Definition of plagiarism
Plagiarism is the act of stealing work produced by some else. This includes text, images, video, ideas, theories or even the structure of something. Typically it is where someone copies text verbatim from a source. They pass it off as their own without crediting either the source or the author. Plagiarism is regarded as fraud and therefore a criminal offence.
Implications of plagiarism
Plagiarism in education is a common problem, the internet contains so much information and it is very easy to copy. Copying text verbatim from the internet and including it in an assignment without crediting the source or author is plagiarism. If that work is part of a graded assignment and the student is discovered, their assignment will be rejected. Because of this the student may fail the assignment or even their course and possibly be expelled.
Universities and businesses spend billions every year funding projects to develop ideas. Because of this plagiarism in both the academic and commercial setting is a real concern. The ideas could become commercial projects and provide a return on the investment. If someone steals that idea and markets it as their own, they will gain the reward rather than the true owner. Copyright, Patents and Intellectual Property are ways of legally identifying the owner of work and giving them protection in law. Every year many cases of plagiarism are heard in courts around the world; large fines and imprisonment are common for those found guilty of committing plagiarism.
To protect against plagiarism, there are tools available that can check for work that has been copied. Educations establishments regularly use these tools to check that submitted work has not been copied. Many web sites have technology that will not allow the copying of text, images or videos. Often images or videos display the Copyright symbol (©) to indicate that this work is protected.
How to avoid plagiarism in your work
- Look for references to the author or publisher when researching your subject. Often internet sites, especially academic or commercial ones, will give guidance on how to cite their work.
- Use citations whenever you copy work by someone else. For example:
“copied text from another source included in your work” (Smith, A. 2010)
- Don’t use too many words from the same place. Use synonyms instead and change the phrases to alter the writing style.
- The Modern Language Association (MLA) or Harvard Referencing have methods for citing quotations, theories, ideas, etc.
- Use your own ideas, your work should not be a list of other peoples work.
- Study the subject thoroughly before attempting to write anything so you have a clear understanding of the theory. This will help you avoid having to copy or quote looking for resources every time.