Plagiarism That Most Ethical Researchers

Plagiarism has numerous definitions, but all center on the central theme of stealing someone else’s work and claiming it as your own. The term plagiarism comes from the Latin word plagiarius, which literally translates to “kidnapper”1. This strong translation clearly implies the moral implications behind plagiarism and the severity surrounding it. Plagiarism is not by any means a new problem and can be cited as early as the first century CE. A Roman poet, Martial, indicated in one of his works that another poet was stealing his work1. Although plagiarism is not a new problem, the Internet has made plagiarism easier for students, but also easier for faculty to detect2. Digital plagiarism has allowed for what are referred to as “Term Paper Mills”, where students can buy a paper online for their own personal use with a simple click of the mouse and credit card at hand. Fortunately, the Internet also allows access to digital detection programs for staff to easily find cases of plagiarism3.

There are many methods of plagiarism–word for word (verbatim) copying without acknowledgement, cutting and pasting, paraphrasing, inaccurate or missing citation, failure to acknowledge assistance, use of material written by professional agencies, and auto-plagiarism1. There are also many types of plagiarism: self-plagiarism, fake authorship, dual submission, material theft and unauthorized copy of source code2. Self-plagiarism is one that is not often realized as a type of plagiarism and refers to copying yourself from previous works and using this information in new submissions2. This is an area many researchers need to be wary of and are often guilty of committing without intent. Fake authorship is another area of particular interest for the academic sector in which someone’s name is included as an author on a publication without actually contributing to the work2. Dual submission is an obvious act of plagiarism that most ethical researchers know is wrong. One cannot submit their paper to two conferences or journals at the same time. Most journals clearly state this as a violation of submission and one would need to deliberately violate this.

Plagiarism is a growing problem and will continue to grow as technology improves and makes it easier to cheat4. It is difficult to fully comprehend how big a problem plagiarism is because the statistics available do not accurately create a clear picture on this problem. Comparative data on plagiarism is often difficult to find since studies differ in focus and there is a difference in sources of information. Studies differ in that some focus specifically on plagiarism, whereas others examine an overview of cheating. Sources vary from student self-reporting and staff provided detection rates3. Both of these data points allow for error in that some staff and faculty do not report plagiarism, lowering rates. Students also do not accurately self-report instances of plagiarism. Both sources of information grossly underestimate the number of plagiarism cases, which creates alarming concern for the scale to which plagiarism is a growing problem. Information found from a number of sources on plagiarism indicate that there are variations between disciplines, countries, undergraduate vs. graduate students, and over time. Plagiarism is becoming more common over time. Interestingly the numbers for variations between disciplines can be broken down as followed for the percent of students who cheated during their college career when randomly surveyed: business studies (87%), engineering (74%), science (67%) and humanities (63%)3.

The motive and intent of plagiarism is often overlooked, but can be divided into intentional plagiarism and unintentional plagiarism. Intentional plagiarism is pre-meditated and a deliberate act of theft, whereas intentional plagiarism often results from students failing to appropriately cite sources3.

In order to understand why plagiarism is wrong, it is important to address why students and others feel the need to plagiarize and their motivations. The most common reasons for plagiarism include an increased pressure to publish, ease of copying and pasting online work as a result of the Internet, difficulties in writing in English, misplaced respect for others work and a lack of suitable training or awareness for the rules1.