What Is Plagiarism And What’s So Wrong About It?
According to the Purdue Owl, plagiarism is the taking of an original author’s work and calling it your own. Plagiarism is a crime in the United States, referred to as intellectual copyright infringement, and copyright laws can carry with it hefty fees and even jail time of up to a year at the highest levels.
If you’re a student, plagiarizing won’t see you getting $50,000 fines. However, plagiarism from another original source or research paper, whether intentional or accidental, can lead you to a failing grade or even expulsion. If you’re a teacher, you want to be sure you’re training your students how to avoid stealing intellectual property and how to create their own work, as plagiarism can quickly ruin a career.
In this article, we’re going to discuss why all types of plagiarism are wrong and some helpful ways to avoid it.
Why Do People Commit Plagiarism?
The reasons for instances of academic dishonesty like plagiarism are highly variable based on the perpetrator. For many students, plagiarism is a way out of doing something they consider pointless.
We may look to the curricula at many of America’s universities for some hints. Virtually every university has some kind of self-development requirement for its students in their first years at the school. This could include an arts class for engineers, for example, or a science class for theater majors.
The fact of universities requiring their students to take courses outside of their majors is a holdover for classical education, where the point of education was not necessarily to transmit mastery in a given field, but rather to develop the whole humanity of the individual student. Hence the name “humanities.”
Schools in the 21st century are so expensive, however, and because virtually every career requires a college degree, students see universities less as self-development incubators and more as resume builders.
Therefore, many students consider their “gen-eds” as wastes of time. Proper for wastes of time, these students want to spend as little effort as possible in succeeding in this course. Plagiarism, whether it’s buying papers online or simply cutting corners and using other ideas as one’s own, is a very easy way to get a passing grade – so long as you don’t get caught.
Unfortunately, however, the time of literary theft without being discovered is quickly drawing to a close. Now teachers can operate powerful tools to check their students’ papers with the click of a button. But besides the fact that plagiarizing almost always ends with the student getting in trouble, there are more convincing reasons why you shouldn’t plagiarize.
Why Is Plagiarism Wrong?
Plagiarism is not a victimless crime. On the one hand, it can put you into serious hot water with your school or employer. Perpetrators of plagiarism lose a lot of credibility, and even if you aren’t totally disregarded in the professional sphere after plagiarizing, you will always be remembered as a cheater; a plagiarizer; a thief.
Also, think briefly about the original creator of whatever content you steal. If you plagiarize in the professional sphere, you may be seriously hurting that creator from a finances point of view by not giving proper credit. Writers who make their money off of writing, for example, may face a major loss if their work is stolen and reproduced for the public.
Furthermore, even if you’re caught plagiarizing, the damage isn’t undone. There are still two pieces out there, and the original content will never have the same impact as when there was only one of it.
What About Buying A Paper?
If you’re considering buying a paper from one of the many seedy companies that offer such services, think again. First of all, you don’t know where the writer got the content he or she was writing, which means that that work itself could be plagiarized, leaving you in trouble with your school.
At the same time, even if you are 100% sure that the paper was not plagiarized, you need to ask yourself: “is this really who I want to be?” Contrary to the way education is run in the United States, your four years in university is about self-development, not cheating. If you say, “but writing an essay is hard,” the answer you need to hear is, “good. It’s not supposed to be easy.”
The Actor and the Target, a book about the creative process of actors, has this to say about hard work (paraphrasing slightly). If you stay at home, eventually you’ll run out of food. Home may be safe and comfortable, but all the stuff of life lies outside.
In other words, real life comes through challenging experiences, not easy ones. By enrolling at your university, you made a decision to join the long line of thinkers who devoted their minds and bodies to the betterment of life for all. Plagiarism may seem like a victimless crime in academic writing, but the real victim is you and your academic integrity. You may retain self-dignity, but the only lesson you’ll learn is how best to cheat the system. Is that what you want to spend your university years doing?
How To Avoid Plagiarizing Someone Else’s Work
Plagiarism is a serious topic in schools because the majority of cases of plagiarism don’t stem from bad intent. In fact, most forms of plagiarism are totally accidental.
Now, the fact that accidental plagiarism exists is terrifying for some students. How do they know that they’re not going to accidentally plagiarize?
The answer is to keep good notes. For every project that you’re using, you should have a dedicated document made for keeping track of all the sources you’ve used and what you think about them. Any significant quotes should be written down verbatim with quotation marks to indicate that they’re the exact words of a source author.
As you’re writing your paper, be sure to continually question yourself. “Where did this idea come from?”, you must ask. In this way, you can be sure to sift out your own, original ideas, from the ideas of your sources.
Next, when you’re creating your APA, MLA, or whatever style bibliography or works cited, make sure you cite every single source that had even a glancing impact on your thoughts for the paper in order to give appropriate credit. Even if you don’t directly quote a source in your paper, if its thoughts contributed to your research, its writer deserves the mention in your bibliography.
At the end of the day, it can be extremely difficult to assess whether or not you’ve accidentally plagiarized. In the old days, students would just cross their fingers and hope they didn’t. Now, though, teachers can easily check for plagiarism using online tools. This means that students should be checking their own papers for plagiarism as well.
Check out Quetext, an online tool designed to check your paper for plagiarism using DeepSearch technology and lightning-fast recognition.
Quetext sources the whole internet, from academic papers to blog posts to small bits of text on Reddit and Quora. What this means is that Quetext has become the preferred tool not only for students, but for teachers, copywriters, and really everyone else looking to produce high-quality original content.
Is Paraphrasing Considered Plagiarism?
Yes. To answer as briefly as possible, paraphrasing is plagiarism if your source isn’t cited. It is one of the most common types of plagiarism, as accidental plagiarism usually includes paraphrasing. Imagine, for example, this line opening a student’s paper:
“Immanuel Kant was a leading philosopher in his day who is now central to modern philosophy. He created a synthesis between rationalism and empiricism, and began debates that continue to echo into today in the philosophical subsections of metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, and more.”
Technically, the text above is not a true copy of someone else’s work, but it might as well be. You don’t even need a plagiarism checker to find that the very specific ideas and terminology used in that sentence are not original. A quick copy-and-paste into Google will show you immediately that the student simply moved the words around in the first two sentences of this article on Kant.
As you can see from the example, the student presents these ideas as their own, despite the fact that they belong to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
If the student wants to paraphrase, they can do so without plagiarizing. For example:
“Immanuel Kant is an extremely important figure in philosophy. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy even goes as far as to call him central to all modern philosophy, whose influence extends from metaphysics and ethics to a synthesis between the formerly disparate fields of rationalism and empiricism.”
As you can see here, the student uses the common knowledge statement about Immanuel Kant to open the paper, and even though they’re using their own words to explain the ideas portrayed in the Stanford Encyclopedia, they give attribution and eliminate the risk of plagiarism.
Plagiarism is not a victimless crime. In fact, plagiarizing from someone else’s work can be an extremely costly offense that can lead to legal action and even expulsion from school or loss of employment in the professional world.
Quetext is an online plagiarism checker that is an easy way for students, teachers, and professionals alike to check their writing against others’ work on millions of web pages across all fields so they never have to worry about accidentally committing this grave offence again.
Have you ever been accused of begin a plagiarist? If so, how did it make you feel? And what do you think should happen if someone is caught intentionally plagiarizing another person’s work? Let us know!
Students and teachers are able to get up to 2500 words per month absolutely free with Quetext, so sign up for a free account today.