Plagiarism is the use of someone else's written work as your own, especially when proper credit is not given to the original author. In some cases, students don't understand plagiarism. In others, students intentionally plagiarize to avoid creating their own work. In a study of 24,000 high school students in May 2010, Rutgers University found that 58 percent of respondents had plagiarized. A similar study by the school from 2002 to 2005 found that 36 percent of college undergraduates plagiarized using online resources and 38 percent had done so using print materials.
In many cases, intentional plagiarizers only consider the external effects of cheating. However, whether you get caught or not, plagiarism has some critical consequences. First, you deprive yourself of the intended learning objectives of an assignment, paper or report by not conducting thorough research and formulating an original document. You can also damage relationships with peers and instructors. Dutiful students may be upset if they put forth great effort and watch you cut corners. If an instructor finds that you have plagiarized, he develops a sense of distrust is more likely to scrutinize your work going forward.
High schools and colleges normally have stated polices that outline discipline processes for plagiarism. It is normally up to instructors to catch you and begin the discipline process. The penalty sometimes varies based on the significance of the assignment. On a simple homework assignment, you may simply receive a zero on the work. On a major paper or project, you may fail the project or the class on a first offense. If the first offense results in project failure, a subsequent offense may lead to automatic class failure. Instructors often lay out their specific procedures in class syllabi.
Suspension or Expulsion
Your high school or college normally gets involved if incidents of plagiarism are repeated or severe. This stems from one or more instructors reporting these incidents through the school's formal disciplinary reporting processes. At the high school level, a school board hearing is commonly held to determine whether a student's conduct violated the code to an extent requiring suspension or expulsion from school. In college, a judiciary board usually adjudicates the student's disciplinary hearing if he reaches the stage in the conduct code justifying a suspension or expulsion hearing.
In a 2007 article, Middlebury College Professor William Harris pointed out that college administrators had ramped up penalties for plagiarism to help curb the growing epidemic. One such consequence many colleges have added is official notation on your transcript if you are found guilty or judged to have plagiarized while in school. Harris indicated that students at some schools had little opportunity for a fair trial even in cases of "accidental" plagiarism where the student simply failed to include quotes on borrowed phrases. Still, such penalties are intended to deter students since transcripts can impact their ability to transfer or get into graduate school.
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- Rutgers University: Students' Cheating Takes a High-Tech Turn
- Rutgers University: Cheating Among College and University Students: A North American Perspective
- John Carroll University: The Effects of Plagiarism
- Psychology Today: Plagiarism and Its Effect on Creative Work
- Middlebury College: Plagiarism in Academe
- Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images