Plagiarism has been at the center of several debates aimed at illuminating the factors that constitute academic dishonesty. One of the central themes emanating from these forums is that plagiarism is a serious violation of one’s academic integrity and may result in far reaching consequences, including expulsion from institutions of learning (Gullifer & Tyson, 2014). This paper attempts to develop a comprehensive understanding of plagiarism by defining the violation and outlining some issues that may make students to plagiarize their work irrespective of intention.
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Definition of Plagiarism
Although research is consistent that the term “plagiarism” is open to diverse definitions and interpretations (Gullifer & Tyson, 2014), it is defined in this paper as a form of academic theft that ensues when individuals attempt to take the words and thoughts of other people and pass them as their own without acknowledging the originators of the work or citing the sources that have been used (Jones, 2011; Roig, n.d.).
Plagiarism may be intentional or unintentional, meaning that some students may engage in plagiarism through willful means (e.g., copy-pasting other people’s work or stealing the work of other students), while others fall into the trap through unintended means (e.g., poor paraphrasing and omitting quotation marks when copying directly).
Gullifer and Tyson (2014) argue that it is important for academic institutions to distinguish plagiarism “from inadequate and/or inappropriate attempts to acknowledge the words, works or ideas of someone else, as for example when a student makes a genuine attempt to reference their work, but has very poor referencing skills” (p. 1204). This assertion underscores the important role that instructors have to play in ensuring that their students have adequate knowledge on various writing and referencing styles.
How Plagiarism Violations Occur
Most students fall into the plagiarism trap by using a few words to alter an original source and then passing the resulting sentence, idea or phrase as original. Some students are also yet to develop the understanding that sources searched from the Internet must be cited and acknowledged comprehensively as they do with books and other scholarly readings (Gullifer & Tyson, 2014). Other easy ways of falling into the plagiarism trap include
- failure to acknowledge paraphrased text,
- lack of familiarity with writing conventions when quoting and paraphrasing,
- inadequate paraphrasing,
- copy-pasting, and
- failure to include quotation marks when using the exact words of other people (Jones, 2011).
Students who also purchase papers from the Internet and pass them as their own are also considered to have engaged in plagiarism if they fail to acknowledge the authors or sources of such papers.
There is a possibility of self-plagiarism in academic discourse, thus students should take extra caution on how they use their own work in future assignments. Self-plagiarism, according to Roig (n.d.), “occurs when authors reuse their own previously written work or data in a new written product without letting the reader know that this material has appeared elsewhere” (p. 16). In academic circles, students may engage in self-plagiarism by attempting to deceive the reader through using their previously written work and passing it as new without acknowledging that they have used the work in other instances. The attempt to deceive the reader, in my view, constitutes self-plagiarism regardless of originality and authorship of the previous work.
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This paper has provided a definition of plagiarism and outlined some of the things that may contribute to the violation. Additionally, the paper has shown how self-plagiarism occurs and the need for students to be extra careful when using their previous work to write new products. The discussion is effective in demonstrating that, although plagiarism is a serious violation of academic integrity, it can be easily avoided through proper paraphrasing of text and acknowledging the ideas, thoughts, concepts, words, and viewpoints of other people rather than passing them as one’s own.
Gullifer, J.M., & Tyson, G.A. (2014). Who has read the policy on plagiarism? Unpacking students’ understanding of plagiarism. Studies in Higher Education, 39(7), 1202-1218.
Jones, L.R. (2011). Academic integrity & academic dishonesty: A handbook about cheating and plagiarism. Web.
Roig, M. (n.d.). Avoiding plagiarism and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing. Web.