Plagiarism and Its Repercussions

Avoid plagiarism by giving credit to the original author

A man is stealing information from a computer. He is dressed as a burglar in all black with a ski mask covering his face. He is plagiarizing another author's work.
Plagiarism is intellectual theft—don't steal!

Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines "plagiarize" as "to steal and pass off as one's own, the ideas or words of another; or to use a created production without crediting the source: to commit literary theft." Plagiarism is one of the most serious offenses within the literary, academic, and professional worlds. It occurs when a writer, for whatever reason, decides to steal the work of another writer and pass it off as his or her own. The stolen material does not have to be taken verbatim, however—simply taking another writer's ideas and rephrasing them as one's own can be considered plagiarism as well. The act of plagiarism violates both academic and professional integrity, and often comes with very serious consequences for any individual caught doing it.

Pay attention to your chosen format

When writing a term paper or professional piece, it is extremely important to pay close attention to the stylistic format governing your work. In the Modern Language Association (MLA) format, for example, it is perfectly acceptable to utilize another author's writing to bolster your own ideas, as long as you make sure to cite the original author. This means you are giving the author credit for his or her work and letting your reader know you are borrowing ideas. If you fail to cite a work you have used in your paper, you could be accused of plagiarism, and face serious repercussions.

A look at popular citation formats  

In the introductory statement on this page, had we not given credit to Webster's Third New International Dictionary for creating that definition, we would have committed plagiarism. You should always be meticulous when using someone else's work to ensure you've given the author full credit for his or her ideas and original thoughts. The regulations regarding citations and references can vary greatly among different formatting styles, such as MLA, American Psychological Association (APA), Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), and Associated Press (AP). It is thus important that you always be wary of the particular requirements of the format you are using. 

Understanding an improper citation

The following is an example of an improper citation from a fictitious book Shakespeare's Ongoing Legacy by Eric Labadie:

"Shakespeare was one of the greatest playwrights of all time. His collection of works spans several decades and contains 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and several poems of great length. His work has been translated into every major language and has been a staple of modern English literature for centuries."

If the above statement was left as is, it could be construed as plagiarism because the information we used to write it was not properly accredited to the source we borrowed it from. The following is properly cited using the MLA format.

"Shakespeare was one of the greatest playwrights of all time. His collection of works spans several decades and contains 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and several poems of great length. His work has been translated into every major language and has been a staple of modern English literature for centuries (Labadie 15)."

In our second example, we've included a citation that gives credit to the original author for his research. According to the MLA handbook, a works cited page must also be included at the end of the paper, giving the exact details of the work from which we borrowed the information.

Strict punishments for those found plagiarizing

Plagiarizing in the world of academia could result in your dismissal from an academic institution, meaning you could be expelled from your college or university or fired from your faculty position. Getting caught after graduating from an academic institution could result in you being stripped of your degree. Getting caught plagiarizing in the professional world could get you fired from your job, or even sued.

When borrowing another author's ideas or concepts to strengthen your own work, always play it safe. It is acceptable and even encouraged to use other authors' ideas to reiterate and reinforce your own work, but you must always give the authors credit. Furthermore, always be sure to check your given format's style guide for instructions on how to properly cite the works you've used. Looking at examples, like our APA Reference page and our MLA Works Cited, will help ensure you have cited your work properly. Plagiarism is a very serious offense and should never be taken lightly. Remember, if you think you can get away with plagiarism, one simple Internet search could result in disaster for your academic or professional career. If you aren't sure that you've cited your paper properly, send it to our essay proofreaders for a style check.

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