Plagiarism can appear in many different contexts but in the academic and college setting is most commonly associated with writing and the borrowing of ideas without lending credit or citing the source from whence the material came. More formally, the Oxford English Dictionary defines plagiarism as “the action or practice of plagiarizing; the wrongful appropriation or purloining, and publication as one’s own, of the ideas, or the expression of the ideas (literary, artistic, musical, mechanical, etc.) of another" (OED1989). In other words, plagiarism is very much like theft in that something is taken or borrowed from an author or creator without credit being given.
Examples of plagiarism at the college level can vary but one common instance involves the borrowing of ideas in exactly the same way they have been written by another person before. For instance, if one were, as was done above, to give the word-for-word definition of plagiarism from the Oxford English Dictionary without putting quotes around it and/or citing it later in the text, it would be plagiarism. The reason is because without the indicators that it a quote borrowed from another source, it would appear that it was being used for the first time right here. Another common example of plagiarism is when thoughts or words are paraphrased and used in someone’s writings or works. It is always necessary to cite the source from where a thought, expression, or idea came from. At times it can be tricky to determine when something is or is not plagiarism so it is always best to cite a source, even if one feels it only borders on plagiarism.
Plagiarism is a serious problem in all levels of academia. The instances of it have risen due to the easy availability of resources on the internet that allow students to find course materials from which to copy and turn in as their own. As a result there has been more focused attention on the problem and most instructors at the college level are required to put statements about the serious nature of plagiarism on the syllabus or course guidelines. In addition to this, it must be stated that colleges take instances of plagiarism very seriously. For example, at Penn State University, the college makes it clear that punishments for plagiarism can range from “disciplinary warning; disciplinary probation; temporary, indefinite, or permanent expulsion" (Penn State Academic Integrity 2005).
One of the consequences of plagiarism is expulsion and this can literally ruin a student’s life. This means that students who plagiarize, even if it is only one time, can face being expelled from their college. This could have long-term impacts on the rest of their lives as they would probably find it quite difficult to find another college willing to accept them. Furthermore, it would be mean a lot of wasted time, money, and effort, especially if the student was nearing graduation. Many other colleges, both large and small, take plagiarism very seriously and are not hesitant to punish it with great severity.
At Illinois State, for example, the faculty is much more upfront about the punishment for plagiarism at the college level. In their Official Plagiarism Policy Statement, they say, “A minimum of one year of disciplinary probation is the standard precedent for such violations, in addition to appropriate educational sanctions" (2006). They go on to discuss how the student will not be allowed to drop any classes so that whatever class they plagiarized something for they will certainly fail. It is clear that colleges do not accept plagiarism and work hard to make students aware of what it is by posting these notices about punishments and requiring professors to provide definitions and the fact that action will be taken if it is suspected.
The punishments for plagiarizing are harsh and it would not be worth it for a student to commit plagiarism. One “easy way out" of a paper by plagiarizing could cost a student his or her entire college career. Even if the student is not expelled permanently, all colleges have the right to include details about the student’s academic history on transcripts. These transcripts will eventually go to future employers and will haunt the student for the rest of his or her life. Having a designation that one was kicked out of school (or even put on probation) is not something desirable and thus it should be kept in mind that the punishment does not end with expulsion or probation.
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