Plagiarism is the act of claiming another person’s ideas as one’s own. It involves copying, paraphrasing, or translating anything from anywhere without acknowledgment. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as a ‘literary theft.’ Indeed, it is stealing and publishing another author’s language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions. It shows a writer’s dishonesty and disloyalty to the writing ethics. Though it is not a crime, it is a serious ethical offense, similar to copyright infringement.
The history behind
In the 1st century, people used the Latin word ‘plagiarius’ (literal kidnapper) to denote someone stealing someone else’s work. The Roman poet Martial pioneered the concept when he complained that another poet had kidnapped his verses. The word first appeared in English in 1601. The Jacobian dramatist Ben Jonson used it to describe a plagiary as someone guilty of literary theft.
What makes one plagiarize?
Plagiarism constitutes the copy of an idea, writing, conversation, or song of someone else and presenting it as one’s own. It can include any information like the Internet, scripts, TV shows, interviews, articles, speeches, blogs, or other sources. We plagiarize when we fail to indicate the source of information within our writing. We need to acknowledge whenever we use sentences or phrases that belonged to others. Writing a bibliography at the end of our work is not enough to list the source. Failing to quote, mention someone else’s words or ideas with an internal citation accurately becomes plagiarism.
Plagiarism uses other’s work for personal benefit without giving credit to the source. It can occur intentionally or unintentionally. For example, an unintentional act of plagiarism involves copying material from the Internet for making an assignment or copying information for coursework to get better results.
Is plagiarism a legal offense?
Plagiarism is an act of fraud in the writing world. Although it is theft or stealing in some context, it does not mean legally. It has no current statute, either criminal or civil. However, in some cases, the law considers it a violation of the doctrine of moral rights. The increased availability of intellectual property due to a rise in technology raises the debate if it is criminal or not. Even in such a case, it usually violates international intellectual property and becomes unethical and immoral.
The difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement
Plagiarism differs from copyright infringement though they both apply to a particular act. Copyright infringement is an abuse of the rights of a copyright holder when one uses the material restricted by copyright. On the other hand, plagiarism is a moral concept. It is about the unearned increment by an author gained through false claims of authorship. Plagiarism is not illegal by any statute, like intellectual property rights (IPR). Moreover, IPR permits the copy of a work after a specific time. Even when copyright has expired, false claims of authorship may still constitute plagiarism.
Plagiarism and academics.
The academic world considers plagiarism by students, professors, or researchers as academic dishonesty or fraud. It may even lead to one’s academic censure. Colleges and universities are using plagiarism detection software to prevent increasing plagiarism. The field of Journalism regards it as a breach of journalistic ethics. The reporters caught plagiarizing face disciplinary actions there. Both academic or journalistic contexts no longer accept the claim that a plagiarist did it unintentionally.
Plagiarism has a centuries-old history in scholarship and journalism. However, the easy accessibility of the Internet today has made the physical act of copying the work of others much more accessible. As a solution to the increasing plagiarism, free online tools are available to help identify it. A range of approaches limits online copying, such as disabling right-clicking and placing warning banners regarding copyrights on web pages. Also, plagiarism involving copyright violations may be addressed by the rightful content owners sending a notice to the offending site owner or the ISP hosting the offending site.
Then, how to avoid Plagiarism?
To avoid plagiarizing, we must acknowledge the source of any borrowed ideas before presenting them in our work. Quotation marks, followed by documentation, should be used to indicate the exact words of others. A signal phrase identifying a source and parenthetical citation or a superscript number should denote the summarized or paraphrased ideas of others. In a research paper, we include the information we have read and the views of the people we have interviewed. To explain where the data comes from, we have to give (cite) the source correctly. It provides our writing credibility as we show that we have gathered ideas from valuable sources. It also helps the reader check and read those sources if he/she so wishes.
The ways to avoid plagiarism in research
To avoid plagiarism in research papers, we need to cite the source for the following:
(a)All words borrowed from another source.
(b)All ideas paraphrased but borrowed from a source.
(c)All pictures borrowed from another source: statistics, graphs, charts.
(d)All photographs or materials taken from the Internet.
However, we do not have to cite the source for the following:
(a) The knowledge that is generally known, like the dates of famous events in history or past prime ministers’ names. Similarly, popular phrases indicate the concepts generally understood by the public.
(b)Also, the common knowledge within our field is part of the knowledge shared by people in that field. For instance, the “language experience approach” for educators or the term “Impressionism” for art enthusiasts does not require acknowledgment.
Since reliability is an essential quality of good writing, we should avoid plagiarism. It is not difficult to avoid plagiarism, as mentioned above. The best approach is, of course, not to copy at all. Other than this, we should try to summarize, digest, and then explain what we have read in our own words. The best we can do is to focus on the difference between different authors on the same topic. And then evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments in our writing.
It is always good to prepare an outline for our writing to reduce the temptation to copy. It is good to quote from others to preserve the impact of the original wording. However, we have to identify the quote and provide the source to make it valuable. In any event, the copied passages should not form a substantial portion of our work. One should not forget to acknowledge the source if one borrows an idea from others, even when not directly quoting from the source.
The Modern Language Association of America. MLA Handbook: Eighth Edition. MLA, 2016.
World Heritage Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Plagiarism. Retrieved from Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing Press: http://self.gutenberg.org/articles/Plagiarism