A. Definition of plagiarism
Plagiarism is defined as the manner of taking as one’s own the ideas or words of another person. It also refers to the dishonest use of another individuals’ ideas. It happens when a student, or any individual for that matter, steal a written work and submit it as one’s own because it did not credited its original author or authors. Sometimes, plagiarism is synonymous with words such as piracy or copyright infringement (Morales & Gilner). When a student violates the exclusive right in the document or publication and forward it to another party (such as by submitting it as one’s own work to his or her professor or sell it to another student), the students concerned are considered plagiarizing. Either of the students has secured for himself or herself the self-interest to benefit from the dishonesty. Any students found to be violating the honor code of their class or university must be disciplined strictly after a thorough investigation of the issue.
B. Causes and effects of plagiarism
Plagiarism has various causes (antecedents) and effects (consequences). First, a student plagiarizes out of desperation. They have so many tasks to complete and time is a constraint. Because it is not in their capacity to multi-task or accomplish their school projects, homework, etc. in so short a period of time, they often resort to the buying of ready-made paper. Second, which is related to the first cause, is that a student is simply lazy. He or she does not want to exert more effort doing an assignment and so he or she let someone else do it. When that happens, the person who helped the student to do such a wrongdoing is helping the latter become lazier still. Although it is understandable for parents, siblings, and friends to extend a hand, a student should do his or her own homework, except for emergency or other valid reasons. Nonetheless, any form of plagiarism is still cheating, which is wrong in many cases, except under a few exceptions. Third, plagiarism is also caused by a student’s ignorance. Some students do not know that they are already plagiarizing because they submit school work that they simply copied and pasted from the internet. If the professor is not knowledgeable about anti-plagiarism software, unlike many English teachers do, a student may keep on submitting works not his or her own. As such, teachers and professors should be the first to know about anti-plagiarism software, policies, etc.
There are other causes of plagiarism, such as bad peer influence, inadequacy of lessons learned in class, personal desire to have passing to high grades, lack of interest in the subject, strict criteria of a instructor, etc. However, no matter what the cause of the plagiarism has, it is still not acceptable in schools. Unlike when writing theses or dissertations, there are assigned critics, editors and proofreaders that receive honoraria. When submitting academic essays, it is a different thing (though, a student can seek assistance from others, such as through peer critique).
In terms of the various effects of plagiarism among students, apparently, they are negatives. Students who plagiarize set aside their conscience. Likewise, they become more and more dependent on others. Additionally, they lose enough self-confidence to do tasks on their own ability. Moreover, they fail to acquire to have the necessary skills to become better at their craft. In other words, they become less competent. When students become compulsive plagiarizers, they may even end up having grades they do not deserve.
Plagiarism has various forms, categories or classification: verbatim plagiarism, piecemeal, paraphrasing, non-citing, and direct stealing. First, a student can plagiarize someone else’s written work word for word (that is, in verbatim) without giving proper in-text citation. Second, a student can steal another individual’s written thoughts in piecemeal. Third, a student can also pirate someone’s idea by paraphrasing or expressing the same message in different words (that is, by rewording and using synonyms for the original words). Fourth, a student plagiarizes something when he or she failed to place in-text citation to a quote or paraphrase. Fifth, a student wrongfully owns someone else’s work through direct stealing (that is, using a previous submitted output to his or her professor). To avoid any of the aforementioned classification of plagiarism, students should cite properly borrowed ideas or thoughts.
D. Comparison and contrast
Plagiarism is an offense frowned upon by professors and institutions. They do not want any of their students resorting to this illegal, non-professional and academic offense. However, different schools have different ways of viewing what plagiarizing is. Some educational institutions do not include in their definition or policy against plagiarism the buying of one’s academic paper from another person. Such universities only consider plagiarism as putting in one’s own writing another person’s written thoughts without proper citation. As long as students do not use words borrowed from another person as one’s own work, they are not accused of copyright infringement. To the contrary, there are stricter institutions that consider the purchasing of a written work from a ghostwriter as plagiarism. However, the sad part is that, it is hard to detect whether it occurs or not. Unlike anti-plagiarism software with search algorithms that compares billions of webpages, professors cannot detect whether a piece of work is bought or not. In such a case, a professor’s only way is to discuss with a particular student concerned the content of the paper that the latter has submitted as part of the class requirement. If the professor is lax, expect that some students will continue to practice what most, if not all, teachers abhor.
D. Process narration (Preventing or Avoiding Plagiarism)
There is no exception to the rule against plagiarism. Students should cite their sources properly because some unique ideas are so much precious or even priceless to some authors. To avoid stealing another person’s work, it is necessary to follow a few of these steps: First, when quoting, paraphrasing, rephrasing, rewriting, or summarizing a written document, ensure the proper use of citation, footnoting or end noting (Driscoll & Brizee). Because citation style guides vary from each other, a student should ask or comply with the professor’s instruction in citing or referring to sources. There are many available online resources on how to cite sources (e.g., in Harvard’s, APA’s, Turabian’s, MLA’s, etc. guides). Second, using credible sources will help prevent students from citing an author who himself or herself plagiarized another person work. Third, when ensure if a student is not plagiarizing, the use of online anti-plagiarizing software should be resorted. Examples of these tools include Grammarly, Copyscape, Turnitin and so on. As a caveat, however, do not use Turnitin.com prior to submission of one’s original written work to a professor because the anti-plagiarism engine stores in its database what it has scanned. When a student turns in his or her paper, it will already be considered plagiarized when re-checked in that said engine. Fourth, proven effective of all in not being accused of plagiarizing is using one’s own words, thoughts or ideas in writing. In case it happened that a student is still accused of plagiarism, proper investigation should be made. Remember how calculus was discovered by Leibnitz and Newton, respectively?
III. Concluding Remarks
Most, if not all, institutions of learning have policies against plagiarism. They consider plagiarism as a grave academic misconduct. They would try within their power to prevent it from happening. However, students have different ways of how to avoid or resort to it. Some students do it unintentionally, whereas others do it intentionally. Hence, it is not enough to simply know what plagiarism is, its classification, causes and effects and so forth. More importantly, professors and institutions should be vigilant. They have to learn to identify students who plagiarize and those who do not. To do that, they should teach their students how to use proper in-text citations and references, as well as, utilize anti-plagiarism software. They should also have to change the way they give written requirements to students. Aside from checking students’ essays, they should also ask students what they know about their submitted written output. Professors and students should work hand-in-hand to have a plagiarism-free campus.
Driscoll, D. and A. Brizee. Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing. 15 February 2013. Online Writing Lab: Purdue University. Web. 21 November 2014.
Morales, F. and L. Gilner. TheSage's English Dictionary and Thesaurus. Sequence Publishing: Software for Language Education and Research, 2012.