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Why Plagiarism is Bad (Maybe Not for the Reasons You Think)

Updated on July 31, 2013
Sometimes it's not just plagiarism...
Sometimes it's not just plagiarism... | Source

Plagiarism can be as minor as forgetting to put quotation marks around something that you’ve used word for word, even when you’ve included that pesky in-text citation. It can be as major as buying a paper from another student or an online website. It can be just about anything in between. Whatever form it’s in, however, it’s a problem. The odds may be that you won’t get caught, but is it still worth the risk? Here’s why you should rethink it if you’re considering plagiarizing anything.

You’re paying for it

Here’s the thing: if you’re in college, you’re paying for your education. Okay, maybe not right now, maybe you’re getting student loans. But isn’t that even worse? Then you’re racking up debt to learn, and that debt is going to grow over time. Do you really want to pay all that money to learn and then avoid learning? Seems kind of counter-productive. Why not buy a cheeseburger and then give it to someone else to eat? I don’t know about you, but if I’m buying something, I want it. And if I’m going to go through all the effort to apply, get accepted, enroll, and then attend classes, I sure don’t want to then waste what I would get from those classes.

You’re paying even more for it

So you’ve already paid for the class…but you don’t want to write your paper, so you pay someone else to write it. You can post an ad on Craigslist or go to one of those awesome paper mill websites, right? Well, yes, both of those are definitely options. But then you’re adding on to the cost of that class. Cheap papers will run you $20. If you want something that isn’t going to be traced back to you through a plagiarism-checking service, then you will need to spend more – maybe $50 or even $100 if you’re in a hurry. How many papers per class? Per semester? Do you really have that kind of money to blow?

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Something eventually can’t be plagiarized

Let’s say you’ve been plagiarizing. And you’ve been getting away with it. Good for you! But sooner or later, you will get an assignment that you can’t buy, you can’t find for free, and you can’t convince your friend to do for you. What happens then? If the voice is too different, I can almost guarantee you that your teacher will notice. You could just skip that assignment, but it may be worth a lot of your grade, so, going back to cost – you just spent how much to get a bad grade?

Cheating using cell phones...
Cheating using cell phones... | Source

Insulting your teacher

Let me tell you that, as a teacher, I am often offended when students plagiarize, especially when they do it in obvious ways. It’s like they think I’m too stupid to figure it out. Their font (type or color) changes. They are suddenly using British spellings even though they grew up in America. Their language is highly elevated. Semi-colons are being used correctly. There are plenty of “tells” in a paper that let us teachers know when we’re being had, and it annoys us. Sometimes we have to fill out extra paperwork and report it. Sometimes we have to deal with telling you that we caught you out, and then listen to excuses. Just don’t do it.

Getting caught

It’s bad enough getting caught once, but what happens if you do it more often? It depends on the teachers and the schools. I have taught at colleges where there is a college-wide policy that the first time is failing the assignment, the second time is failing the class (even if it’s a different class!), and the third time is suspension or expulsion. Seriously. And teachers do report it when they find it. So what happens if you did it by accident one time and failed the paper, but then you did it again and failed a whole class? Suddenly, the cost is higher – you’re not just paying for an education, you’re paying to re-take part of that education!

It’s work!

School work is just that – work! Don’t think that college or university is meant to be easy, and don’t think that you can always get away with getting “help.” Sometimes you just have to do the work, and you might even find out that you enjoy it or at least are learning something from it.

Avoiding Plagiarism: What Do I Need To Cite?

MLA Handbook


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