I break a sweat. I cut pieces out and paste pieces in. My eyes flicker right and left. I glance away as I hand it, knowing that if they look into my eyes they’ll know right away. I’ve committed a crime. It’s not the first time, yet every time I do it my heart starts to race. It’s quite a strange crime, there’s a myriad of reasons it’s committed and there are no indefinite consequences. A crime committed all across school campuses, from elementary school to college. Plagiarism.
The general definition of plagiarism is “the representation of another’s ideas or writing as one’s own.” Though most people think that plagiarism only applies in writing, it’s far more complicated than that when you look further into it. Plagiarism not only applies when stealing a whole written piece, but also if you’ve paraphrased without giving credit, and even if your trying to pass off someone else’s artwork; or any other creation for that matter, as your own. The definition of plagiarism while misunderstood is something is a concrete idea, however; there are other parts of plagiarism that aren’t as simple. Such as, why people plagiarize and what the punishment should be for those who commit plagiarism.
Almost every college’s academic dishonesty policies the punishment for plagiarism is very vague. It varies from having to rewrite the paper or retaking the test to failing the entire class. After that a student can go through both an informal and a formal hearing. An informal hearing being a discussion with the professor about the consequences. A formal hearing consisting of: filling out an appeal form, talking to the professor and/or department head, and if unsatisfied with the results can eventually taking to an Academic Review Committee and afterwards to the Dean of Academic Affairs who will end up making the final decision on the matter. However, this is only the policy of one college and the policies on plagiarism vary from school to school, but with the wide range of punishments that could ensue one wonders anybody would plagiarize.
When asked why they plagiarized most students would say it was because they were too lazy to write the paper, and while in some cases the reason is a simple as that sometimes there’s a lot more to it. Some students may have been lazy initially by putting off the assignment until the last minute, but then when they go to do the assignment the night before its due find themselves panicking. The panic has a snowball effect because the panic starts to reveal other reasons they might not have been doing the assignment in the first place. First, a student panics because they don’t know if they have enough time, then they start thinking whether it’s really the time or if their abilities aren’t sufficient enough for the assignment. After they start doubting their abilities to do that specific assignment, then they start doubting their general abilities; and thinking somebody else’s work might be better than theirs. And with a few google searches and a quick copy and paste the essay is done. This is what many cases of plagiarism look like, then there are
the more malicious attempts at plagiarism where the student may have never intended to do the assignment in the first place. Maybe they’d been planning to have a friend write it for them, or were going to use an old paper from another class, or even were simply going to copy and paste something off the internet. And then there are those that may not even have realized they were plagiarizing, due to lack of knowledge on the subject or not knowing how to do citations. Some might think it doesn’t matter what the intent was or what led the student to plagiarize, but understanding those little details are what can help diminish plagiarism on campuses everywhere.
While the punishments for plagiarism may vary everywhere, what’s is most apparent about these punishments is that none of them address any other aspect of the offence other than the fact that the student did it. Schools should change the way they address plagiarism not only as whole schools, but on the classroom level too. In classrooms teachers should give students more time in class to work on assignments. Even when that isn’t possible they should give students an out of class timeline to show students what parts of an essay should be done when. Also, teachers spend more time covering the issue of plagiarism and how to cite sources. On a school wide level I think schools should provide those who have plagiarized with a more productive punishments. For example, have students discuss why they plagiarized and what they can do to prevent themselves from doing so in the future with a counselor or staff member. A way schools can prevent more cases of plagiarism is by providing more workshops on things like plagiarism and citing sources, as well as, time management. All these things could lower the amount of plagiarism that occurs.
Plagiarism is a very serious and complex issue that is a problem in schools everywhere. The reasons and punishments for it are different for each case depending on the school, the teacher, and so on. One thing is consistent though, that schools need to start addressing plagiarism not just after it happens, but before it does in order to prevent it.
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