Academic honesty is clearly one of the key requirements for a successful learning process and fruitful results. However, scholarly dishonesty in general and plagiarism, in particular, seems to have been growing out of proportions recently together with the opportunities that information technology has provided learners with in terms of studying options.
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Defined as using the ideas belonging to other people without proper referencing (Gravetter & Forzano, 2015, p. 122), plagiarism remains one of the major concerns in the academic world that need to be resolved. Perhaps, the most controversial characteristics of plagiarism, its ambiguity defines the key problems related to its location.
In fact, the aforementioned definition of plagiarism is not universal; apart from the suggested interpretation of the phenomenon, a range of other definitions exist. For instance, there is the so-called substantial plagiarism (incorporating large pieces of text written by another writer), self-plagiarism (copying a previous work), incidental plagiarism (meaning either copying of minor elements of other works or unconscious plagiarism of a specific source), etc. (Sullivan, 2013, p. 53).
One must admit, though, that the traditional perception of plagiarism as rewriting or copying one’s work word for word is not the only type of plagiarism existing.
Apart from the specified specimen of the phenomenon in question, other variations exist, the most common ones including mentioning of illegal use of one’s ideas as well as works and posing them as one’s own accomplishments and personally developed concepts. The Higher Colleges of Technology define the subject matter as the attempt to “steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: use (another’s production) without crediting the source” (Plagiarism, 2015, para. 1).
Though the latest technology has facilitated the creation of a more favorable environment for plagiarists, detecting plagiarism still remains possible for most educational establishments and most teachers. Unfortunately, with the advance of the technology that allows for detecting plagiarism precisely, the tools for concealing the abuse of citations and downright stealing passages from other sources are perfected as well. There are several ways to detect plagiarism, and not all of them necessarily presuppose the use of digital tools.
First and most obvious, plagiarists tend to be not as attentive to details as they should. As a result, the material that they copy often contains the information that can (and, most certainly, will) be used against them.
This information may include inconsistencies in dates (i.e., the running head of the paper may contain the date that indicates the fact of the paper having been written prior to the teacher giving the student the assignment), the inability to reproduce the material orally, or merely the note claiming the authorship or the location of the material downloaded, which the plagiarist was careless enough to disregard.
Another, though obviously more complicated, tool for detecting the instances of plagiarism, the analysis carried out by the teacher and involving observations deserves a mentioning. The specified method is only helpful when a student performs an oral presentation. If the learner cannot produce a coherent interpretation of data without reading their notes and can hardly answer any question once the sheets with the printed text on them are taken away from the student, the latter is most likely to have committed the crime of plagiarism.
While rather efficient and working in most cases, the approach in question, though, is not to be considered the silver bullet of detecting plagiarism in an academic setting either, for the individual psychological qualities of a student are to be taken into account. For instance, mere anxiety or stage fright (when speaking in front of a large amount of students) may serve as the reason for the learner to get confused and display the signs of academic dishonesty without having committed one.
Finally, it would be wrong to presume that in the realm of the 21st-century plagiarism cannot be detected with the help of various types of software. The latter is especially helpful in the cases when students are lazy or hapless enough to copy the text that they have found online and paste it directly into their papers.
The latter method of plagiarism detection, however, may be viewed as rather controversial, since its effects are often found questionable. There is no need to stress that online plagiarism checking devices, like any machines in general, are far from flawless, and their process of analyzing academic work is anything but flawless.
As a result, even the paper that was written entirely by a student and the authorship of which belongs solely to the person composing it may be viewed as slightly plagiarized by an online plagiarism detector. Consequently, relying fully on online detectors is impossible, which is why most academic institutions allow a plagiarism margin of 3–105.
The numerous and, much to the credit of the learners that resort to cheating, creative ways of concealing the fact of plagiarism, in their turn, beg the question why students spend such great effort on academic dishonesty instead of actually coming up with a work of their own, which, judging by their ingenious methods of plagiarizing other people’s papers, might as well turn out full of ingenious ideas. Fear is, weirdly enough, the key reason for learners to submit the work done by other people.
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Traditionally, it is assumed that students are afraid of having their ideas ridiculed by the teacher. Surprisingly, this problem does not have as much to do with the image of the plagiarist among a particular group of learners as it is related to the specified student’s image and perception of their self. In other words, such students are afraid of the realization of being vapid and unoriginal, preferring that their alleged stupidity could never be discovered and they could be labeled as lazy and irresponsible instead.
The second most popular reason concerns the lack of time. As banal and unoriginal as this excuse is, it still tops the charts, quite understandable – after all, the being a student involves not only leading an academic life but also earning for a living and integrating into a new mini-society, i.e., socializing with new peers.
The latter activity often triggers teenage binge drinking (Johnson, 2007) and, unfortunately, may affect not only the learner’s academic life but also personal and professional ones. Time management, however, is an easily acquirable skill that students need to develop to handle with the workload that college, university or high school provides them with.
Finally, language issues deserve to be mentioned. Among the UAE students, there is a range of foreigners, including bilingual students and second language learners. Because of the lack above of time and a huge amount of tasks, second language learners (DLLs) have little to no opportunity to both acquire the necessary language skills and excel in their studies simultaneously. As a result, another case of plagiarism ensues.
One must bear in mind that the instances of unintentional plagiarism may still occur. Though being accidental, the specified type of plagiarism still leads to a drastic drop in the academic score of a student, which is why preventive measures for avoiding plagiarism are to be born in mind when completing an academic task, be it an all-embracive dissertation or a minor essay.
In order to avoid plagiarism, one must locate the citation style to adhere to when writing the paper, and follow the preferred citation style throughout the paper. More to the point, the formatting of the academic work must be compatible with the citation manner in question; for instance, when choosing the MLA citation style, one must remember to list one’s name, the instructor’s name, the course and the date of submitting the paper in the upper left corner of the document.
For the APA citation style, running heads is crucial along with a properly compiled and put together reference list. As it has been stressed above, for plagiarism to be avoided, the citation style of the student’s or tutor’s choice must be sustained throughout the paper; i.., a paper written in the MLA citation style yet with its reference list designed in the APA style will be immediately labeled as plagiarized, and for a good reason (Lipson, 2011).
Plagiarism comes in a variety of forms and may be detected with the help of a range of tools. Moreover, not all plagiarizers look despicable in the eyes of their instructors – some clearly have either very little time or very limited abilities for carrying out a specific task.
Nevertheless, one must bear in mind that plagiarism is the violation of people’s ownership rights and that it, in fact, can be avoided rather easily. Personally, I am going to avoid plagiarism from now on and will consult both citation guides and online plagiarism checkers in order to making sure that I do not harass anyone’s ownership rights.
Gravetter, F. & Forzano, L.-A. (2015). Research methods for the behavioral sciences. Stanford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Johnson, E. (2007). The use of student-developed mini-cases as a source for identifying ethical dilemmas within an academic environment. International Journal of Case Method Research & Application, 11(2), 142–151.
Lipson, C. (2011). Cite right, second edition: a quick guide to citation styles–mla, apa, chicago, the sciences, professions, and more. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Plagiarism. (2015). HCT Libraries. Retrieved from http://libguides.hct.ac.ae/content.php?pid=193905
Sullivan, K. P. H. (2013). Cases on professional distance education degree programs and practices: successes, challenges, and issues: successes, challenges, and issues. Hersey, PA: IGI Global.