Plagiarism is the act of knowingly copying somebody else’s work. During academic studies, students are encouraged to research theories and use them to influence their own work; this research must always be referenced comprehensively so as to give credit to where it is due. If this is not done correctly, then it is plagiarism. To put it at its most extreme, plagiarism is an act of fraud and it seen as theft. You are committing plagiarism by handing in someone else’s work as your own, failing to cite a correct source for information, using someone else’s words and ideas without crediting them, using so much of someone else’s words that they outweigh your own work, and keeping the structure of a sentence but changing the words without giving credit.
Some may argue that the moral outrage caused by plagiarism can differ, depending on the level of plagiarising which has taken place. For example, a badly referenced quote is probably more of an accident than a deliberate act of fraud; whereas an entire essay copied verbatim from someone else’s work is, morally, a big problem. Small children know not to copy each other’s work and yet as adults, people often copy other people’s work without the slightest concern and it suggests either a lack of morals being implemented during their upbringing, or a deliberate act of ignoring their conscience and doing it anyway. Either way, someone who plagiarises is morally reprehensible in their actions and prove themselves to be dishonest and a cheat. It is unfair to plagiarise when the rest of your peers are working hard to create their own piece of work – morally, it is extremely unfair on everybody involved, not least the original and true owner of the copied work. Plagiarism is punishable by law under ‘intellectual property’ laws, so it is also illegal and begs the question of, if you’re happy to steal someone else’s work, would you also steal their wallet?