Why Plagiarism Is Wrong: A Discussion of the Definition, Ethics and Consequences of Plagiarism

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Understanding What Plagiarism Is

Plagiarism is the act of using someone else’s written work and passing it off as your own or not giving due credit to the author of the work. It is considered stealing and that’s why plagiarism is wrong. Below are some instances of plagiarism

  • Not citing direct quotations of written work in written materials. For example, John Doe writes a book on earthworms and discusses the implications of earthworms being used to cultivate compost by saying, “Earthworms are responsible for 20% of the proteins harvested through use of compost.” You write a paper and use those same words but do not cite the author. That is plagiarism.
  • Modifying written words and claiming them as your own. Using the example above, let’s say that you write the sentence “20% of proteins harvested through the use of compost are due to the use of earthworms.” Even though you rewrote the sentence, this is still considered a form of plagiarism if the author is not referenced or given credit for this knowledge. Obviously your knowledge was gained by using theirs, so why not give them credit?
  • Buying Essays. Though you pay for them and the sellers will try to convince you that this is completely legal, it is still plagiarism. Buying an essay and passing it off as your own is illegal and is just another reason why plagiarism is wrong.

Plagiarism and Morals

If you don’t write for a living, you may not really understand why plagiarism is wrong. Some of the information below may help to clear up this question for you.

  • Copyright violations. Once something is published, it is assumed to have copyright protection. That means that whoever wrote and published it owns the copyright to it. This is similar to a patent. How would you feel if something you designed was licensed to someone else and they reaped the benefits of it?
  • Receiving undo credit. When you plagiarize, the people who read it assume that you have written it. That means you are going to get the credit for someone else’s hard work. If you have morals, that isn’t going to sit well with you.
  • Cheating yourself. If you plagiarize, you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you have to write something for school, then your teacher has a goal that he or she is hoping you meet. They may want you to explore the topic, learn how to write in a specific format or just want you to develop writing skills you will need later in your educational and professional life.
  • Setting examples. If you have children, you generally want to set a good example for them. Would it be alright for them to cheat on a test or take credit for something they didn’t do? Plagiarism is wrong because when you do it, you open a whole new door of gray areas about what you consider to be right and wrong.

Penalties for Plagiarism

Though the penalties for plagiarism may vary from academic community to academic community, some general concepts remain the same. Read below to learn some of the penalties associated with plagiarism.

  • Loss of scholarship. In many academic communities, plagiarism is on the same level as cheating and can be penalized by loss of scholarships and other means of financial aid.
  • Loss of respect. Imagine being a teacher who finds out a student has committed plagiarism. How likely would you be to respect or believe that student afterwords in other instances?
  • Loss of future references. Throughout college you will obtain many sources that will assist you in your career later in life. Wouldn’t you rather know that a potential or current employer could contact any one of your professors and hear only good things about you? A potential employer learning of plagiarism is not likely to have any reason to trust you with their business.
  • Loss of self-respect. Knowing that you used someone else’s work and passed it off as your own is enough to make you not want to look in the mirror. While you may be happy to get that “A” on your paper, you will not have earned it and likely will have no knowledge about the material that was written about in the first place. It is entirely possible that your paper will be used for reference by someone else in the future. Wouldn’t you rather know what it was about if they contact you?

In the end you have far too much to lose by committing plagiarism and the cost just isn’t worth it. There are just too many penalties for plagiarism. If you need help on a paper, contact your instructor or ask a fellow student to give you a hand. Most instructors are completely understanding of such situations and will either help you themselves or lead you in the right direction to get the help you need.