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Plagiarism: Definition and Plagiarism Ethics

The Ethics of Plagiarism

This paper discusses a personal unethical experience that is so common these days that this issue is bound to hit many people every day. Due to this high frequency, I’ve decided to write this paper on the issue of ‘plagiarism’.

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Throughout my high school years, every time I was given an assignment or assigned any research work, I poured my heart and soul into the work. Going through numerous articles, books, newspapers, and websites made each assignment a lengthy time-consuming task and it resulted in a number of hours to go into advance reading before I was anywhere close to starting writing my work. However, once my friends found out they suggested I do what they do. Simply copy stuff from a source and paraphrase it around till I could fool the free online plagiarism software. As appealing as this suggestion sounded, it made me question the ethicality of the deed. How exactly is plagiarism defined and to what extent can one bend the rules to create loopholes to avoid persecution by the concerned authorities?

Plagiarism Defined

Plagiarism is a problem that afflicts academic institutions all around the world. It is the reason why students instead of taking the learning assignments like report writing and other article analysis and simply use someone else’s intellectual property. This on its own, even with the permission of the original author is cheating against the institution which wishes to bring out the true potential of its students.

Plagiarism is said to afflict 40% of students as of 2005 yet I believe in recent times the percentage must have gone higher (Hexham, 2005). It is probably the most popular form of cheating that takes place in educational institutes and stems probably from the fact that information is now so easily available. And since humans are lazy by nature, the basic instinct is to take the easiest option available. Who would want to go to the extent of researching material through piles of books in the library or even search online? Isn’t it simple to open websites such as ‘Wikipedia that answer almost everything we need to know about?

The most basic definition of plagiarism is that it is theft and nothing else. It is the usage of someone else’s work under your own name without giving due credit to the original owner. This is quite similar to the act of having someone else do all your work and then you submit it under your name. No matter how much you play around with the words, the fact is simple. It is common theft.

When analyzed we can divide plagiarism into 3 different categories based on their extent of originality. The first type of plagiarism is Minimal Plagiarism which involves the person copying the material and then simply replacing words with synonyms, and moving around the sentences. This is most common in educational institutes as this technique allows the person to fool the plagiarism software available both online and in the market. It also makes the person feel as if he has done the work on their own and their conscience is more at ease. The second type of plagiarism is Substantial plagiarism which in short means that where the person has copied the original work, they simply add more words so that the sentences become different from what they originally were. The final type of plagiarism is ‘complete’ plagiarism which involves the person simply submit the work in his/her own name ( However, people have become aware that they can very easily be caught doing this deed so complete plagiarism has become obsolete. Every university has its own plagiarism detection software which scans the literary work and then checks online to find any matches to see whether the sentences have been used by anyone else. So mostly everyone has found out that if they were stupid enough to copy-paste everything without even bothering to rephrase it, then they would be in deep trouble.

Numerous cases have been presented to us as well as the consequences have been thought. Being a hardworking and cautious person, I try regularly to produce original work and feel safe in my mind that what I do is right and ethical. However, time and again our university has seen many students appearing before the dean’s executive committee to plead their innocence when their papers were found plagiarized.

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Last year a class-fellow of mine, who was always on the top of the class’s merit list, was found guilty of plagiarism in a term report. After the initial disbelief and investigation, I found that this person had actually plagiarized the entire report and now was about to be expelled from the institute. Such shame for a top-notch person is horrific to even imagine. And the reason this person committed this mistake was that he couldn’t find enough time to do the report himself as he was working at a job. Following the institute’s policy, this person was expelled.

There are numerous opinions as to why plagiarism is becoming such a big problem. This deals with the ethics of the matter. Some people say that with the popularity of the internet, plagiarism increases because we are offered more sources from which to gain information. I hold a differing opinion. I believe that the reason why plagiarism is so popular now is that people have become lazier and do not have the determination to work properly. Just because the internet is a mine of vast information, doesn’t mean that people should pick stuff up as it is and not acknowledge the real authors (Demirjian, 2006). It is due to our laziness in reading the substance available and reproducing it after careful analysis and understanding which makes us plagiarize the work.

Educational institutes, in an attempt to curb the rising rate of plagiarism, either purchase expensive software or use online techniques to try to verify whether students are plagiarizing or not. However, this technique doesn’t teach the students to quit this filthy habit. Grown people in the professional world try to pass other’s works by their own name thinking that they will get away with it. This is due to our educational institute’s lack of teaching us to be more comfortable with acknowledging others and our failure to give other people their due share. We blame it on our social and economic scenario which has made life so competitive and that is pretty much true. In our competitive spirit which gives no room for any weaknesses else you left behind, we have become self-centered and selfish. We simply wish to pass on and forward even if it involves using someone else’s hard work and property. It is our social lifestyle that also influences plagiarism and other similar criminal acts.

Plagiarism Ethics

If a person takes up someone else’s work, plays around with the words, and then passes it on as his own, would it be thought of as piracy? After the person has gone through the entire reports and articles and has added his own touch (by replacing words and moving sentences around). Technically he has read the articles and other source material and has added his own touch. Many of my fellow students have given me this argument justifying their actions.

I believe it is still cheating not only with their education but themselves as well. It creates a handicap where they gradually become incapable of coming up with original thoughts and cannot create their own research structures and subject body. In the long run, they are putting themselves at a disadvantage compared to others who read through the material beforehand and give the proper citations acknowledging the help they received from different sources.

This is also a valuable life lesson as it teaches us to respect others’ property and thank those whose help we take from time to time in our daily lives. If we build up a habit of using someone else’s property for our own then we will not respect the rights of others and we would also become an ungrateful lot.


Even though educational institutes are putting in numerous electronic and network checks on the works of students (JISC), it is still very easy to fool the system. Instead of concentrating so much on how to catch the culprits of plagiarism, equal importance can be given to teaching kids when they are young to acknowledge others’ works and to properly tell from what source they get their information. Sowing the seed at an early age to teach students to acknowledge others and that it is not any weakness or stupidity to use others’ ideas will make them more comfortable with who they are and to also read other’s stuff more subjectively. By subjectively I mean to say that when they will read other people’s work, they will not do so to copy the others material but to simply take inspiration from it.

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Demirjian, K. (2006). What is the price of plagiarism? (n.d.). Types of Plagiarism. Web.

Hexham, I. (2005). Academic Plagiarism Defined. Web.

JISC. (n.d.). Plagiarism Defined. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 7). Plagiarism: Definition and Plagiarism Ethics.

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"Plagiarism: Definition and Plagiarism Ethics." StudyCorgi, 7 Nov. 2021,

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Plagiarism: Definition and Plagiarism Ethics'. 7 November.

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