Why Are We Afraid of Plagiarism?

Your academic years are some of the most important and influential in your life. What you learn and how well you can portray your knowledge acquisition will dictate your future success.

Therefore, it is understandable that many students are afraid of plagiarism. Whether you are wrongly accused or intentionally commit plagiarism, the practice has long-term, negative ramifications. However, we all know the rule Forewarned is Forearmed. Get a closer look at what is plagiarism and you will combat the fear of it for your whole college life.

What Is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of using someone else’s words or ideas and claiming they are your own. This is usually done by an act of omission – failing to acknowledge the original source of information.

Things that are most commonly plagiarized include:

  1. Ideas
  2. Theories
  3. Facts
  4. Statistics
  5. Graphs, drawings, or other visuals
  6. Spoken or written words

How to Avoid Plagiarism?

There are several steps you can take to avoid plagiarism.

First, rephrase the information you plan to use. This means putting it in your own words. Simply playing with the sentence structure or changing a word or two won’t suffice. However, a paraphrase of the information should still maintain an accurate portrayal of the original purpose or claim.

If you are unable to paraphrase the information, include a short quote of the material. This should be a direct quote—capturing exactly what the original author said.

It should be noted that most colleges and universities are leery of large block quotes. Generally, a quote should be less than 40 words. Anything more than that can easily be paraphrased.

Second, be sure to add a proper citation. The way you format the citation will depend on the style guide you are using (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.). Usually, this means adding a notation of the author and date of publication (or other reference information).

Note: Citations should be added for both quotes and paraphrases.

Finally, include a reference page or works cited page. This will expound on the in-context citations you added, providing all the necessary information regarding the sources you used. Again, the formatting of this page will depend on the style guide you are using.

It is important to note that your own works need to be properly paraphrased and cited too. If you’ve written something for this or another class, you must cite yourself. Treat the information the same as you would any other source. Otherwise, you risk being punished for self-plagiarism.

There is one exception to proper citation. If the claim is public knowledge—meaning the data can be found in various sources and is commonly known by the general population—you don’t need to cite it. For example, Barak Obama was inaugurated as president of the United States of America in January 2009.

Consequences of Plagiarism

The students who most commonly worry about the consequences of plagiarism are those who are intentionally embarking on the journey.

However, it should be noted that these same punishments are also applied to those who unknowingly commit plagiarism.

Each university has its own policy regarding plagiarism and will handle cases based on those predetermined rules. Usually, the severity and frequency of the act will determine the extent of the punishment.

Many professors will award zero points for a project that is found to have plagiarized work. Alternatively, the student may fail the class.

Sometimes, the professor will use the formal disciplinary reporting process to notify university officials. Based on the officials’ findings, the student may be subjected to suspension or expulsion.

Some schools make a note of the offense on a student’s transcript. This will severely limit the student’s potential for future success. Many graduate schools and prospective employers reference a student’s transcript; a notation of plagiarism could disqualify the individual from important opportunities.

Perhaps more noteworthy is the negative ramifications the student inflicts upon himself. You are depriving yourself of a valuable opportunity to learn and grow each time you commit plagiarism. You aren’t creating your own work or even original thought.

Additionally, you run the risk of being ostracised by your friends and fellow students. Anyone who has put in the effort will resent your attempt at an easy-out.

Lastly, you will ruin the relationship with your professor. That professor could have been a valuable reference down the road and plagiarism will burn any bridges you have already created.

Plagiarism is a dangerous act. However, honorable students don’t need to live in fear of accidentally committing a writing crime. Simply take the necessary steps to combat plagiarism; this includes thinking long and hard about intentionally embarking on any path that could jeopardize your future success.

Have you ever plagiarised? Do you think plagiarism in college should be allowed? We are waiting for your feedback and your comment!

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