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Students and Avoiding Plagiarism[edit]

What is Plagiarism?[edit]

According to Kennedy (2006), "Plagiarism is the illegal practice of taking someone else's ideas, data, findings, the language, illustrative material, images, or writing, and presenting them as if they were your own." The modern concept of plagiarism as immoral and originality as an ideal emerged in Europe only in the 18th century, while in the previous centuries authors and artists were encouraged to "copy the masters as closely as possible" and avoid "unnecessary invention."[1]

The 18th century new morals have been institutionalized and enforced prominently in the sectors of academia and journalism, where plagiarism is now considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics, subject to sanctions like expulsion and othere severe career damages. Not so in the arts, which have resisted in their long-established tradition of copying as a fundamental practice of the creative process, with plagiarism being still hugely tolerated by 21st century artists.[2]

Why the Concern about Plagiarism?[edit]

Academia has been structured around the 18th century ethical ideal of originality. Student tend instead to naturally follow the long-established artistic tradition of copying as a fundamental practice of the creative process. The internet blesses today students a faster access to much material. Sadly for the structure of Academia, the joy about this fast access is tempered by knowledge that plagiarism is on the rise. The Web has increased the number of potential sources of plagiarism.

Is Plagiarism by students on the increase?[edit]

Yes. It is of grave concern for academia that plagiarism is in the increase. For example, on a large campus there is often a legal person tasked only with the handling of cases arising on the campus.

How Widespread is Student Plagiarism?[edit]

It is a global cancer for the academic structure.

How are Students Caught?[edit]

Just as students can use search engines to quickly find material to cut-and-paste without attribution, so too can lecturers use the same search engines to check sources and catch plagiarists. The ease with which the plagiarist finds information applies also to lecturers in detecting plagiarism. Student laziness in obtaining the plagiarized information results in lack of proofreading, sudden context changes, missing footnotes, false references, poor structure and out of context paragraphs, which are typical methods used in material which hides the real source.

What are the Consequences of Plagiarism in Academia?[edit]

Plagiarism is a serious offence for academia and no academic institution can turn a blind eye to it. It undermines the rights of honest pupils and students; can seriously affect the moral rights of some authors and it denigrates academic grades, degrees and even the academic institution itself. Pupils and students cannot accept their graduation diplomas or degrees honestly if they know they have plagiarized others' works. How will they perform and succeed in their future academic careers, if they have not assimilated the academic ethics themselves?

Why is Plagiarism Misconduct in Academia?[edit]

At the University of the Witwatersrand, a case of plagiarism is treated as misconduct as it: constitutes a breach of a rule of the University; and constitutes conduct that tends to bring the University or any part of it ... into contempt or disrepute; (and) interferes with the governance and proper administration of the University; (and) interferes with the conditions necessary for teaching, learning or research.

Towards an International Plagiarism Policy[edit]

We need:

  • Education at school (may take long)
  • Interventions in First Year especially during orientation week
  • Interventions before honours year and final year
  • Interventions for postgraduates.
  • See the standardised reference tariff for penalties against plagiarism

How does one avoid Plagiarism?[edit]

According to Kennedy (2006), "To avoid plagiarism, reference the source and put quotation marks around all of the quoted words, or paraphrase and reference."

When you have your own work and some one else's work in the same electronic document use different colours and possibly different fonts for your work and others' work. That way you won't mix them up. Wiredmarker is a free add-on to Firefox that is of great benefit here, as it allows you to highlight, annotate and document text on the Web or locally.


Kennedy, I.G., (2006) How can I be original? in How to do Research. CD-ROM. Published privately by the author. ISBN 0-620-27218-X.

Useful Websites[edit]

Plagiarism is not copyright infringement[edit]

We must not confuse plagiarism with copyright infringement. It is all too easy to plagiarize: just cut and paste (from copyright or non-copyright) material without citation and referencing.

See also[edit]


  1. Lynch, Jack (2002) The Perfectly Acceptable Practice of Literary Theft: Plagiarism, Copyright, and the Eighteenth Century, in Colonial Williamsburg: The Journal of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation 24, no. 4 (Winter 2002–3), pp.51–54. Also available online since 2006 at Writing World.
  2. Alfrey, Penelope Petrarch's Apes: Originality, Plagiarism and Copyright Principles within Visual Culture

External links[edit]