Defining Plagiarism

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the act of plagiarism as; “to steal and pass off ideas or words of another as one’s own”. Simply put, plagiarism is the process of taking other people’s words and/or ideas and pretending that they are your own. An alternative definition of plagiarism is forwarded by the Collins Dictionary which explains that plagiarism is the practice of using someone else’s work and pretending that it is your own. Plagiarism can also be defined as the act of deliberately trying to deceive your academic tutor by submitting content which is not your own work.

Has Plagiarism Been Getting Worse in Recent Years?

In recent years, chiefly due to the popularity of over the internet assignment purchases, plagiarism has gotten worse. There has been a spike in plagiarism across much of the academic institutions based in the UK, indeed in the last 3 years alone, 50,000 students have been caught plagiarising. This figure does not allow for those students who have plagiarised and not been caught thus illustrating the scale of the problem.

Why does it matter?

Plagiarism is a serious problem. If you as a student are caught plagiarising it can have serious consequences for you future academic and work career. Aside from the disciplinary perspective, plagiarism also harms the extent to which you as a student can learn whilst in years of academic study. When you cheat through plagiarism you are ultimately cheating yourself as you have spoiled the chance to learn and develop your knowledge on a specific subject. This learning and development skillset could stand you in good stead for later life so from all perspectives, plagiarism is something which should be avoided at all costs.

There are a variety of common ways in which students can fall into then plagiarism trap:

Handing in an Essay That You Didn’t Write

Typically, the most common trap students fall into is finding an essay online which concerns a similar research topic to which they have been working on and submitting it. Offline, some students have also relied on individuals from their peer groups to write their academic essay for them. In either case, these are examples of plagiarism chiefly because the words, ideas and critical arguments contained in those essays are not the work of the individual submitting it. Furthermore, it is important to note that with the ever-increasing number of essay answer websites the issue of handing in an essay that was written by somebody else has proliferated hugely in recent years. Doing this is easily detectable by academic tutors as they are used to receiving your work written in your own individual style, so it is immediately noticeable when a new writing style appears.

Copy Words or Ideas from Someone Else’s Work, Without Giving Credit

Often in the process of completing academic work, a student will come across an idea or line of work within the existing literature which answers their essay or research question almost exactly. Students often use such sources verbatim without giving due credit to the original author of the ideas and work. To avoid falling into this particular trap, students should consider revising how to reference academic content effectively, which is another service in which Viper software provides.

Failing to Put a Quote in Quotation Marks

Some academic students also fall foul of not putting quotes in quotation marks therefore it appears that they have simply copied the work without giving credit to the original author. When a student takes material from books and academic journals and use it word for word, verbatim, they must ensure that they implement quotation marks. It is not enough to copy a large section of text and give a reference – you also need to use quotation marks to illustrate that it is a direct quote. This form of plagiarism although seemingly easy to counteract occurs highly frequently in the world of academia as it is much easier and quicker to insert quotes without referencing them appropriately. Unfortunately, by doing this, it detracts massively from the students work and also results in them being viewed as untrustworthy and inauthentic by the academic institution which they are studying in.

Giving Incorrect Information About the Source of a Quotation

When researching a book or academic journal, it can often be tempting for students to utilise the source list cited by these works to overstate the level of reading which they have carried out. Unless the student has actually read some of the pieces cited in the source lists of these original texts, this can also be considered as an element of plagiarism. This is because the student has misrepresented the true extent of their readership out with the classroom and as in-depth reading is an area where a student can attain higher marks, this constitutes a clear act of plagiarism.

Copying Sentence Structure, But Changing Words Around, Without Giving Credit

It is also not enough to simply reword what another academic author has said without reworking the structure of their critical arguments and structure. This is still considered plagiarism in the world of academia because the student is therefore still guilty of copying the structure of the authors arguments which is a key element of their delivery of ideas. Moreover, how a sentence is structured is vital to the point in which the author is trying to put across or the analytical comment in which they are trying to advance therefore it is important for the student to showcase that they can restructure the sentence accordingly to put forward their own original idea or interpretation.

Copying so Many Words or Ideas From a Source That it Makes up the Majority of Your Work, Whether You Give Credit or Not

Some students stream large parts of their essay from the work of existing authors in the field. Despite giving proper credit through referencing, most of their work is still composite of other people’s ideas and critical arguments and the students own critical insights regarding the subject matter never emerge. It is important for the student to demonstrate that they have the capacity to interpret the complex research topic and rely on their own analytical skills to advance critical comment. This is where the student can receive high marks because in the world of academia, the disproportionate number of marks are earned through the research being able to critically analyse the theory in which they are studying. If the researcher copies too many ideas or words from other authors it conversely demonstrates that they have limited capacity in being able to advance their own critical viewpoints and judgements.

Self-Plagiarising

Although it sounds unlikely, a student can also be accused of plagiarising their own work and they often are. The key reason why this act is considered as plagiarism is because a student cannot be awarded two grades/degrees for the same piece of work and using substantial sections of work streamed from previous submitted content. Self-plagiarising is a key issue in the modern world of schools, colleges and universities as curriculums are becoming larger and larger thus increasing the risk of cross over with respect to certain subjects. Therefore, there is a high level of temptation for students to simply rely on the work which they have previously completed on the same subject or topic. In many cases students are not aware that this constitutes an act of plagiarism because they are the original author of the piece however it is, and the penalty is just as severe as would be the case with any of the other methods of plagiarism listed in this section.

Who Cares if I Plagiarise?

You Should. There are also a variety of other stakeholders to consider when you cheat as a student such as your academic institution and future employers.

There are two core, fundamental reasons why students should not consider plagiarising academic content:

  1. Plagiarism is stealing: Stealing other people’s work ideas, critical arguments and sentence structure. Morally, it is a similar act to stealing a car or anything else. The concept remains the same. As a student, if somebody else stole your ideas, how would you feel?
  2. Plagiarism represents information illiteracy: If you plagiarise somebody else’s work, you are implying that you are incapable of expressing your own thoughts and ideas in an eloquent enough manner to attain a high-grade classification. In essence, being caught plagiarising is an admission of illiteracy in handling information which is not an impression that you want to create as a student. It can also have several adverse effects with respect to the students ability to enter gainful employment in the future.

The after effects of being caught plagiarism are really quite profound. If caught plagiarising the immediate outcome is that the student has proven themselves to be lazy and untrustworthy. These attributes are not only immediately detrimental to the success of their academic pursuits but could also cross over into their capacity to attain a high paying career in the future. From the perspective of a potential employer, there is little value in recruiting an employee who has already proven themselves to be lazy and dishonest before they have even completed a shift for the company. It is in no way an act of overstatement to suggest that this happens, and it very often does as academic referees are vital in obtaining gainful employment later in life.

Instead, the main aim for modern students should be to attain information literacy. Information literacy is essential in ensuring that students do not plagiarise academic content. This concept is defined as; “knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner” (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) (CLIP, 2018, p.1). An alternative definition of information literacy is the capacity for students to use source texts as a basis for developing their own ability to think critically about a subject matter. The key benefit to a student developing their capabilities in the field of information literacy is that they increase their likelihood of attaining a higher-grade classification at the end of the academic year.