Plagiarism is one of the issues affecting the quality of education, the integrity of learners, and the reputation of learning institutions because it entails an unauthorized use of research information, such as ideas, data, methods, figures, and language, without attributing to their authors. In essence, plagiarism has become a serious academic offense in modern society where information technology has made it possible for students in institutions of higher learning to copy or imitate the work of other researchers without giving credit deservedly (Howard, Ehrich, & Walton, 2014). Across the world, universities have noted various cases of plagiarism among students who strive to get better and improved grades by presenting the work of other authors as their own. The increasing instances of plagiarism among students have compelled the institutions of higher learning to develop quality assurance systems to ensure the presentation of high-quality work. Therefore, critical examination of plagiarism shows that it has short-term benefits of allowing students to get favorable grades, but it has long-term tragic effects such as loss of respect, integrity, and income.
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Loss of Respect and Reputation
Among students, plagiarism has severe consequences because it causes a loss of respect and reputation. Given that modern universities have developed quality assurance systems and formulated stringent academic policies, they can detect plagiarism and appropriately punish students. The nature of punishment that students get can be course failure, lowered grade, suspension, or expulsion. In cases where students unintentionally plagiarize a particular work without previous history of plagiarism, universities usually penalize them by reducing their grades or failing them in affected courses. Some universities with a stringent academic code of conduct normally suspend students and put them on probation, during which they learn how to prevent plagiarism by attending workshops and seminars. In cases where plagiarism is intentional and rampant, universities ordinarily expel students and revoke academic certificates awarded to them. Due to widespread cases of plagiarism and poor academic performance, American universities expelled over 8,000 Chinese students (Doss et al., 2016). As a consequence, Chinese students lost respect and reputation in American universities because they exhibit tendencies of academic dishonesty.
Plagiarism also causes a loss of respect and reputation among professionals. Academic work forms the basis of career growth and development, for it determines the nature of knowledge and skills. However, by exhibiting academic dishonesty, plagiarism taints the respect and reputation that professionals have earned over the years. In this view, professionals, such as doctors, architects, and nurses, who have plagiarized in the course of their careers risk exposure and loss of their entire career when discovered. The loss of respect and reputation has an immense effect on plagiarists’ careers because employers or clients would not trust their services or products. The damage plagiarism inflicts on one’s career is significant and irreversible. Since plagiarism would make one lose academic credentials, employers would have to downgrade positions or even sack employees. Subsequently, it would be impossible for plagiarists to restore their reputations in the labor market and regain their work positions even if they change employers. Eventually, the careers of employees end when their acts of plagiarism become evident in their workplaces. Moreover, plagiarists do not get recognition from respective professional bodies for they lose respect and reputation. For instance, professionals such as journalists, nurses, doctors, and researchers would no longer exercise their careers because their regulatory bodies would revoke their practicing licenses. Therefore, plagiarism, once discovered, leads to the loss of respect and ruins the reputation of established professionals in various fields, irrespective of their positions.
As plagiarism occurs in the institutions of learning, its prevalence determines organizational reputations. Singh and Remenyi (2016) explain that rules and regulations coupled with the existence of an effective disciplinary system determine the ability of universities to curb plagiarism. In this view, the reputation of a university is dependent on its ability to curb plagiarism among students. Universities with limited regulations and weak disciplinary systems tend to condone plagiarism and provide poor quality education. The inability to fight cases of academic dishonesty gives universities a bad reputation in the education system (Singh & Remenyi, 2016). Thus, the prevalence of plagiarism in a university lowers its reputation in the job market, for organizations consider their students as inadequately prepared to work in the competitive and demanding work environment.
Loss of Integrity
The emergence of plagiarism in the institutions of higher learning has brought into question the integrity of students and quality of learning. Plagiarism has serious long-term effects on students and professionals because it erodes integrity and promotes unethical practices. Since integrity is the foundation of character, it determines the way people perform their work in academic and professional fields. Students with integrity perform the right things irrespective of the circumstances under which they learn. Allowing students to plagiarize their work at school creates an unethical culture of cheating, which they would extend into their workplaces (Rujoiu & Rujoiu, 2014). In essence, students who are dishonest in their academic performance would also be dishonest in their workplaces. Johnstone (2016) argues that academic dishonesty is a significant predictor of unethical behavior that employees exhibit in the workplace. This argument implies that plagiarism affects the integrity of students and predisposes them to unethical behaviors in the workplace.
As research and development are key outcomes of universities, their publications are prone to plagiarism, which affects the integrity of researchers. Research ethics require researchers to publish their original work through an elaborate process of peer-review. However, when researchers attempt to publish plagiarized work, they bring their integrity into question and invite serious scrutiny of their work. As a result, publishers reject their work and successively blacklist them. Hong (2017) explains that editors of the Journal of Korean Medical Science detected plagiarism on papers submitted by unethical Chinese researchers and prohibited them from publishing for five years. Hence, plagiarism makes researchers lose integrity among publishers and editors of peer-review journals.
Additionally, plagiarism affects the integrity of learning institutions, for they are academic centers where students acquire values that are integral to their lives, profession, and society. Since learning institutions inculcate ethics in students, they determine the nature of values that they espouse in their workplaces. According to Wong, Lim, and Quinlan (2016), universities play a significant role in shaping lifelong integrity, which determines the social and personal responsibility of people in society. Hence, parents and employers expect universities to nurture students and equip them with appropriate ethical values. Universities that condone plagiarism lower their integrity, for they are unable to meet the expectations of parents and employers. Consequently, parents are not willing to school their children in universities with questionable integrity diminished integrity. Moreover, employers reject graduates from universities notorious for condoning plagiarism and other unethical behaviors.
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Loss of Income
In addition to the loss of respect and integrity, plagiarism also makes professionals lose their income. Given that employers recruit employees based on their academic certificates, the discovery of plagiarism causes one to lose their job. The revocation of certificates due to plagiarism compels employers to terminate jobs of the affected since their qualifications are dubious. For example, Étienne Klein, a famous physicist, lost his job as the head of the Institute for Advanced Studies for Science and Technology because he plagiarized numerous works of philosophers, scientists, and writers (Enserink, 2017). Therefore, the loss of a job is a significant effect of plagiarism that affects income.
Plagiarists also lose the income that they earn from their publications when discovered. As readers have to pay a subscription fee to access articles, books, and journals, they enable authors to earn from their published work. However, in cases of plagiarism, publishers are compelled to retract some publications, hence, denying plagiarists from earning income from their purported work. The analysis of articles in Cochrane Database and South African management journals by editors shows high levels of plagiarism (Rohwer, Young, Wager, & Garner, 2017; Thomas & Bruin, 2015). The findings imply that a significant proportion of authors are likely to lose income from articles they publish due to retraction. Also, as plagiarism infringes on intellectual property rights, legal suits by authors lead to monetary compensation. In this view, plagiarists lose not only their earnings but also money when they compensate authors.
Plagiarism is a grave academic offense that students and professionals commit when universities provide a favorable environment. Overall, plagiarism causes students, professionals, and universities to lose their respect and reputation, for it shows that they engage in or condone unethical academic practices. Plagiarism also diminishes the integrity of students, researchers, and universities in the labor market, the publishing industry, and the education system, respectively. Loss of income is another effect of plagiarism because employees lose their jobs and authors fail to earn from their publications while risking prosecution.
Doss, D. A., Henley, R., Gokaraju, B., McElreath, D., Lackey, H., Hong, Q., & Miller, L. (2016). Assessing domestic versus international student perceptions and attitudes of plagiarism. Journal of International Students, 6(2), 542-565.
Enserink, M. (2017). French physicist accused of plagiarism seems set to lose prestigious job. Science.
Hong, S. T. (2017). Plagiarism continues to affect scholarly journals. Journal of Korean Medical Science, 32(2), 183-185.
Howard, S., Ehrich, J., & Walton, R. (2014). Measuring students’ perceptions of plagiarism: Modification and Rasch validation of a plagiarism attitude scale. Journal of Applied Measurement, 15(4), 372-393.
Johnstone, M. (2016). Academic dishonesty and unethical behavior in the workplace. Australian Nursing & Midwifery Journal, 23(11), 33-34.
Rohwer, A., Young, T., Wager, E., & Garner, P. (2017). Authorship, plagiarism, and conflict of interest: Views and practices from low/middle-income country health researchers. BMJ Open, 7(11), 1-10.
Rujoiu, O., & Rujoiu, V. (2014). Academic dishonesty and workplace dishonesty: An overview. Proceedings of International Management Conference, 8(1), 928-938.
Singh, S., & Remenyi, D. (2016). Plagiarism and ghostwriting: The rise in academic misconduct. South African Journal of Science, 112(6), 1-7.
Thomas, A., & Bruin, G. P. (2015). Plagiarism in South African management journals. South African Journal of Science, 111(2), 1-3.
Wong, S. S. H., Lim, S. W. H., & Quinlan, K. M. (2016). Integrity in and beyond contemporary higher education: What does it mean to university students? Frontiers in Psychology, 7(1094), 1-6.