Ability to acknowledge the contribution of other people in one’s work is a vital skill that scholars must possess. By and large, people only come up with new suggestions and opinion after studying and understanding what has been done by others. Scientists, for example, only invent and test new hypotheses after taking time to establish what other scientists already know concerning a particular topic.
Referring to what has been done in the past by other scholars is certainly important if academicians have to avoid duplication. However, while it is acceptable and helpful to get ideas from work done by other scholars, failure or inability to acknowledge the originator of a given idea is unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs. Among other negative aspects, being involved in acts of plagiarism denies students an opportunity to be creative and grow.
The failure to recognize the contributions of other scholars in one’s work is generally referred to as plagiarism. In a study by Bloch (2012), plagiarism is defined as the inappropriate use of what is referred to as intellectual property. However, defining plagiarism and its effect on the ability of learners to be innovative can be extremely vague and confusing. As explained by Marsh (2012), different names may be used to refer to plagiarism. To some people, it implies copyright infringement or imitation while to some; plagiarism refers to poor citation.
For this reason, it is a highly contested issue among scholars. According to Gullifer and Tyson (2010), plagiarism is an increasing problem in academic institutions and universities and colleges must do everything possible to deal with it. This paper presents a discussion on plagiarism and how it affects learners. Also, the paper recommends strategies that may be adopted by educators and learners to address the problem of plagiarism.
Consequences of Plagiarism
Drawing from a study by Eisner & Vicinus (2008), plagiarism is as a result of poor teaching, and lack of thought assignments the encourage learners to think. Consequently, their advice to educators is that they make every effort to teach effectively. To a large extent, plagiarism is considered to be an act of transgression rather than theft from an author who has invested time and possibly money to publish articles, books, or other reading materials.
Arguably, it is ethically rewarding to prevent plagiarism rather than make attempts to track it down (Eisner & Vicinus, 2008). It is advisable for educators to ensure that students are given innovative assignments that are resistant to plagiarism. Interesting, Eisner & Vicinus (2008) argued that plagiarism is a strategy that is used in some places for resisting the imposition of rules by aliens. Ostensibly, the culture of plagiarism is deeply rooted in most Western countries.
As pointed out by Power (2009), learners who take part in acts of plagiarism cause serious problems for educators at all levels of learning. The problem of plagiarism has been worsened by the increased use of the Internet for academic purposes. Undoubtedly, the Internet presents students with so much information, and this makes it easier for them to plagiarize other people’s work. Even though several research activities have been conducted regarding the subject of cheating, a very small number of these studies looks at plagiarism as a distinct unethical behavior that is different from other forms of cheating (Power, 2009).
Research findings also indicate that students tend to be confused about the idea of what actually makes up plagiarism. While some scholars have argued that students over-report acts of plagiarism and cheating, some are of the opinion that these acts are generally under-reported by students. To a large extent, psychological theory and research indicate that a solid understanding of an individual’s perception of a problem is very critical for ensuring a successful change of the individual’s behavior.
Generally, plagiarism affects both the learner and the educator. For the teaching staff, plagiarism steals valuable time meant for teaching since most teachers are compelled to spend so much time teaching students about plagiarism. This based on the fact that most students plagiarize because they do not understand what plagiarism it.
During the learning process, students are expected to do several assignments or projects which are part of the course work. Typically, a devoted student will spend his or her time to understand the project and proceed to do it regardless of how difficult it is. On the other hand, individuals who plagiarize deny themselves an important opportunity to grow and develop their creativity. Besides affecting the actual teaching, plagiarism also affects the teaching staff.
Plagiarism also creates unfair competition among learners (Wendy, 2014). If acts of plagiarism go undetected, the students who plagiarize tend to be advantage unlike those who do indulge in such unethical activity. As has already been explained, plagiarism can cause a student to fail or even be expelled from an academic institution. A student who indulges in plagiarism also loses his or integrity and may not be trusted. Concerns may also be raised regarding the integrity of fellow students and whether or not they can be trusted.
Most academic institutions that have a keen interest to stop plagiarism are concerned more about helping learners to be honest and grow to become responsible citizens who can be of great service to their countries. Institutions also care about ensuring that any degrees or certificates they award are respected by all. Institutions that do nothing to end plagiarism risk losing their integrity, and may eventually lose students to other institutions viewed as being credible.
Dealing with Incidences of Plagiarism
For most researchers, plagiarism is regarded as a very complicated phenomenon whose complexities must be properly understood to formulate effective strategies (Pecorari, 2013). In the absence of effective strategies, educators see the task of dealing with plagiarism as very troublesome. An important requirement for dealing with is first to attempt to understand the problem. Arguably, plagiarism is difficult and quite unpleasant when teachers decide to deal with it in the classroom. This notwithstanding, plagiarism is a serious problem that must be dealt with ruthlessly.
Universities and colleges employ different strategies in dealing with plagiarism. Penalties for students who plagiarize include redoing an assignment or failing an assignment. In some institutions, the grades for students who plagiarize are reduced. Other institutions are, however, lenient and try to help those caught plagiarizing through counseling. The worst form of punishment is where a student is completely expelled from the university or college. According to Diane Pecorari (2013), one of the approaches that may be used to curb acts of plagiarism is to improve teaching practice about plagiarism.
Educators who are concerned about maintaining the required standard of education in the classroom must endeavor to do two important things (Wendy, 2014). First, they should detect plagiarism immediately it happens. Secondly, they must give students assignments that are very difficult or even impossible to plagiarize. While these undertakings are quite involving for teachers, they can not shy away if they want to maintain academic excellence and integrity in learning institutions.
To avoid plagiarism, students should be advised to reference other authors’ works properly. This should be done whether direct quotes are used or an author’s ideas are paraphrased. Learners should also be advised to organize their ideas well and to avoid copying and pasting. Furthermore, it is advisable for learners to work very closely with their teachers and follow instructions keenly.
In dealing with the problem of plagiarism, academic institutions should get students to do several things. First, all students should be made to sign declarations at the time of admission to show that they ready to comply with the policy of the institution regarding plagiarism. Whenever students submit their assignments to their teachers for assessment, the assumption is that such assignments will be free from plagiarism.
It is also necessary to ensure that new students understand the referencing style adopted by an academic institution. This helps to eliminate confusion and ensures that all students use a standard format of referencing work done by others. All students must also be cautioned about submitting work that is not theirs to their teachers to be marked. No student should allow another to submit his or her work for assessment. In the same way, students should not submit a fellow student’s work for assessment.
Another strategy that is often used by academic institutions to compel students to avoid plagiarism involves asking students to sign certificates as proof of originality. In worst-case scenarios, a disciplinary committee may have to be called upon to help deal with suspected culprits. Some institutions have gone as far as employing officers to be in charge of plagiarism issues specifically.
Typically, a plagiarism officer will be responsible for hearing and determining plagiarism cases. To simplify his or her work, a plagiarism officer must gather enough evidence to convict a suspected culprit. Meetings should also be organized to discuss the problem of plagiarism specifically. Usually, the plagiarism officer is expected to chair the meeting, and the meetings should be conducted in the absence of the student and a hidden location.
Plagiarism is certainly a serious problem for academic institutions around the world. To restore the confidence of the public in academic institutions, it is imperative for institutions of learning to formulate strategies that will help to curb the incidences of plagiarism. As explained in this paper, learners should pay close attention to instructions given by their teachers and ensure that they do everything possible to avoid taking part in plagiarism.
Without paying attention to the problem of plagiarism, institutions may lose their credibility, and this may result in the loss of students and even closure. It is thus critical for academic institutions to formulate strict policies that will scare students away from plagiarizing work done by others. Where necessary, learners should be made to understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. Allegedly, some students are victims of plagiarism simply because they can not reference properly.
Bloch, J. (2012). Plagiarism, Intellectual Property and the Teaching of L2 Writing: Explorations in the Detection based Approach. Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters.
Eisner, C. & Vicinus, M. (2008). Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism: Teaching Writing in the Digital Age. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Gullifer, J. & Tyson, G. A. (2010). Exploring University Students’ Perceptions of Plagiarism: A Focus Group Study. Studies in Higher Learning, 35(4), 463 – 481.
Marsh, B. (2012). Plagiarism: Alchemy and Remedy in Higher Education. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Pecorari, D. (2013). Teaching to Avoid Plagiarism: How to Promote Good Source Use: How to Promote Good Source Use. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill International.
Power, L. G. (2009). University Students’ Perceptions of Plagiarism. The Journal of Higher Education, 80(6), 643 – 662.
Wendy, M. (2014). The Effect of Plagiarism on Education.