The Bane of Plagiarism


Author: Adekola Taylor
November, 2013

The fundamental concept of writing assignments especially in an academic setting is to present well-researched materials that are original, knowledge-contributing, ethically acceptable, showing the true reflection of the students' understanding and creativity. When this fundamental concept is defeated through academic misconduct like plagiarism, one of the main purposes of education in building and nourishing creativity and intellectualism is defeated. From legal point of view, emulating, copying or reproducing the work of another person without his authorization or without proper citations can be subjected to legal proceedings which may fall under civil or criminal laws. Therefore, plagiarism can simply be defined as the representation or presentation of someone else's words, ideas or thoughts as your own ( 2013).

Why Plagiarism is regarded as unacceptable

The act of plagiarism is considered unacceptable because it defeats the fundamental aim expected of the students to present their own works stemming from their own comprehension. Furthermore, plagiarism is a hydra-headed monster if allowed to stay, can rubbish the basic missions of the education in the evaluation and assessment of what students have learned. Submission of plagiarized works by students is a blatant defeat of academic purpose and a deceit because for the instructors, it is like evaluating the words, works or thoughts of another person. Through such acts the true assessment and evaluation of the understanding of students is hindered. In the academic communities e.g. university setting where people are expected to deliver original works that contribute to knowledge, plagiarism is considered as academic misconduct or a breach of academic ethics. It is a serious offence in the university education because plagiarism of works would truncate research and development by hindering the discovery and invention of new things.

Invariably, works without right citations and references, the claims in such works cannot be verified, the source of information in such works is subject to falsification, and such works are useless. In other words, plagiarism compromises the credibility, authority and authenticity of a work. It also hinders the flow and connection relationship of knowledge when references to previous works about a particular subject are omitted or not properly cited. From another point of view, unchecked plagiarism can lead to production of incompetent graduates which will eventually have negative impacts on national productivity because the act of plagiarism discourages creativity and intellectualism, and it encourages laziness, non-creativity and cheating. Most students may not know this if not taught and strictly incorporated in the academic guidelines for excellence.

Finally, plagiarism may be complex in definitions but the truth of the matter is that the act of plagiarism should be discouraged because of its propensity in hindering the spirit of creativity and originality, the spirit of critical reasoning and analysis, the spirit of personal reflection, and the spirit of academic and national competence.

10 of The Most Significant Types of Behaviour that Universities normally regard as Plagiarism

Universities consider certain types of behaviour as plagiarism; ten of the most significant types of these behaviours are discussed below ( 2013; Park 2003; Hexham 2005).
1. Clone: When a student submits a paper written by another person claiming that it is his own written work. This kind of act is now prevalent in recent times due to advancement in information technology. Students have access to internet facilities where the assignments given to them can be written for them by professional writers.

2. Ctrl C: Copy and paste is another common behaviour by students that is considered as plagiarism. When someone else's work is copied wholly or partially without proper acknowledgement of the person, it is plagiarism. It is a common practice among students. Many students get materials online only for them copy and paste without writing the information gotten in their own words.

3. Another behaviour considered as plagiarism is when a student purchases a customized work or paper from an essay bank or a research service and presented it as if it was written by him.

4. Proper documentation is very crucial to academic writing. When a student paraphrased a paper either from one or multiple sources without giving the relevant documentation of the paper, such an act is plagiarism. When a work is paraphrased, proper citations or references should be included to trace the source of the work.

5. Copying parts of a paper either from one or multiple sources with the relevant documentation of the paper but without quotation mark. This is also plagiarism because it gives the wrong impression that the copied parts are paraphrased which is not.

6. Self plagiarism or recycle: When a student generously borrows from the work he has done before without citation or reference. When using previous work all information taken for it must be properly cited if not it is tantamount to plagiarism whether you are the author of the work or not.

7. Re-tweet: In this case all works are properly cited but the wording or structure of the text is too closely similar to the text's original wording. Inability of students to convey their ideas perfectly in their own words without imitating will amount to plagiarism.

8. Find-Replace: Another form of plagiarism most significant among students is the act of changing the key phrases and words while retaining the original context of the paper.

9. When a student copies a mix of materials from various sources without proper citation. This is also referred to as mash up. It is a regular practice among students.

10. 404 Error: A write up that contains fictitious sources of information or inaccurate sources of information. Some students are deliberately in this act to save time and energy.

How Students Might Unwittingly Commit Plagiarism

Many students are not yet understood the concept and meaning of plagiarism therefore many are unwittingly committing plagiarism. Laziness, carelessness and ignorance are the main causes of unwitting plagiarism. Many students are not good at citing, quoting; paraphrasing, andreferencing because their bad English, students in this category tend to plagiarize unwittingly. Moreover, the understanding of most students on the use of referencing styles is still very shallow and many non-native English speakers find it difficult to express their thoughts in correct English expression so they prefer to use the expression of the author thereby resulting to plagiarism. Another point that can lead to unwitting plagiarism is the inability of the students to properly document their research through careful and regular note-taking ( 2013).

A real life example from the business world of a person or company that happened to copy/plagiarise material

The case of Jayson Blair was one of the outstanding real life examples from the business world of a person that happened to plagiarise material. It was discovered that plagiarized quotes and made up stories were found, out 36 of the 73 national news stories written by Jayson Blair for New York Times ( 2010). Before the incident of plagiarism allegations levelled against him, Jayson Blair had become a popular figure in the society. He was honoured by the University of Maryland as a distinguished alumnus in 2000, beating some of the eminent journalism alumni such as columnist DeWayne Wickham and Pullitzer prize-winner Patrick Sloyan (Folkenflik 2004). By the age of 24, Blair had become a prominent staff writer at The New York Times, a privilege he enjoyed before his notorious fall from grace to grass.

In 2003, a complaint was brought against him that he had been plagiarizing news passages from a Texas Newspaper. This complaint was investigated and was found to be true. It was a big blow on The New York Times and also his journalism career went down the drain. He was forced to resign from The New York Times and also the executive editor and managing editor resigned. After the incident the hidden can of Blair was opened and it was found out that he never graduated from University of Maryland. In reciprocation, Blair's name was removed from the list of the most celebrated alumni on the website of the institution (Folkenflik 2004).

However, some of his colleagues blamed the University in that the unruly behaviour of Blair during his university day was a pointer that he would be involved in a flaw in the future. Blair's case was intentional and he also had a track of unruly behaviours during his days in the School of Journalism. Therefore, the school authority has their roles to play in curbing plagiarism by instilling the culture of integrity and honesty in their students. The case could have been prevented if the executive and managing directors had done their homework correctly by subjecting Blair's news articles to plagiarism tests.

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David, Folkenflik 2004.The making of Jayson Blair: The disgraced journalist's closest peers were troubled by his work and behavior while he was still a student, but no one heeded their warnings [Online] Available at: /bal-as.blair23,0,4086491.story [Accessed 29 October, 2013]. 2013.Nine things you should know about plagiarism [Online] Available at:[Accessed 29 October,2013].

Irving Hexham 2013.The Plague of Plagiarism: Academic Plagiarism Defined, University of Calgary: Department of Religious Studies, [Online] Available at:[Accessed 29 October, 2013].

Park, Chris 2003. In other (People's) Words: plagiarism by university students - literature and lessons,Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, Vol. 28, No. 5, Lancaster, UK The Graduate School: Lancaster University, DOI: 10.1080/0260293032000120352 2013. WHITE PAPERThe plagiarism spectrum: Instructor insights into the 10 types of plagiarism [Online] Available at: [Accessed 29 October, 2013]., 2013.Defining and avoiding plagiarism: The WPA statement on best practices [Online] Available at: [Accessed 29 October, 2013].

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