Steering Clear of Plagiarism in the College Crunch

Study after study shows an alarming rate of plagiarism and cheating among undergraduate students. Offenses can range from wholesale copying of another writer’s work, to a failure to cite an informational source in a way that gives proper attribution and allows the source to be identified and referenced. A number of prominent universities have established programs devoted to supporting academic integrity both through the development of techniques to detect plagiarism, and the encouragement of an academic culture that discourages dishonesty and encourages students to develop their ideas through effective and ethical means.

Policy and Enforcement

Colleges and Universities almost universally have specific policies on academic plagiarism. Typically, when plagiarism is suspected, an instructor will conduct an investigation to define the scope and severity of the infraction. If the instructor believes that the work indeed involves or constitutes an act of plagiarism, there will be a formal investigation conducted by a higher authority established by the school. Disciplinary measures taken as a result typically range from a failing grade on the assignment involved, to expulsion from the institution. These consequences are generally spelled out in academic handbooks, and frequently reinforced by on-campus workshops and class syllabi.

Intentional vs. Unintentional Plagiarism

Intentional plagiarism, occurs when a student misrepresents either actual text, or original information as his or her own. Unintentional plagiarism generally occurs when a student fails to properly cite a source in a way that can be confirmed, or includes information which does not need to be cited, but uses language that does not represent the student’s own words. The practice of paraphrasing text can result in unintentional plagiarism when a student fails to recognize that the information being paraphrased is not universally understood, and in fact, requires a citation.

Avoiding Plagiarism

In order to avoid plagiarism, one must learn how to properly cite sources of information. There are a number of sources online that provide information and examples of how to properly cite a piece of work. Colleges, universities, departments and instructors will often specify a specific citation style for academic writing. Adherence to this style will help eliminate unintentional plagiarism, and help the student present a well-written piece of work.

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