Most academics refer to as plagiarism as a disease that affects every aspect of education. It has always been present to some extent, but the problem became more severe now when students have easy access to numerous publications, websites, and other tools they can use to complete their assignment. In fact, a vast majority of students report they plagiarize their works.
Is academic plagiarism that widespread?
Plagiarism is very common in high schools and universities. For example, a study by the Center for Academic Integrity found that 80% of college students cheat at least once. Of course, cheating can mean a lot of things from copying someone else’s answers during the exams, using smartphone or body parts to write answers, as well as to plagiarize the assignment you’re supposed to send to your professor via email.
A better insight into the problem with plagiarism among students is provided in the study from the Journal of Applied Sciences wherein the participants had to answer a set of questions about plagiarism practices and reasons. The results showed that 72.17% of undergraduate students claimed they knew what plagiarism means while 11.30% of them admitted plagiarizing entire work or just a particular part without including the source into references or mentioning any sign of acknowledgment.
Although the study was conducted in Saudi Arabia, the findings don’t only apply to that general area, but in universities and high schools from different parts of the world. It has become quite common for professors to receive works that don’t match writing abilities of the students and those who use software that detects plagiarism aren’t surprised anymore when the report shows a majority of the papers they received aren’t unique. When asked about sources, a vast majority of students admitted they use the internet while some of them used works written by their fellow colleagues or even parents. Students also believe that plagiarizing is ethical; which explains why the rates of this type of behavior are increasing continually. It is found that although students are familiar with plagiarizing, they still don’t know how to determine what’s considered as plagiarized work and what isn’t. That comes as no wonder if we bear in mind that plagiarism is detected in works of some well-established academics and other professionals, according to Brian Martin’s work on plagiarism and misinterpretation by established professionals.
Just because plagiarism is widespread, it doesn’t mean it’s always intentional. There are many cases when someone’s work is categorized as plagiarism even though the student didn’t intend to cheat in the first place. This usually happens because the students don’t know how to cite, quote, and mention sources they used. That’s why many academics call for universities to improve students’ writing and researching skills. When a student is familiar with different tactics he or she can use to acknowledge someone’s paper while developing his/her idea; then it’s relatively easy to avoid plagiarism. Furthermore, it is necessary that professors and other faculty staff show a clear and thorough understanding of everything that plagiarism entails before explaining the matter to the students.
As a reminder, plagiarism includes the following:
- Using someone else’s work and submitting as yours i.e. just changing your name
- Using portions of another person’s work without quoting properly, give credit where credit is due
- Using other person’s ideas without giving them the credit
Plagiarism doesn’t include
To make sure your work is 100% unique, remember that plagiarism doesn’t include this:
- Using your own words or ideas
- Common knowledge or generally accepted facts and truths
- Using information from properly cited sources
Is it possible to combat plagiarism?
Let’s face it; cheating always existed, it just finds different forms. That said, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do anything regarding plagiarism. Universities and high schools are already implementing different techniques to reduce the severity of this problem:
- Implementing blocking, filtering, and rating systems
- Using software which detects plagiarism
- Engaging students in more interesting assignments that students assume more relevant
- Giving assignments that are evaluated on the spot
- Academic institutions should consider having new students sign the code of ethics.
Professors, instructors, and teachers are also urged to get to know their students so they can easily recognize if their writing style has changed. Requiring up-to-date information and research is highly recommended as most paper mills mostly feature old sources.
Plagiarism is a big problem today but, unfortunately, students don’t realize its full gravity. Plagiarism doesn’t only jeopardize their academic career, it also alters the primary purpose of education and has an adverse impact on the specific college, university, or high school.