What's all the fuss about Plagiarism?

Academic integrity is highly valued in our culture, which helps explain the zero tolerance for plagiarism in academic institutions. There are times when students still find themselves trying to beat this system with questions like, “What if I switch up certain words just enough to go unnoticed?”  Guess what? That’s plagiarism.

What exactly is Plagiarism?
While the term is used a lot at the collegiate level, you may still be having problems understanding what it really is. In normal conversation, it’s when you take someone else’s ideas or expressions as your own without giving them credit. If you take their words and don’t cite it, or directly quote someone and leave their name off, you’re stealing. In school, it’s called intellectual dishonesty.

Technology makes it easy to gain access to lots of information, but also makes it really easy to copy someone else’s work. That’s one of the reasons why schools use Turnitin, Grammarly and other plagiarism detection tools to make sure you're turning in assignments with your own thoughts and ideas. These tools also help hold you and other students accountable, because simply switching words while using these tools won’t pass the test.

Dealing with the misconceptions|
There are many misconceptions about plagiarism, blurring the lines. Plagiarism is often considered the deliberate choice of incompetent students, but anyone can accidentally plagiarize. You may find it quick and harmless to add a paragraph found on the internet, changing a few words in an effort to boost their grade. This ‘harmless’ rewording without due referencing is still considered intellectual dishonesty and draws disciplinary consequences. Proper and careful attribution is mandatory.

Not only students are found guilty of plagiarizing, but famous celebrities and high-ranking political leaders plagiarize content too. This image tarnishing, credibility wrenching act also exists outside academic institutions. Throughout history, paintings and writings have been plagiarized by professionals, which may lend to the perception of it being okay, but it’s not.  Intellectual dishonesty breaches academic ethics, so being familiar with school policies is crucial. “Oops, my bad for plagiarizing” will not save you from possible expulsion from the institution, suspension or even payment of hefty fines.

As much as students may like to dispute this, self-plagiarism is possible, and there are repercussions for that too. It's considered self-plagiarism when an assignment turned in for a different class or university is being submitted in part or full for a current course without correct attribution. The different complexities of plagiarism may be hard to keep up with, so it’s important to train yourself to be an independent writer and thinker. Properly referencing someone’s idea in your assignment is truly honoring and respecting their – and your intellectual creativity.

Whether you’re in it for the short or long haul, you’re going to need to know how to cite work in different formats. If you're having trouble, getting a tutor  may help you understand until you get the hang of it. Consider it one more thing you can add to your arsenal to help you succeed.