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What is plagiarism and why is it a problem

Updated on May 27, 2011

Plagiarism is the term used to describe the action of one using the ideas or words of another author without acknowledging them as the main source from which the information was obtained. Simply put, you commit plagiarism when you present another persons work as your own. It is thus extremely important to credit all used sources in order to avoid plagiarism.

The problem of plagiarism is experienced in various schools, universities, colleges and many other academic environments world wide.
It is essential to know that there are various types of plagiarism and that in some cases plagiarism may also occur accidentally. Before writing it's imperative that one understands what plagiarism is in order to avoid it.

What counts as plagiarism?

By changing a few words and phrases or the order of original sentences and failing to cite any used sources, plagiarism is still evidently being committed. In order to evade it one should always put everything taken directly from a text into quotation marks. Paraphrasing should also be done carefully and effectively and words should not just be rearranged or replaced. It is not however, necessary to reference or quote anything appearing to be common knowledge and which can thus be found in numerous places and is known by many people.
There are many examples on what is considered plagiarism and what isn't. It is always a great help to read through these in order to avoid plagiarizing.

Why is Plagiarism a problem?

Plagiarism is not to be tolerated for various reasons.
Firstly, it gives students who are plagiarizing an unfair advantage if they are not caught. They could easily be seen as intelligent while passing off experienced writers ideas and work as their own.
Secondly, it limits knowledge. By one simply re-writing someone else’s work without referencing it (thus stealing it) they may become lazy mentally. It will become a habit to ‘copy’ others' work and knowledge will become limited. In addition, the work may also not be understood entirely by the person plagiarizing it as they may merely be copying down what they are reading. This would consequently result in them not gaining any additional knowledge which would have been obtained had adequate research been done.
Finally, plagiarism is unfair to the original writer or writers of the work. All their hard work would go unnoticed and be passed off as someone else’s.

How serious is plagiarism?

In many places (especially with regards to academic environments), plagiarism has been recognized as a serious offense and is punishable. Students especially, may in many institutions receive a reduction in their grade average (for the paper concerned), receive warnings or face extreme disciplinary action and many other consequences as penalties surrounding plagiarized work.

Its clear to note that plagiarism only brings negativity and that nothing positive could ever come out of it.


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    • Jade89 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jade Monique Taylor Hiralal 

      7 years ago from Johannesburg - South Africa

      It's a pleasure. Thanks for the comment Patkay!

      It is important that as many people as possible know what plagiarism is in order to avoid committing it accidentally as well.

    • Patkay profile image

      Patrick Kamau 

      7 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Great hub. Thanks for informing us about plagiarism. It is important for ones work to be respected.

    • Jade89 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jade Monique Taylor Hiralal 

      7 years ago from Johannesburg - South Africa

      You are spot on. While attending University, plagiarism laws were also extremely strict. With regards to important papers (which ultimately would result in one passing or failing the Semester) lecturers would grade a paper containing an above average amount of plagiarism 0%. This would ultimately result in one having to repeat the Semester the following year. What a waste of time and money that could have been avoided with a little more honesty and hard work.

    • zduckman profile image


      7 years ago

      My writing professor said she was amazed last term when a person handed in a research paper that was blatant plagiarism. The college even has plagiarism detecting software. They take this very seriously, and if caught you will be expelled.

      I believe it is very important to protect creative property rights.

    • Jade89 profile imageAUTHOR

      Jade Monique Taylor Hiralal 

      7 years ago from Johannesburg - South Africa

      I agree with you entirely. The extreme manner in which those who do plagiarize are dealt with amplifies just how major a problem it actually is.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma City

      It's fair to say that plagiarism is cheating, no matter the forum in which it resides.


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