Plagiarism Can Lower Your Grade
by Ron Kurtus (revised 18 March 2015)
Suppose you wrote an essay for class and later found out that someone had copied several paragraphs of your work word-for-word and taken credit for it. I'm sure that would get you angry that the other student plagiarized your work. Likewise, authors of written material found in books and on the Internet don't like it either.
Plagiarism is copying someone's material without giving due credit to the author. Since it is now so easy to copy and paste material from the Internet, many students shortcut the homework process with plagiarism.
Although sometimes you can get away with plagiarizing someone else's work, an alert teacher can detect it and will lower your grade because of the practice. At higher levels in school, plagiarism is considered cheating and is punished accordingly.
There are rules concerning copying the work of others in your assignments. If something is copied word-for-word, credit should be given as to the source.
Questions you may have include:
- What are some problems with plagiarism?
- How can teachers spot plagiarism?
- What are some guidelines to use?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Reasons and problems
One big reason for plagiarism these days is that it is so easy to simply copy and paste useful information from another website into your own document. This can create a number of problems for you down the road.
Implies you are the author
Many students don't realize that writing something implies that they created it. It is fine to interpret what someone else has said or written, but if material is copied word-for-word, credit must be given to the source. Often the material should be in quotation marks.
When you do give credit for others' material that you put in a paper, it is showing that you have done research. This will be points in your favor, as opposed to simply putting down information that obviously must have come from someplace else.
Easier than using your own words
Another reason for plagiarism is that it can be very time-consuming to do research and then write something out in your own words. Students with many assignments and under pressure to quickly finish a paper may justify copying, simply to get the work done on time.
Finally, many students didn't know it was illegal to copy things out of books or from the Internet and put those words into their essays. Copyright laws are meant to protect the author of material. Although it is unlikely that you would be prosecuted for plagiarizing material that it copyrighted, it still is illegal.
Teachers can spot plagiarism
Teachers can often tell if you have plagiarized some material in your class assignment.
Typically, teachers have given the same assignment many times before and are familiar with the common resources for the topic, such that they can identify material that they have seen before. Also, if several students have copied material from the same website, that fact will stand out as plagiarism.
Spotting grammatical structure
Another clue is if the grammatical structure and difficulty level of the words is different in certain paragraphs or sentences, as compared with the typical language used by the student. It is easy for the teacher to tell if the writing style is the same as the student usually uses.
A history teacher told me of a case of obvious plagiarism he saw in his class. The student wrote:
"Like hey, I have some cool views on how this Lincoln came up with his Gettysburg Address. Like, President Lincoln interfered to ameliorate the harshness of a military judgment or the severity of a court martial sentence. Always he was swayed by what he considered the inherent justice of the case and his deep sense of humanity."
It was obvious that after the second "Like", the material was in someone else's words.
Plagiarism detector service
Also, at the college level, the professor may use an online plagiarism detector service that can search the Internet for similar sentences or paragraphs. This is primarily used in papers that may be submitted for peer review.
Don't assume teacher won't notice
Thus, don't assume the teacher will not notice that you have used resource material without giving credit. Plagiarizing will often result in getting a lower grade.
Note: Students aren't the only ones who plagiarize. I've found several school websites where teachers have copied pages of material from our School for Champions website without giving credit for the material or referring to the source
Use your own words or give credit
When you write an essay, using resource material, you should try to write things in your own words and give credit to material that is in someone else's words.
Difficult to do
It is sometimes difficult to put material in your own words, when it seems that the source has done such a good job. However, it is better to be able to put thoughts into your own words and write them down.
When you are relating to a friend some conversation you had, you typically don't repeat what the other person said word-for-word. You usually paraphrase and put it in your own words. The same method is used when writing.
The whole learning process consists of reading a concept, understanding it, and being able to explain it to someone else.
Your teacher should give you guidelines on what to do and what to avoid doing, concerning plagiarism.
Your teacher should indicate how to cite or list your sources or references. At the higher levels in school, citations and references are required within the document. At lower levels, you might only need to list resources at the end of the document, if at all. It depends on what your teacher requires.
Plagiarism is copying someone's material without giving credit to the author. One reason students plagiarize is that it is so easy to copy and paste from the Internet.
Teachers usually can spot work that is in the words of another source, such as an authority in a field. Although difficult, it is better to put material into your own words. Teachers can give guidelines on how to cite your resources.
Plagiarizing can result in lower grades. Showing you have done research can result in high grades.
Give credit for good work done
Resources and references
Plagiarism Overview - Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)
A Plagiarism Guide for Students - Good overview
Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It - Indiana University Writing Tutorial Services
What is Plagiarism? - Kid's Health - for younger students
Plagiarism - Wikipedia - types and history of plagiarism
The Ultimate DMCA Guide for Students - File sharing
Questions and comments
Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.
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Plagiarism Can Lower Your Grade