Plagiarism is a broad concept that involves the use of another person’s words and thoughts without giving the originator due credit. In writing, plagiarism may entail repeating another person’s words, paraphrasing someone else’s arguments or even presenting someone else’s line of thinking without acknowledging that person. Regardless of whether one copies a single phrase or large amounts of material from an unattributed source, plagiarism results. No matter how the act of copying came about, an infringer is liable regardless of the plagiarism intent or the lack of it (Buranen & Roy, 1999). Although the views on the intent reflected in plagiarism and in infringement may reflect varied understanding of the plagiarism harm in different cultures, in setting where the documenting of the sources of the words, ideas, images and sounds used is emphasized, a plagiarism offence may attract adverse consequences. These may include the expulsion from the institution of learning for a student, job loss and the loss of credibility and professional standing for a writer caught with plagiarism. Plagiarism offence affects the society and harms numerous individuals. These are the plagiarists themselves, the copied work author and other writers and scholars. The laws formulated to tackle plagiarism have a narrow conception concerning the impacts of plagiarism. They provide that only the copyright owner have the right to sue cases of plagiarism. Furthermore, the harm caused by plagiarism instances is measured in terms of the impairment on the plagiarized material owner’s economic interest. In the case where there is the reduction in the value of the original work, the law allows recovery (Buranen & Roy, 1999).
A survey conducted on 12,000 high school students in 2002 revealed that the students who admitted cheating on an exam at least once in the past year increased from 61 percent in 1992 to 74 percent in 2002 (Slosar, 2009). Furthermore, these students admitted that they would be willing to cheat to get a job. These alarming revelations expose a cheating trend among students with their cheating techniques becoming increasingly sophisticated especially in this internet era. One of the adverse effects of this trend is that graduates are entering the workforce and take over the positions of corporate executives, politicians, mechanics, and nuclear inspectors with the depositions and skills of thieves. The role models in the society contribute to students’ cheating. In a survey, 59 percent of the students interviewed agreed that the successful people, who are their role models, do whatever they have to do to win even if others consider it cheating (Slosar, 2009). Thus, in their opinion they would not disregard the plagiarism option to post good results in their schoolwork and thus secure a promising future since the society gauges ones capabilities through his or her academic qualifications. Considering the notion that students have developed from the society, the easiness of cheating especially with new technologies, the fact that only about 10 percent of those involved in cheating are caught and that in most cases those caught get off with minor penalties, plagiarism has found willing servants. Peer pressure also contributes to plagiarism among students. Cheating has become socially acceptable among students in middle school, high school, and college levels. Students discuss methods of cheating and plagiarism and this has become a way of life in institutions of learning. Some students even brag about how through acts of plagiarism they attained good grades.
Intentional plagiarism entails the copying of text and thoughts from a material with the intention to misappropriate another person’s words and ideas. On the other hand, unintentional plagiarism arises when someone, without the understanding of plagiarism, presents an almost identical text or ideas to those of another person, or he forgets which book he used and thus fails to cite the source used, or inappropriately cites so that improper or misleading credit is given. Unlike intentional plagiarism, unintentional plagiarism is an extension of the copying behavior that people adopt in their young age as they grow up. It can be eliminated by teaching students appropriate research and writing techniques. However, due to the difficulties associated with differentiating between an intentional and unintentional plagiarist, both type of plagiarists often sufferer the same consequences.
Through appropriate citing, a writer acknowledges the original source of the ideas and text use in his or her tasks. Proper citing helps one to avoid the dire consequences associated with plagiarism. Inappropriate citing or the complete failure to cite the materials used in a certain writing task may be grave. The guidelines regarding each citation style ought to be followed. For example, when in a certain writing task, the MLA citation style ought to be used, and in the in-text citation, the writer uses the author and date format of referencing, which is APA format, plagiarism results because it becomes difficult to ascertain the exact location of the used material and thus may amount to the total lack of referencing.
There are several ways of incorporating other people’s ideas in research and writing. Each writing technique requires documentation to acknowledge the contribution of the original author and enable other readers to find the original source. Direct quotation is useful in scenarios where the exact meaning of words requires scrutiny for connotation. A direct quotation should be place in quotation marks to indicate that the words one is using are not her or his. Paraphrasing entails the writer’s expression of someone else’s ideas in his or her own words. It is a more preferable writing technique as it facilitates a smoother flow of the writing.
A statement considered as common knowledge does not require the acknowledgment of the source. In addition, facts found in numerous places and with the high probability of being found by numerous people are considered as common knowledge. However, the interpretation of such facts requires citation. In case of any uncertainty of what is common knowledge, one should cite any source that he or she has used.