Plagiarism: A worm poking holes into the quality of our academic work

Today I am in no humour to give consequence to students who copy because there is something insufferably offensive about duplicity in the realms of academics. Like sin, plagiarism has become so common (especially in our institutions of higher learning) that most academicians and students have succumbed to its guises.
1461695155Christine-Osae
Christine Osae

Today I am in no humour to give consequence to students who copy because there is something insufferably offensive about duplicity in the realms of academics. Like sin, plagiarism has become so common (especially in our institutions of higher learning) that most academicians and students have succumbed to its guises. 

Plagiarism is an academic misconduct also loosely referred to as academic theft. It occurs when one uses another person’s ideas or words without acknowledging or crediting them. With the flood of materials on the internet and the overwhelmingly busy schedules the students work around, plagiarism is almost inevitable in any form.

 

Forms of plagiarism

 

Some students do whole-paper plagiarism. In this form of plagiarism, all or most of the student’s paper is lifted from another student or a published source, for example the Internet, a book, or a print article. It is especially bad to buy a paper from any source that offers ready-made term papers. Students who have engaged in this form of plagiarism in the past have been expelled from the University.

 

Others just cut-and-paste. In this form of plagiarism, parts of a paper ranging from phrases and sentences to entire paragraphs are taken from the Internet or somewhere else and incorporated into the student’s paper with no signal that they are not the student’s own expression.

The clever ones however cut-and-paste but are also keen to give references. In this form of plagiarism,words or ideas in a paper are included from another source, a reference to the source is included, but there is no quotation signal. The problem here is that a reference indicates only that the accompanying text is somehow derived from or related to the cited source. A reference alone does not show that the text is a direct quotation from that source. A direct quotation with a reference but without quotation marks is plagiarism.

Why do students plagiarise?

One of the major causes of plagiarism is the society’s cynicism about grades. Like a political slogan, we have exaggerated our expectations for grades that the only thing students think about is how to get a good grade. A student may feel ashamed to fail, especially in terms of family expectations. It should be noted that it is more “honorable” to receive a low grade than to be caught cheating or plagiarizing.

Other students may feel their writing or research skills are so weak, that they can only pass the course if they buy a paper written by someone else. Some prefer to pay other people to do their research for them because they do not believe in themselves. The teachers should give a clear and simple breakdown of his expectations in the assignment to help guide the students. Clear guidelines can help students put their skills in perspective
Some students claim that they have heavy class loads and that there is not enough time to do the assignments properly. This is true in most cases. Guidance on organization and the assignment should be given in order to show students how to better plan their time. Students should also be reminded that the assignments are providing skills and knowledge that may be needed in their future careers.

Lack of proficiency in the English language is equally a cause. Most students doubt their ability to write their work in understandable English. They would rather lift a paragraph from wherever, other than put it in their own words.

Such students may find it easier to copy from someone else than do the work themselves. One strategy for these students is to encourage them to do the work in their poor English, especially for non-English courses. Another strategy is to structure assignments so that plagiarism becomes more work than doing the research.

Ignorance about Plagiarism is equally a contributing factor. Although most students understand that buying a paper online is plagiarism, they may not see the distinction between synthesizing sources or true collaboration and certain types of plagiarism such as “cut-and-paste” or too close a paraphrase. Reviewing the different types of plagiarism will let students know what the standards are. Also, students should be encouraged to add citations as they write, including drafts. This will avoid the excuse – “I meant to put in citations, but I forgot.”

Recommendations

The most effective solution to plagiarism is to teach students how to avoid it. Our messages are filled with “do not” instead of “do”. We do not want them to plagiarize yet we are not teaching them how to avoid it. If the time spent discrediting students would be employed in teaching them how to avoid plagiarism, a lot of harm would be avoided.

Secondly, teachers should breakdown work into simple understandable tasks. If your expectations are clearly stated, the students may attempt it themselves.

It is equally important to give application questions that demand practical approach. Even with this, teachers must insist on a list containing a reference of the works cited.

Conclusively, plagiarism kills originality and defeats the purpose of learning. The reason you are evaluated is to help you gain more knowledge and to help the teacher to determine the level of learning. We must therefore avoid it at all cost.

The writer is a lecturer at The Adventist University of Central Africa

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