Plagiarism And How To Avoid It

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is intellectual theft. It is any attempt to represent the work of another as your own in any form. Plagiarism can be committed in many ways. The most common occurrences include cutting and pasting the text of others works into your own paper with little or no modification, quotation or paraphrasing without citation, or incorporating someone else s ideas or analysis into one s own paper without acknowledging them as the source from which the ideas or analyses come. Buying pre-written papers and passing them off as your own work also counts as plagiarism.

Some people actually think that if the majority of what they write on the page is their work, a stolen paragraph here or there doesn’t t really matter that much. These people could not be more wrong. Any unacknowledged use of the words or ideas of others counts. It doesn’t matter how big or small the passage is, or even how much of your paper is plagiarized. If you plagiarize one sentence of your paper, even in a footnote, it still counts. The definition of plagiarism does not admit of degrees.

Is plagiarism wrong?

YES. Plagiarism is both morally and legally wrong. Plagiarism is morally wrong because acts of plagiarism are essentially acts of deception and theft. A person who plagiarizes steals the work of another in order to represent it as his or her own, and in trying to represent it as such lies to the instructor, who accepts and grades papers on the assumption that students are submitting their own work in a good faith effort to fulfill class requirements. Plagiarism is also legally wrong under current intellectual property law. Believe it or not, you can get sued for plagiarism.

Do you take it seriously?

YES. I take it very seriously. The primary purpose of a class like this one is help you become a better thinker. If you plagiarize you are defeating that purpose in the worst possible way. Even bad papers, where the quality of thought is low, are better than plagiarized papers. At least in a bad paper there is some thought, even if it is not very good. In a plagiarized paper there is no thought at all. As if that weren’t bad enough, tracking down evidence for plagiarism (and yes, I check every paper) is a waste of my limited time too. No one likes to have their time wasted.

What will happen to me if I get caught?

You will fail.

If you get caught plagiarizing (or cheating) in this class, you will fail the course automatically and all sanctions available will be pursued in accordance with College regulations.

Know also that there is no excuse for plagiarizing. It doesn’t matter how busy you are, how many other classes you re taking, what your work schedule is, what’s going on in your personal life, or how hard you find the material. Ignorance of what counts as plagiarism is likewise not an excuse.

If you find yourself in a situation as a result of which you believe that your performance in the class will be affected, talk to the instructor as soon as possible about your situation and get help. Don’t just plagiarize and think it will pass unnoticed. It is easier to detect than you think.

Plagiarism is also stupid. Plagiarizers spend just as much if not more time and effort trying to find the right material to steal and trying to conceal their theft as it takes just to write the paper for real. Why not just write the paper?

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