makes it easy to misunderstand how to properly use the information whether willfully or unknowingly (Bruwelheide, 2010).

Another issue with secondary sources is simply paraphrasing the secondary source and including the original source in the citation. In this issue with plagiarism, both sources are cited, but it still remains plagiarism because the secondary source was simply paraphrased. Here, there is no original idea from the secondary source and nothing from the original source was actually utilized. Going further to give an example of this would be simply paraphrasing a blog from the internet that has citations used within it. Citing the original author and the secondary author in this case would still be plagiarism. However unintentional, citing information that the writer did not use still constitutes plagiarism, along with only paraphrasing the blog from which the information came from.


The Society of Professional Journalists added a sentence to its code of ethics in 1984 stating, "plagiarism is dishonest and unacceptable" (Fedler, 2006). Plagiarism is a serious issue and offense. Due to the seriousness of upholding integrity and honesty of all bodies of work, whether academic or professional, there are rules that everyone must adhere to in order not to commit plagiarism. In an instance where plagiarism has occurred, there are various penalties that would be applied depending on what setting the plagiarism had occurred.

There is a wide range of penalties for the various types of plagiarism. The penalties are wide ranging because of the various types of platforms that plagiarism can occur in. When looking at the penalties at a university setting, there is even a differentiation between undergraduate, master and doctoral levels. Plagiarism management is usually passed by a university's academic board or academic council and therefore is all encompassing to staff and students at that university (Sutherland-Smith, 2010). When looking at plagiarism penalties at an undergraduate level, they may not always be as harsh as an upper level degree. For the first offense of plagiarism, most research is very similar in showing that the undergraduate student receives a formal reprimand. In this reprimand, it would be in the form of writing that would go in a permanent folder on the student. In some instances, the university could require the student to attend or complete plagiarism development workshops (Sutherland-Smith, 2010). These development learning sessions could be done in a face to face setting or in an online version. Another penalty for an undergraduate student would be to fail the student on the body of work in question. Here, they would receive a zero for the assignment, but still be allowed to participate in the remainder of the class and be awarded the grade earned at the end of learning period. In an offense where one student has allowed other students to have copies of his or her work, in most cases the assignments are given a zero (Mahmood,2010). There seems to be no penalty to the student with the original work, but the penalty lies on the students who copied the work and presented it as their own. If the student commits an act of plagiarism for the second time in a given class, it is typical and or customary to fail the student for the class that the offense has occurred (Smith-Sutherland, 2010). If the undergraduate student has multiple offenses on file, it is customary to fail the student for the current class that the student is currently attempting. This is even true is other instances of plagiarism occurred in a different class at an earlier time. Once an instance of plagiarism has occurred, they are recorded and each offense builds on itself during the entirety of the student's academic career at a learning institution. An overlapping penalty between all levels of students at a university is one of failing the student in all classes for an academic year (Sutherland-Smith 2010). This is not a typical penalty for a first offense of an undergraduate student, but it is in the instance of a masters or doctoral student. When looking at monetary penalties, fining a student does not commonly occur, but it is in place at some institutions (Sutherland-Smith, 2010). A more common approach to monetarily penalizing students is by suspending or outright cancelling scholarships or other monies awarded to the student. Some scholarships have this stipulation built into it, especially if it is an academic scholarship. In most public institutions, this is not a customary penalty on a first offense, whereas in a lot of private institutions, this penalty occurs much more commonly.

Most of the more severe penalties can overlap from undergraduate to masters and doctoral level students. The main difference would be the less severe penalties apply to mainly the undergraduate level for first offenses while the more severe penalties are enforced at the graduate level for any offense of plagiarism. For the masters and doctoral level, a first offense typically means a failure in the given class (Sutherland-Smith,2010). Other penalties involving graduate level students are even more severe for the serious offense of plagiarism. One of these penalties would be to suspend the student from the university. However, this typically does not occur for a period more than twelve months (Sutherland-Smith,2010). The suspension allows for the student to return to the university after serving the suspension. After a suspension occurs and an additional occurrence of plagiarism takes place, the masters or doctoral student may be expelled from the learning institution (Sutherland-Smith, 2010). Additionally, a penalty that can occur to a masters or doctoral level student would be to rescind the degree that was awarded to the student (Sutherland-Smith, 2010). When dealing with plagiarism and any type of graduate student, the subject becomes a very sensitive matter. The penalties are so severe and action is taken in such a quick manner, that these cases can sometimes end up in a court of law.