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Avoid Plagiarism: Why Students Plagiarize


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  • Why Students Plagiarize   
    A list from the the University of Alberta Libraries. It also distinguishes between intentional and unintentional plagiarism.
  • Reducing and Detecting Plagiarism   
    From Westmont College. This list is directed at faculty and how they can reduce plagiarism in their classrooms

Why Students Plagiarize

So if plagiarism is wrong and can lead to bad consequences for students, why do they do it?  There are various reasons.  Below are some of the most common ones:

>Not knowing what plagiarism is.  Even though most instructors cover this in class and it is in the course syllabus, some students aren't sure what constitutes plagiarism.  This is especially true when it comes to the difference between paraphrasing and plagiarizing.  Also, some students mistakenly believe plagiarism is only when you copy something word for word.  Changing a few words doesn't stop something from being plagiarized, and even if you change all the words but use someone else's ideas, that is plagiarism as well.

> Students don't know how to do research.  They aren't sure how to find books, magazine or journal articles, or other sources like encyclopedias for their papers or speeches.

> Not knowing how to cite your sources.  Making sure to cite the sources you use is one of the easiest ways to avoid plagiarism.  If you don't know how to do this, your instructors and librarians are able to help you.

> Bad time management/organization skills.  Students get behind in their work and try to get things done at the last minute.  Outside pressures, like a job or family responsibilities can make the situation worse.

> Fear of failing. Students may think they will either get a lower grade or cannot do the work and will fail if they do not plagiarize.  For some students, their main focus is on their grade rather than on what they are learning.

>It's easier than doing your own writing.  It is easier until you get caught.  And even if you don't get caught, what have you learned about your topic?
>No interest in the subject.  Some students plagiarize because they don't care about the subject and don't want to put any time into researching it. 

>I won't get caught.  Of course not everyone gets caught when they plagiarize.  But getting caught is considered to be academic dishonesty and a violation of the Students Rights and Responsibilities Code.  Penalties can range from a warning to a grade of 0 for the assignment to suspension in severe cases.  By the way, a person's "voice" (writing or speech style, word choice, sentence structure, etc.) is very distinctive to most instructors, almost like a fingerprint. 

>Carelessness or laziness.  Not the same thing but both often lead to plagiarism.