Why Researchers Should Take Plagiarism Seriously

In the age of the internet, it might seem like plagiarism issues are not as big of a deal as they used to be. After all, who will really know if you steal a couple of lines here and there from some obscure website or article? There is so much information available, who can say what plagiarism is? In fact, plagiarism is an act that carries serious consequences, whether committed in an academic or other setting. And while the internet has made it seemingly easier to commit plagiarism, it has also given rise to a number of online tools that make plagiarism easier to detect. In this article, we will look at some of the consequences of plagiarism as well as ways to ensure that you avoid plagiarism in your writing and research.

The Consequences of Plagiarism for Students in Academia

Most of us first encounter the concept of plagiarism as students in an academic setting. In many educational settings, even children are taught not to copy the work of others. This rule holds in higher education as well, where students learn and prepare to write and work in the real world. By the time students reach university level study, plagiarism problems are treated quite harshly, and students who are caught plagiarizing are punished. When you enter higher education, you will usually be asked to adhere to an honor code, and promising to avoid plagiarism is part of that honor code.

Plagiarism comes in many forms, including direct plagiarism, self-plagiarism, mosaic plagiarism, and others. No matter whether you deliberately copy sections from the work of someone else or accidentally forget to cite a source, there are always consequences of plagiarism if you get caught. Many students commit plagiarism by accident because they lack the proper skills to paraphrase ideas well or use correct citations. Regardless of whether plagiarism is committed on purpose or accidentally, it is typically considered intellectual theft as well as academic dishonesty.  Even if you commit self-plagiarism, you are still being academically dishonest. 

What are the consequences of plagiarism for students? They can range depending on the severity of the plagiarism committed. If you quoted a source once in a paper but forgot to add it to your references list, you might receive a low grade. If you clearly paraphrased some ideas and failed to cite them properly, you might get a failing grade or dropped from a course. And if you copy whole passages of a text, or submit work that is not your own, you can get suspended or expelled from your academic institution altogether. The consequences of plagiarism can, in other words, mean the end of your career as a student of higher education.

The Consequences of Plagiarism for Professionals

The consequences of plagiarism are very serious for students, and if you guessed they are even more serious for professionals, you are right. Academics who are caught plagiarizing generally find themselves having to seek out a new career. Even tenure-track professors are likely to have their status revoked. This is because professional academics must publish continually in order to advance in their careers, or even as part of their university contracts. But once you are caught plagiarizing as a professional academic, publishers will no longer be willing to accept your work. This is because their reputations are also at risk if they are found to have published plagiarized material. If you are found to have plagiarized even just one article, chances are high your past published work will all be retracted by the publishers. If you are an academic who cannot publish, nobody will be willing to fund your research, and your career will basically be over.

The consequences of plagiarism for professionals outside of academia are also quite harsh. Authors of fiction or non-fiction books, journalists, and other people who write for a career who are found to have committed plagiarism face the same problem that academics do: nobody will publish them. Professionals found to have plagiarized may be asked to resign from their current position, and will find it difficult to get work in the future. In addition, the consequences of plagiarism for professionals are likely to include legal and/or monetary penalties. If a publisher finds out the work they published was plagiarized, they can sue the author for damages. The original author whose work was plagiarized can also sue for lost compensation or, if the original plagiarized work was published, for copyright infringement.

In addition to the consequences of plagiarism on your career, plagiarism has other negative impacts on the world of publishing and academia as a whole. Journal editorial boards have pointed out that the increased plagiarism problem means there is less available knowledge in the world about academic research. Talented researchers who could have been performing original work instead consume valuable time and resources copying or reworking the labor of others for publication. Avoiding plagiarism is not just good for your career. Avoiding plagiarism is good for the world!

How Can I Avoid Plagiarism?

So how can you avoid plagiarism? One of the most important ways to avoid plagiarism is to understand why plagiarism issues happen in the first place. The consequences of plagiarism are so severe, it seems surprising anyone would commit plagiarism. But many people commit plagiarism because they run out of time to complete an assignment or meet a deadline. So, one way to avoid plagiarism is to start your work early! Still, others commit plagiarism because they don’t have good writing or researching skills. This is why note-taking, paraphrasing, and reference management are essential academic skills for anyone who wants to write.

Finally, you can make sure you avoid plagiarism by taking advantage of the plagiarism checkers that are readily available online today. Since much plagiarism is accidental, you can avoid plagiarism by running your writing through an online plagiarism checker like the one from Enago before you submit it for school or publication. Teachers, publishers, and academic journals all use online plagiarism checkers, so you definitely should too to make sure you avoid plagiarism and any potential negative consequences of plagiarism!