Avoid Plagiarism – Uphold Academic Integrity

What is Plagiarism?

In simple words, plagiarism is the act of presenting the original work of a creator as your own, without duly acknowledging the creator. The ambit of creative work includes an idea, text, data, drawings or work in any format (print or digital), that is original.

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Plagiarism is reflective of dishonesty and thievery. It is against the very basic principles of ethics and has developed into a malady for academics and content industry. Instances of plagiarism are found more commonly and frequently these days, thanks to the ubiquitous internet and the availability of digital tools.

Types of Plagiarism

The most common ways in which people commit plagiarism are enlisted below.

  • Duplicating content without acknowledging the source(s). These are the cases where content is taken “as-it-is” without acknowledging the source(s). The content is copied as a “single large block” from the same source or in multiple “chunks” from the same or multiple sources.

  • Paraphrasing the content without acknowledging the source(s). These are the cases where a few words in the content that is sourced from a single or multiple source(s) are changed while retaining the same structure and flow.

  • Besides the above two major cases, there are several other cases such as the final content is a mix of content with proper citation and content with improper citation; content with improper or inaccurate citation of sources; content borrowed from a previous work of self thereby rendering the new work ‘unoriginal’.

  • Plagiarism may be unintentional or accidental as well. This happens when one does not have an understanding of how to quote and cite the source. The content may seem to be the outcome of a conscious attempt at plagiarism.

A detailed study of types of plagiarism with case-specific examples is available at the following webpages. The reader is encouraged to go through the content available at the following links to consolidate their understanding of types of plagiarism:

1.Bowdoin College | 2.Turnitin | 3.iThenticate

Consequences of Plagiarism

People who plagiarise are under the false impression that they stand to benefit from such a practice. From a short-term perspective, they do. They are not only able to develop “their work” quickly and conveniently but also grab credit and recognition for “their contribution”. The original creator of the work (the aggrieved party), thus loses the immediate benefits and credits that are rightfully theirs. From a long-term perspective, however, plagiarists end up as ineffective and incapable professionals. Their professional reputation is destroyed irreversibly to the point that their social image is severely dented as well. The world of academia and knowledge industry is replete with such examples.

Additionally, academic institutions, knowledge industry and publishing (print/electronic) companies have taken cognizance of the fact that plagiarism is a malady infecting academic integrity. Conscious efforts are hence being undertaken to avoid and curb plagiarism. Academic institutions and forums, for instance, now have a distinct and clear set of guidelines to penalise plagiarism. The degree or percentage of plagiarism is an important metric in deciding the quantum of penalty.

The reader is suggested to visit the link shared below to get an idea of the kind guidelines that describe the extent and appropriate applicable penalty for plagiarism found.

Ways and Means to Detect and Identify Plagiarism

It should be noted, however, that it is important to first establish the ground for awarding such penalties by substantiating that plagiarism has intentionally been committed. It is here that “ubiquitous internet and the availability of digital tools” which made it easy to plagiarise, makes it equally feasible to identify plagiarism. A plethora of digital services, both paid and free, help identify plagiarism. Such services conduct a close and thorough examination and provide a detailed analysis of the content found plagiarised, if any. The weblinks to a few well-known plagiarism detection services are shared below.

1.Plagscan | 2.Ithenticate | 3.Turnitin

It is not necessary, however, that the plagiarism analysis of content be carried out through digital/electronic means only. A case of plagiarism discovered through human observation is equally well established to call for action.

Formal and Final Course of Action

Once plagiarism is found to have been committed, the next step requires the evidence of plagiarism to be put before a panel or board (designated to handle cases pertaining to plagiarism) of the relevant organisation/ institution/body for formal examination and subsequent action. Penalties may range from zero credits for plagiarised scripts to outright cancellation of a candidate’s registration, depending upon the extent of plagiarism. Knowledge and learning based organisations outrightly remove such content from their portals and sever their professional relations with knowledgeable professionals who indulge in plagiarism.

Citation and its purpose

As a measure, penalising plagiarism definitely deters people from practising it. It is, however, equally important that right practices are adopted by professionals during the course of the development of their work. Thus, in line with this thought, institution and organisations are advising students and professionals on ways and means to avoid plagiarism.

The very first step in this direction requires that the students and professionals be made aware of the issue at hand. This is done through a dedicated “FAQ on Plagiarism”. A few links to such FAQs are presented below. The reader is suggested to go through them.

1.Oxford Students, University of Oxford | 2.University of Cambridge

Best Approach to Avoiding & Curbing Plagiarism

An approach to avoiding plagiarism is the practice of developing good writing skills. Good writing calls for honest and effective articulation of thoughts, ideas and facts. Honest writing, in turn, calls for sharing the resources which have had an influence on the content/writing.  This is where the practice of citation comes. A citation is a reference/link/credit to a source that has been referred to/included in parts during/for the development of a work. Citation ensures that credits are rightfully given to the original creators of a cited work. It also helps the audience and the creator to refer to additional sources on the same subject area at the same time or at a later date. It may be noted that facts/thoughts that are a matter of “common knowledge” do not need to be cited. However, if a thought/fact/idea is beyond the purview of common knowledge and is a unique and distinct contribution/work of a creator, then a citation is certainly required.

There are well-specified formats/conventions which are to be adopted while making citations. An improper citation may also lead to a situation that a work is considered plagiarised.

The reader is suggested to visit the following links to develop a sound idea of the need for citations and the convention to be followed while making citations:
1.University of Cambridge(When to Cite) | 2.California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Hixon Writing Center

3.Oxford Students, University of Oxford | 4.University of Cambridge(Referencing conventions)

In addition to the links shared above, the following resources were also referred to for the development of this article.

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