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Importance of Ensuring the Prevention of Plagiarism in All Spheres

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It is very important to put plagiarism in perspective and to not see all acts as a monotonous or monolithic act, cases vary from individual to individual. This isn’t to undermine the shamefulness or the criminality of the act but rather to better understand the different desires which drive people to the act of plagiarism, this is in an effort to improve instruments, methods or systems which help prevent plagiarism. Enforcers, educators in particular, constantly ask themselves as to why exactly people resort to plagiarism and the answer is different depending on who you ask, at times people go against the rules of which they are very much aware of in an effort to receive praises and accolades of which they are undeserving and are incapable of acquiring using their own capabilities and on their own merits. An alternative reason could be that they perceive the situation as one of necessity and they see no other alternate approach from their perspective. To illustrate this there are many examples of students who receive decent marks but in effort to improve their marks paraphrase the ideas of other authors and pass them off as their own. Currie (1998) explains this as adopting the patch writing strategy and that these students are different from the stereotypical plagiarizing students we’ve come to expect in at least two different ways. For the purposes of this illustration let us have two hypothetical students, A and B. The first example of differentiation is where student B, like many other students will either purchase a piece of writing from other students or the internet; or copy and paste existing work that comes their way and horde all credit without having put in any effort. Whereas student A will dedicate a large amount of their time and their energy into constructing, compiling and improving their work, often you will find that student A will not perceive their actions as stealing due to their efforts but nonetheless their lack of ability to give credit is what will land them within the plagiarism pool. Another example are cases where due to ignorance students fail to recognize that certain writing methods may lead them to be called out for plagiarism. This may occur as a result of teaching methods in the earlier years of development, these teaching methods may be seen as necessary in those earlier years as the idea of plagiarism prevention methods such as citing may be seen as too complex. Imitation which is encouraged in the early years of development may blossom up as plagiarism in the later years of a person’s education career. These different cases show that there many reasons as to why people plagiarize with some being intentional; others partaking unintentionally in an attempt to enrich their material; others due to ignorance of plagiarism prevention strategies such as citing, referencing or paraphrasing; or utilizing any other strategies that are deemed unacceptable under the policies of plagiarism. The cases where it can also appear that the student and the authority placed with the task of evaluating the work presented are at odds, where they do not agree about the appropriateness of the methods used or the appropriateness of the types of sources. This is quiet common as each argument and justification hinges on perception and background, which is why it is important for guidelines, instructions and or stipulations to be stated clearly prior to the commencement of the execution of the task presented. This further emphasizes the need to consider textual plagiarism and all other forms within whatever the context may be so as to not overlook the causes as they are important in ensuring the prevention of plagiarism.

The Harvard UCT: Handbook On Citation states that it is considered citing when an individual quotes from a piece of text or another individual, or making reference to the works and ideas of other writers or authors within the text of your own writing. It claims that referencing, in contrast to citing, is primarily making a list or arrangement of the complete details of the articles, publications, books and other written material that you have either cited or utilized to construct your own ideas in order for anyone reading your work to be able to refer to the original sources. It is widely accepted as good writing practice to perform the fore mentioned concepts, it is also expected in most if not all cases. Referencing and citing not only protect you from being accused of partaking in plagiarism but also serve as great indicators that you have done thorough research in the field you are writing about. Citing and referencing helps strengthen the validity of your claims, arguments and ideas. You must also be weary of the sources you utilize as this could also be counterproductive in that it might lead to your work being undermined because of the use of writers and authors who aren’t considered to be credible. Referencing and citation also give readers an idea of how recent or dated the ideas you are utilizing are as this can be quiet important in certain fields and can also provide context to the contents of your writing.

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Although it can be quiet tempting to utilize information on the internet due to the ease of access to the information we need, we should remain quiet reluctant to do so due to the fact that the internet is free to being utilized in anyway by anybody and this leaves it susceptible to lack of reliability and authenticity. This is why it is advisable to make use of libraries as the information contained within them is thoroughly vetted using systems such as peer review prior to being given a place in their shelves. Peer reviews are a form of assurance of authenticity and reliability as they are performed by well-informed scholars within the same field who dedicate large amounts of time to the rigorous and demanding process. Pieces of writing with various citation and references usually represent multiple perspectives and voices as opposed to presenting singular arguments, which is usually a sign of bad writing. There are various methods to citation and the one you use usually depends on where you are, what you prefer, who you are writing for or simply what you were instructed to utilize. The most common and widely accepted method of citation with the University of Cape is the Harvard-UCT method which makes use of the author-date system.

A large portion of the information we come across in our lifetime involves written material. Authors produce books, magazines and newspapers for the larger public; scholars produce journals, academic papers, theses and articles; we produce our own information through social media statuses, tweets and blog posts; companies and individuals produce billboards, posters and other forms of advertisements; laws and court documents are required to be on text. These are just a few of the many examples of how we utilize text and how integral it is to our daily functionality. With all things considered it is important to recognize the power of text and why those who are able to write well are regarded with such high esteem, text is one of the most powerful instruments we as human beings have to our disposal and hence why in turn it becomes a currency especially within academic spaces.

My high school principal, Mrs I Steenkamp, used to say that one didn’t truly have a plan until that had laid it out on paper. Just the other day my Water Treatment lecturer, Dyllon Randall, claimed that one cannot not simple look at a piece of text or a diagram and assume that they understand what is being conveyed but rather the best and wise thing to do is to attempt reproduce what is given in your own form. This exposes the gaps in your knowledge and reveals to you whether you truly understand what is being conveyed. This is also why plagiarism is such a paramount priority particularly in academic spaces. Plagiarism robs an individual of truly grappling and breaking down an academic task in an effort to understand it to its core, it is a deprivation of knowledge and discovery. Institutions of higher learning aim to inspire critical thinking and in the practice of plagiarism often little to none is ever required as some else has already done this for the individual plagiarizing. In order to become a critical thinker an individual has to conduct personal investigations regarding various topics and question the contents, merits and origins of the existing material in an effort not only to produce their own conclusion and work but also in a lust to improve what is already in existence. The history and core of how universities began was in efforts to encourage unique and critical thinking in order to find unique solutions to complex conundrums and problems plaguing us as humans.

The utilization of different sources assists in the development of being sharp at analyzing material that you are investigating and in turn teaches you how to process the strength of arguments and utilize useful information from sources that are at odds in such a way that it benefits your own argument. During this process you are able to become sensitive to the information you digest and become weary of utilizing and accepting statements that are unsupported.

Technology is often referred to as a tool of disruption often in our society, because the development and progression of technology drastically and dramatically changes the way in which we live our day to day lives. The internet for one can be seen as the biggest modern day disruptive consequence of the development of technology. As mentioned above technology has for a long time been influencing how the concept of ‘intellectual property’ is interpreted and perceived, going all the way back to the earliest use of paper and even more so when the printing press came to be a significant part of society. Modern day technology often dictates the various ways in which we consume our different forms of entertainment such as listening to music and screening movies, the way in which we create and distribute information to one another, and most importantly how we are educate and are educated. Anyone with an internet connection around the world can partake in the World Wide Web, making each of us not just consumers but also authors in our own right. The internet has forced society to extend the meaning and concept of what can be regarded as literature as a big part of the internet involves text: emails, text messages, chat rooms, status updates, tweets, blogs etc. Berners-Lee, who can be viewed as the core designers or founders of the web, has admitted that the aim has always been for the web to become a clean canvas for the manufacturing of texts and scripts.

Day in and day out the web grapples, interprets, questions and redefines the concept of intellectual property and perfect examples of this are websites or companies such as Napster and Pirate Bay which are mass crowd file sharing services. These sites brought to the fore front the conversation of intellectual property on the internet and what is for fair use in the public domain. Even though these sights were eventually shut down, it must also be questioned why so many people in our society were willing to partake and utilize these services, did they know that what they were doing was illegal or did they just not care enough to find out? Whatever the answer may be they were very much complicit in robbing artists by utilizing their work without compensation. This is somewhat of a practice which has been normalized particularly within the South African society, where illegal movie and music sites are openly and commonly used to the point where they will be openly shared across social media platforms. In my own personal experience as a student I know that students who actually pay for streaming services, particularly when it comes to movies and series, are often shamed and looked down upon as they are seen as idiotic for paying for something they could easily excess for free through commonly shared illegal websites. Personally, I am a person who enjoys keeping up to date with all things entertainment and I take pride in going to the cinema to go and support my favorite movies, but I have also been subjected to being shamed for this as I could just as easily wait a few weeks to watch it for free. This has become cultural to the point where a few years back the UCT student community created a platform called “DC++” where all kinds of files would be shared from movies, series, music to academic virtual books and various other academic material. ICTS eventually found a way to restrict the use of this site and students also lost interest as it became more and more of a hassle to utilize the site, but this culture never really went away. Students generally do not see this as a form of theft or plagiarism of any kind but rather they see it as just another convenient service and that is the bottom line. Music however is different in that it is finding new and innovative ways to offer music to its consumers such that they opt for more legal platforms and is proving to be quiet successful in its endeavors. Streaming services such as Apple Music, Spotify and Sound-cloud have made it extremely cheap and convenient for the consumer to acquire music all the while ensuring that artists also get paid for their efforts. What has also helped is the large outcry from artists and their fans. This further illustrates the importance of context in cases of plagiarism as this will help develop effective prevention strategies.

The internet has also given us instrument such as Turnitin.com in the fight against plagiarism which has proven to be quiet effective. The company claims that often sites which are regularly used for searching for information in a legal way are often found to be the most easily susceptible to being used for plagiarism purposes. The explosion of the internet is certainly responsible for the exponential growth in plagiarism cases especially amongst students. The ability to cut and paste existing material and its ease drastically changes the way in which one views plagiarism as theft. Also the internet is often viewed as a free public domain or platform and this can easily elude people into thinking that all the material contained within the internet is also free and as a result breeds a culture of undermining private or intellectual property rules and laws. Platforms such as YouTube further dilute and add to the confusion or discussion regarding intellectual property. What has become common is the use of programs such as Virtual DJ, where people take samples of other artist’s music and attempt to reproduce a new piece of music which they represent as their own. This also extends to other mediums where programs such as Movie-Maker and I-Movie allow people to mix pictures, videos from various sources and audio which isn’t their own and upload it on platforms such as YouTube as their own. The biggest question in all this is how does one go about citing and or giving credit in such cases, how should accountability be enforced? Should the same rules, laws and guidelines applied in textual material be extended to digital material? To YouTube’s credit this is something they’ve been heavily trying to crack down on with them being quiet strict in applying copyright laws. Previously and still in some cases YouTube would mute music belonging to others or take the videos down completely, in some cases they demonetize the videos meaning that the person who has uploaded the videos cannot benefit financially from the relevant videos. In most cases as of late what tends to happen is that credit will be given to the relevant sources automatically in the description box followed by a demonetization. I have a couple of YouTube channels myself and have experienced all of the above mentioned scenarios, YouTube is a rare case though as platforms such as Facebook and Twitter seem to be very much unbothered about enforcing plagiarism cases. Often on social media platforms it is the users who more often than not who end up holding each other accountable with those who perform acts of theft being shamed, reported and discredited.

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