Plagiarism and ways of preventing it

All courses of study have one specific ruled spelt out to all students and that is plagiarising is unacceptable. Most students will be well aware of this rule as it is enforced in high schools as well. However it is worth looking at what plagiarism actually is.

Plagiarism is robbery!

In short plagiarism is robbery and, more important, it’s a particularly bad type of robbery because it is using someone else’s ideas and pretending they are your own. You could call it cheating. Schools, colleges and universities implement severe penalties on any student found plagiarising and in professional life, where you receive a salary, you would be prosecuted for it – plagiarism is actually against the law!

The Internet and Plagiarism:

The internet has become an acceptable resource to search for information and because of the vast amount of information publicly available, it has been used as a tool for plagiarising. In recent years detection has become possible as the majority of schools, colleges and universities have the facilities to automatically scan work against millions of resources to find out if a student has cheated. Along with the awareness and familiarity of your teachers, tutors and lecturers, it is almost impossible to not be detected. It is worth knowing that teachers are well educated on tricks that students may play to get higher marks so they will, for sure, check your work for plagiarism.

Plagiarism by accident:

Normally, a student is not found to be guilty of straightforward plagiarism but plagiarising by accident. Moreover, it is not that difficult to accidentally plagiarise when you are doing a large amount of research because you will be writing so many notes which will be adding your ideas to the ideas of others with the express intention of preparing a reasoned argument and a synopsis of other research conducted in the subject area. If this is done too hurriedly and you are reaching your deadline then you might simply have forgotten which source some information or quotations came from. If you wrongly reference or don’t highlight the owner of specific ideas then you can be charged with plagiarism. Careful referencing and acknowledging other people’s research is part and parcel of a good essay. Accidental plagiarism is as much a crime as deliberate plagiarism.

How to avoid plagiarism:

A smart route for avoiding this specific kind of plagiarism is to write down methodically each reference you use when note making and place these references on a list at the finish of every note making/reading session that you do. Additionally, it is a strategic move to list every book you read with the correct reference ensuring you have all the details. The temptation to not put a reference in an essay is when you have not recorded the details of the source in full in note form at the time of reading. You then might have to source the book again from the library which can be very time consuming. It is so worthwhile to check the reference style required by your college or university well in advance so the very first source of information you read can be instantly recorded on your list. It will also shorten the time at the end of the essay to write out the full bibliography. It is quite amazing that recording references in the wrong way can actually lose you a lot of credibility and will certainly not be in your favour if you, later, wish  or have the chance to follow a career as an academic.

In the first stages of writing your essay, there is a good chance that you will examine a ‘model answer’ of some kind. These are often handed out to students to assist them with understanding how an essay on the subject being studied is to be written. There are also books available for purchase that contain model answers as well as numerous websites. These websites go as far as offering to research and write custom essays as well. Basically, if you treat the model answer as your own you will be up for plagiarising if you use it as a resource to learn from and guide you then plagiarism will not be an issue.  Making notes from the essay will, at least, stop you inadvertently using complete sentences in your own essay.

You can take notes on how the essay is structured (number of paragraphs, length of paragraphs, starting words at the beginning of each paragraph and so on). You can study and work out how the author has used evidence to back up the thesis. You can study and take notes on how the argument has developed throughout the essay and, lastly, study the conclusions that have been formulated.

In no way would you be confronted if you merely use a source of any type to assist you in improving the standard of your work. Research your topic is the foundation for your completed essay. You simply have to be cautious about when referring to your thoughts and those that are the property of other experts. The only genuine plagiarism is when you use an idea in an essay which came from you but is, in fact, the property of another author and you are totally unaware of the existence of the author. It would be very hard to prove your ignorance. If you are studying for a Master’s degree you must be especially careful that you check to make sure you are not using someone else’s ideas. If you are, make a record of the source immediately.