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Plagiarism can be defined as the act of stealing another author’s work and treating it as ones original work. It is the use of another person’s ideas or thoughts without making proper acknowledgements. It can also be defined as the imitation of a certain article or publication without giving credit to the original author.
It does not only refer to the use of exact words but also how the author expresses his thoughts. It also refers to the use of another persons work without giving credit. In practice, it is required that once a person uses direct words from another source they should be in quotation marks or indented if they exceed 40 symbols and the source should also be cited.
Plagiarism is mostly witnessed in academic institutions where students are either too lazy or have no time for assignments (such as writing research papers). Instead of researching to produce their own work, they go for the easier option and copy published work. Other students do this in order to get high grades since they think that the published work has been written by experts and so it will be easy to pass. Plagiarism is not only practiced in academic institutions but also by artists.
Some artists have the tendency of copying different pieces of work to produce an article which looks original in the eyes of the readers. There are other artists who misuse employees into writing articles or other publications and publish them as their own original work. This paper looks at a brief history of plagiarism and explains why it can be classified as a form of theft. It also gives the definitions of paraphrasing, self-plagiarism, and explains how plagiarism can be avoided.
Plagiarism in the Past
In the past, plagiarism was not recognized as an offense and authors would copy the work of others without giving credit to the authors. For instance, in Europe, artists were allowed to copy other author’s work word by word in order to retain the original meaning.
Artists were discouraged from being innovative since they had to rely on other sources which sometimes were old fashioned. However, in the early 18th century, plagiarism was recognized as an immoral act which had to be discarded. Other morals (to discourage plagiarism) were set which are still applied in the education institutions and now plagiarism has become an academic fraudulence.
Other countries followed suit and banned plagiarism and any student found with a plagiarized work was penalized. However, many artists are still plagiarizing and it has become the order of the day. This has increased in the 21st century where most artist have ceased from being creative and innovative in coming up with their own work.
Plagiarism is now widely recognized as an offense and software have been developed to detect any plagiarized work. In many learning institutions, especially colleges and universities, student’s work has to pass through software to detect whether it is original work.
The same applies to authors where their work has to be scrutinized by the publishing companies before it is accepted for publishing. Rules have been set regarding plagiarism and all authors must comply with them. With the setting of such rules, young but innovative minds have been protected from old authors who had the tendency of stealing other people’s ideas.
People are now free to come up with their own ideas and present them for publication without fear. This has also led to an increase in the level of creativity and many people are now competing with their own ideas rather than relying on the work of others. However, there is still the threat of piracy which many governments have not been able to deal with. Some authors are nowadays not afraid of plagiarism but of piracy especially if they earn their living from writing.
Can Plagiarism Be Regarded as a Crime?
We can not classify plagiarism as a crime but as a violation of morals. It is a civil matter which can not be prosecuted in court but attracts some civil penalties. Plagiarism is a serious offence for artists and may result in suspension or total expulsion. If a writer is reported with more than one cases of plagiarism, his career might be at stake because he may even lose some of his other work. Therefore, there is need to try all means that can be applied to avoid plagiarism.
Plagiarism is a form of theft but it is not the same as piracy. The latter can be defined as the sale of unauthorized copies of work, an act that deprives off the original author some of his profits but does not interfere with his credit. Depriving a writer some of his profit can also be termed as theft, but in plagiarism focus is directed on the author’s credit other than his profit. Depriving an author of credit may be a form serious of theft than piracy because it interferes with the future of the author’s career.
Ideas, thought and expression belong to the author and can be said to be private property, or the author’s intellectual property. Plagiarism is therefore the act of stealing the work of others and taking the credit of ownership of the work, thereby depriving original writers their intellectual property and the benefits that come with it. Many people think that plagiarism is taking the exact wording of another author without giving credit but believe that paraphrasing of such work is not wrong.
However, rewarding another’s ideas or thought is just like stealing property such as a vehicle and changing its color. The only difference between physical theft and stealing of literary work is that, ideas or thoughts are intangible and can not be identified. On the other hand, physical objects are identifiable and can even be valued in monetary terms. However, if objects are stolen, they remain stolen until they get back to the original owner.
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For ideas, it is possible to build new ideas from the old ones to create a new concept without plagiarizing. Unlike physical objects that cannot be taken without permission from the owner, ideas can be picked up as long as the author is recognized. Sometimes, people remember ideas without remembering their source because it is very easy to remember ideas than it is to recall their source. Therefore, it is possible for one to plagiarize without having the intention to do so or without even realizing it.
Learning how to avoid plagiarism is a rather difficult task that requires careful training, unlike learning how to avoid theft of a physical object. This gives an explanation why some of the renowned writers of the past are sometimes accused of plagiarism without their intention to do so. In the past, it was not a must for writers to cite sources and only did so to invoke authority, unlike today when conventions have changed.
Another difference between theft of physical object and plagiarism is that one can take an abandoned property and that may not be considered as theft while for plagiarism, taking ideas of an anonymous writer and treating them as ones original ideas is considered as stealing.
If ideas and words can be treated as mere property and plagiarism as a form of theft, then, people would be buying and selling the rights of authorship from one person to another, for instance, the case of commercial term-paper services. In these services, original writers sell their work for money.
A person using such services cannot be considered as stealing the authorship of another person because the original author does not want the credit. However, credit of authorship is not for sale and can never be given away and those who do it are not authorized to do so.
What is of importance in the realm of ideas is not the ownership of the rights to a certain piece of work but the originality. Credit of authorship can never be given to any other person except the original author. It is not transferable even if both parties come into agreement for such an arrangement. Even when the original author dies, he remains to be remembered for his ideas for many centuries. Ideas and thoughts can be considered to be closer to moral actions than to property and responsibility of the work is not inheritable.
This can be defined as the use of different words other than the ones used by a certain author to refer to the authors ideas. It can also be defined as the restatement of ideas to come up with a different meaning. When paraphrasing, one does not need to use direct quotes but should acknowledge the original writer.
Paraphrasing is almost the same as writing a summary of a piece of work although paraphrases are more detailed. At the end of the paraphrased statement, the writer should include the source where the information was borrowed. Failure to cite the source is referred to as plagiarism and it is a moral violations.
Paraphrases try to retain the essential meaning of information while different words are being used. However, if the information is interpreted differently, this becomes original work and does not need to be cited. Almost all authors paraphrase in their work as they try to relate their work with that of others.
The first step in paraphrasing is to understand the message in the passage; this can be done by a quick review of the passage and then reading through the passage more carefully word by word to get its meaning. The ideas are then stated in different words defining the complex ones. Editing is necessary if the words were written in a hurry to ensure that the essential meaning is retained and a citation is given at the end of the paraphrased text. The text is then checked against the original passage for accuracy of the tone and meaning.
Paraphrase differs from a translation in that a paraphrase does not change the language but expands the original thought by use of examples or definition to make a certain passage more understandable. This does not imply that the message is changed but it is built upon or simplified into an understandable language.
Paraphrasing is mostly used by students as they write academic papers or when carrying out research concerning a certain aspect. They use different sources such as journals, magazines, websites, or books to borrow information to include in their writing. in this, all the sources used should be cited and a reference list provided for the same.
Samuelson observed that, there are several factors that may allow an artist to reuse some of his previous work. Some of these factors are: if there a certain publication can not make sense if the previous work was not included, if the author writes a continuation of the previous work, if previous work lays the foundation of the present work, and if the audience are different and the author wants to send the same message. This is referred to as self-plagiarism and it only applies to the same artist.
However, there are limitations on how previous work is used and the writer can not cut and paste a whole page from his previous work and treat it as a new piece of work. Nonetheless, he is allowed to borrow ideas or quote directly from his previous work without making citing the source.
But an author is not allowed to use another persons work even if it is related to the subject he is writing on) with giving credit to the other author. It is worth noting that, writing is a career practiced by many people and most of them earn a living out of it. If people are allowed to duplicate other people’s work without giving credit, then this career would loss meaning and some people might be exploited.
How to Avoid Plagiarism
The first step in avoiding plagiarism is to understand the meaning of this term because ignorance is never accepted as an excuse for violation of the rules of plagiarism. Intentional plagiarism, for instance copying or deliberate use of another author’s work without acknowledgement, or submission of an already written paper as ones original work can result in suspension. Unintentional plagiarism is copying of another’s work without having an intention to do so or due to ignorance.
There are people who do not know about plagiarism and think that by duplicating other people’s work, they will produce a high quality paper that will appeal to a majority of readers. However, either of these cases is regarded as plagiarism and is liable to equal punishment. Most schools in the developed countries prohibit their students from plagiarizing other people’s work and those who are reported with such cases face serious consequences which include suspicion, assignment cancellation, or even expulsion from the learning institution.
Direct quotes should be put in quotation marks and the source and page number cited at the end or beginning of the quote. In case of paraphrasing of ideas into other words, citations should be provided. An author’s work does not only refer to the exact words used, but also the ideas, art, graphics, and other creative expression. It may also consist of graphs, writing, pictures, websites, diagrams, and many other features.
The term source in academic writing refers to publications such as books, newspapers, magazines, movies, photos, or plays; or unpublished writings such as lecture notes, handouts, speeches and other student’s papers. The use of such materials without proper acknowledges amounts to plagiarism.
In citing sources, the first step is to identity the source, the author’s name, date of publication and the page number where the text is extracted from. After citing the author’s name, year of publication and page number in the text, the next step is to provide full details of that source at the end of the paper on a separate page. A list of all the sources used is given on the last page according the writer’s preferred referencing methods.
There are different methods for citing sources; they include MLA, APA, Chicago, or Harvard. Other methods of referencing are use of footnotes and endnotes. In these methods, raised numbers are used at the end of a quoted phrase or a borrowed idea which directs the reader to the source where the idea or phrase was extracted. This source can either be found at the bottom of the page for the case of a footnote or at the end of the paper for endnotes.
Which method is used to cite sources, a reference list must be provided at the end of the paper with more details of the author’s name, title of publication, publisher’s name and year of publication. If the citation is from an electronic source such as website, the URL should be included in the reference list.
As discussed above, plagiarism is the use of another’s work with making proper acknowledge. It is a form of theft that is almost similar to physical theft but differs in some aspects. For instance, taking a physical object (such as a car) that has been abandoned can not be considered as theft while taking the work of anonymous writer amounts to plagiarism.
Physical objects can be sold and ownership transferred from one person to another whereas the right of authorship of any literary work can never be sold. The original author retains the right of authorship even after death and can never be sold or transferred to another person even if he is the next of kin.
However, Plagiarism does not imply that, an author can not use another person’s work but it limits the way this is done. If an author (artist) uses direct words from another source, he should quote them with quotation marks or indent them if more than forty. He should then provide a reference list or biography, depending on the referencing style used. In -text citation are also required for any ideas or thoughts borrowed from another source.
The best way to avoid plagiarism is to use words or ideas that have not been used by another author. However, this becomes difficult for some people and has to rely on the ideas of other to produce their work. In such a case, the original author should be given credit as failure to do so is plagiarism.
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