When most students hear their teachers use the word “plagiarism” when speaking about an upcoming essay or assessment, they usually push it to the back of their minds and don’t take into account how serious and problematic it can be.

What we don’t realize is that plagiarism can be pretty sneaky. There are many instances where students can plagiarize without even realizing that they’re doing it. It takes much more than simply changing a few words from the original source to make it our own.

Jack Hirschfield ’21

Here are many common mistakes made with plagiarism and how it students can take action to prevent it.

Become Familiar with the Meaning of Plagiarism             

According to The Instrument of Student Judicial Governance for The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, plagiarism is said to be “the deliberate or reckless representation of another’s words, thoughts, or ideas as one’s own without attribution.”

The “deliberate” use refers to those who steal one’s work on purpose with hopes of not being caught.  The reference to plagiarism as “reckless” here proves that though one may not intentionally steal another’s work, but could as a result of carelessness.

When students are aware of what plagiarism actually is, there is a better chance it won’t sneak up on them.

Jack Hirschfield ’21

Learn Who Your Sources Are                                              

A central problem revolving around plagiarism is that students don’t know the source of information. If they know nothing about the source or what they’re trying to say, then developing their own work from this source is pretty much impossible.

Adam Grant, professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania wrote in a 2014 blog post The Biggest Reason We Steal Other People’s Ideas:

“In everyday life, the most important corrective action may involve training ourselves to focus not only on what was said, but also who said it.”

If students actually take the time to learn more about their sources, they will know how to correctly cite them, while also being capable of writing their own ideas by having some sort of knowledge on what their source is talking about.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to do Assignments         

Procrastination is key in the minds of many college students, but it is definitely not key if one wants to avoid plagiarism.

Waiting until the last minute is one of the worst things students can do.  At that point in time, they just want to get the assignment done, not even caring much about what they are writing.

The Bowdoin College Dean of Students emphasizes how important it is that students set aside enough time to complete assignments and by citing fully as you write, with page numbers, footnotes, and work cited pages to prevent citing errors.

If students are writing in a hurry, typing out information consisting of words or ideas of another is likely to occur.  This can be known as “writing blind.”

Jack Hirschfield ’21

Now that you know just how easily plagiarism could slip right through your fingertips, consider how important it is to make sure your work is yours and only yours.

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