PLAGIARISM IS WRONG Discuss this statement, explaining whether or not you consider it to be correct. How should universities deal with cases of plagiarism in terms of investigation and penalties?
PLAGIARISM IS WRONG
‘Discuss this statement, explaining whether or not you consider it to be correct. How should universities deal with cases of plagiarism in terms of investigation and penalties?’
The word ‘plagiarism’ is shrouded in negative connotations: it is often referred to by words such as dishonesty and stealing; indicating that plagiarism is severely frowned upon and unjustifiable. The Common Law in the United Kingdom recognises this and, as a result, protects people’s personal work under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, further emphasising the fact that it is wrong because it allows someone to take credit for work that is not their own.
Plagiarism at universities can take place in two forms. It can either be ‘deliberate with the intention to deceive or accidental due to poor referencing’. Deliberate plagiarism is currently the most common and treacherous form of plagiarism whilst accidental plagiarism is less of a concern. Despite extreme measures and constant warning, plagiarism exists – many students are disqualified and their studies discontinued as a result. A possible reason for plagiarism could be the vast reading material available; making it not only costly but almost impossible for universities to keep up with. It seems that students are able to access so much material that they can plagiarise from vast number of resources without identification
Plagiarism has been shown the red card by every university. Evidence of this is the fact that each university now has their own set of rules on how to deal with both plagiarism types, details of which can be found on their website. For instance, University of Surrey’s policy on plagiarism states clearly, ‘plagiarism is a serious academic offence and could result in suspension of your degree course’ as well as what the consequences would be of such a practice. The first penalty (assuming that the problem is poor referencing) is that ‘the project/coursework will be awarded zero marks’. However “repeat offences may result in zero marks for the full module or even in a termination of your degree programme’.
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Nonetheless, the most important counter-argument, in favour of plagiarism, is the fact that it is not under any statute or act illegal for a student to use others work as resource to produce their own. Hence students should be allowed to openly use resources to improve their work. This implies that unintentional plagiarism is right but intentional plagiarism is wrong. A further point made by those who feel unintentional plagiarism is right is that students should not have to submit a bibliography. It is time consuming, tedious and the time used can be spent by students paying more heed to their actual task at hand. This is important, as most students could produce higher standards of work without stressing about referencing correctly. However the abandoning of bibliographies would then lead to another flaw, as it would be extremely difficult to determine exactly at what point plagiarism becomes intentional.
It is also often argued that students are wrongly accused of plagiarism because they do not have the skill to reference correctly. This could be seen as unjust because the student’s weakness in referencing accurately could become a hindrance to their education. Yet, this reason is cancelled out by the fact that every year Universities are investing large amount of resources, time and money in order to help students vastly improve on their referencing skills.
The harshest penalty of plagiarism and often considered as the last resort is permanent suspension of the student from the university. In such circumstances the student loses all rights to study at the University and the Tuition Fees that they have paid. Moreover, if a student is suspended, it may well be put on their record and this may deem them unfit for the sector they wish to work in. This can be illustrated in cases such as, Clark V University of Lincolnshire in which Clark was awarded a failure because she was accused of plagiarism. However after several appeals the exam board agreed to remark her work but under the condition of only awarding her a third class degree because of the remark status. As a result Clark was unable to gain a career in the field she had studied because a third class degree was not high enough for the standard jobs in the field.
Despite severe consequences students continue to plagiarise daily. Evidence of this can be seen in a recent incident that occurred at the University Of Kent. In this incidence a student admitted, “downloading material from the internet for his degree plans to sue his university for negligence”. The student claimed that the university in question did not provide guidelines on plagiarism and had allowed him to plagiarise for nearly three years, as a result of which the student is now in a sufficient amount of debt and no degree. However as stated before, Universities have invested in very expensive resources in order to help them identify and investigate plagiarism. Universities use softwares such as, ‘Turn It In’, ‘Plagiarism Tester’ and so on; in order to help them identify plagiarism.
A severe consequence of allowing a university student to plagiarise would be the students’ inability to think for themselves. It has been a great subject in the media as to how Ofsted feels that schools are not intellectually educating students with the skills they need for the future; but instead spoon-feeding them to just ensure that the reputation of the school is saved on the league table, instead of equipping students with knowledge that ensures success in the practical world. The same concept can be applied to higher education: if plagiarism is made acceptable, students will lose the incentive to produce original ideas and will simply put together works of great philosophers, lawyers, judges, sociologists as opposed to their personal views and this could easily slow down academic progression. However it can be argued that this may not be as wrong as it sounds, as it will enable students to be able to make further advances to others works and the outcome may be positive. As the saying goes, “many hands can make light work” . Therefore it is possible that by allowing students to plagiarise and make advances to others works there may be another period of enlightenment where by uniting the ideas of masterminds might lead to another revolution. Thus it may be a start towards a new era, as students will be able to put together arguments. However this school of thought is greatly flawed, because if this becomes the case, degrees will no longer teach people but instead become a costly exercise of researching and putting together ideas of many great people.
To conclude, plagiarism can be deemed as wrong in any of the circumstances. In order for universities to effectively end plagiarism they will have to tighten up on the punishments and leave no room for leniency. Universities should frequently update their software to effectively deal with plagiarism. However none of these may be a high enough cost for students to stop plagiarising thus maybe it just really is time for a new legislation to be passed; that states clearly how intentional plagiarism at university is unlawful.
- Clark V University of Lincolnshire and Humberside 1 W.L.R 1988
Statutes and Statutory Instruments:
- Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
Websites and blogs
- Elliot,B.(2004). PlagiarismFAQ. Available: http://www.bobbyelliott.com/Plagiarism.htm. Last accessed 19th November 2010
- University,S.(2009). PLAGIARISM-GUIDELINES. Available: http://www2.surrey.ac.uk/maths/current/all/plagirism/. Last accessed 19th
- (2004). Plagiarist to Sue University. Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/3753065.stm. Last accessed 18TH November 2010
I deliberately chose the essay question on plagiarism for my coursework because I found plagiarism a very controversial subject. Thus, I was able to easily relate to the question at hand.
However, I found it difficult to directly relate references to the points I chose was exploring. Many points of my findings overlapped and in turn were deemed confusing. Therefore, in order to simplify the content of my work I edited parts of my argument. The word count also limited me in the sense that to explain complex contexts my paragraphs would go too long. Also due to so many points interlinking it was difficult to singly define them.
Having considered these restrictive factors, this essay can be appreciated as an intricately interweaving argument presenting both sides of the argument collectively as opposed to separate paragraphs for a pro and con.
In respects to my future work I think it is essential to carry out background research and read through the researched material before I attempt the task. During the process of research and sifting through the data, both secondary and primary, one is constantly bombarded by the many factors contributing to even the simplest of issues, let alone controversial subjects. Background research allows you to explore all the different avenues and see the similarities or the differences between them, which as a result aid in making connections between all the points, enabling you to choose carefully -through going over your research notes again- parts that in your now educated opinion need to be highlighted, as to best portray the scene. Deep, extensive research and thorough examination are the foundations upon which a solid argument can be based, and therefore are key in respects to my future work.
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
Elliot,B. (2004). Plagiarism FAQ. Available: http://www.bobbyelliott.com/Plagiarism.htm. Last accessed 19th November 2010
University, S. (2009). PLAGIARISM GUIDELINES. Available: http://www2.surrey.ac.uk/maths/current/all/plagirism/. Last accessed 19th November 2010.
Clark V University Of Lincolnshire and Humberside
(2004). Plagiarist to Sue University. Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/3753065.stm. Last accessed 18TH November 2010
Heywood, J - (1546)