A Beginner’s Guide to Academic Plagiarism and How to Avoid

Academic Plagiarism and How to Avoid

A very recurrent theme in the academic world is academic plagiarism. Mainly because scientific journals and educational institutions are attentive when evaluating articles for submission. Make no mistake: plagiarized scientific articles are cut on the spot.

What is academic plagiarism?

Plagiarism has been defined as the act of signing or representing someone else’s artistic or scientific work as one’s own, it is to imitate someone else’s work. Plagiarism can also be defined as a fraudulent imitation of a work, protected by copyright law, causing a real attack on the author’s moral rights: both to paternity and the integrity of his creation.

In other words, academic plagiarism is any copy, whether partial or total, of some existing content, without proper credit being given to the author. Technology, contact between researchers and ease of access to scientific journals provided for a greater exchange of information. But it was also these factors that favoured practices such as the “theft” of ideas.

Types of plagiarism

There are several ways to commit plagiarism. Among the most recurrent practices, we can highlight:

  • Full Plagiarism

It is to copy, word for word, without making alterations, a work, or an excerpt of it and not presenting the original source of the text.

  • Paraphrase without assigning the source

Paraphrasing (that is, saying the same thing with other words) most of the ideas in a text, without adding its own content, is also plagiarism. The paraphrase is used a lot by students. Generally, a few words of the original text are altered, to make identification difficult by the evaluator, but the idea of ​​the text is preserved.

  • Research data (quantitative and qualitative) without mentioning the source

It is plagiarism, the act of presenting data from institutions, such as the WHO, or that were verified by other researchers and “forgetting” to mention them in the text or to attribute them as their own. A very common practice that we often do without realizing it is to put:

“Currently, 70 million people in the world suffer from disease X.”

But who said that? Was it you who collected the information or was this data in a book, website or in a survey published by a large body? You must assign the source.

  • Plagiarism mosaic

It is copying excerpts from different sources, forming a mosaic, but changing small sentences or words to disguise the copy. It’s taking, for example, small excerpts from various monographs, by well-known or little-known authors, and putting them together as if they were new content and yours.

  • Self-plagiarism

It happens when you borrow your own contents, which have already been presented in previous situations. You might, for example, have submitted it in your first term at college and now reuse it in your fifth term as well. Or use excerpts from the research for graduate school. This is quite common among students, and they don’t even realize they are committing plagiarism.

  • Copying images, photographs, graphics, drawings, and other visual content

You find a table in a book that greatly simplifies what you want to explain. Then scan the image, placing it in your work. All right, right? Wrong! You also need to assign visual content credits.

  • Non-existent sources

It is very common in newsrooms. In this case, the person invents a quote and attributes it to any source of influence in history or in a specific social area, for example.

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What is the implication of plagiarism in practice?

In practice, plagiarism poses problems both for the institution that published the plagiarized work and for the researcher who committed the act. So, you need to be very careful when evaluating the works submitted at your event.

Choosing a good judging panel, one that is careful and has experience in the field, makes all the difference in the matter of plagiarism. It is common for reviewers to be able to recognize plagiarism immediately, after all, it is something they acquire with practice.

Teachers also usually know the writing style of their students and can tell when that text was written by them or not.

In the academic world, a researcher’s reputation counts for a lot. Committing plagiarism means violating Copyright law. Therefore, plagiarism is a crime, and the author must respond in court for the illegal copy of someone else’s work. In some countries, the diploma/degree of the person responsible for the plagiarism might be revoked.

In addition to being a dishonest and reprehensible attitude, the person who commits plagiarism can have the submission and approval of papers at congresses, symposia and other academic events impaired. It’s natural: no one wants to receive a researcher who has a history of plagiarism on their resume at their event. After all, the institutions responsible for publishing such works, whether through publishers or magazines, become known for “letting go” of this type of fraud and end up losing their authority.

Has it always been like this?

Plagiarism in scientific and academic productions already existed in the pre-Google era, but in a more discreet way. The difficulty in accessing information made both the use of other people’s ideas and the identification of illegal copies by the evaluators more complicated. With most of the printed content being transferred to digital platforms, researchers were able to gain access to content that was previously little known and difficult to find.

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What is the best way to check for plagiarism?

Universities still do not have standardized rules for identification and punishment in cases of plagiarism. Several professors continue to point out this failure and several damages are committed both by the researcher and supervisor.

The use of copyrighted content without proper authorization must be punished, but before that it is necessary to invest in prevention.

Generally, in the first articles written while still a student, the author usually commits academic plagiarism, even without the intention. Prevention is important and must be encouraged. So that in the future, the researcher knows how to produce original content, which contains his own ideas.

For those who organise events, it is always necessary to pay attention to the publication of articles and to the presentations of posters and panels. Ensuring that the works approved and published at your event do not have academic plagiarism is a way to prove the authority and relevance of your event.

Plagiarism Detectors You Need to Know

A good tip is to use technology to identify plagiarism. There is completely free software that scan for words and paraphrases that have been used in other works.

We’ve chosen 3 easy-to-use academic plagiarism detectors that will help you identify illegal copies:

1. Google

Yes, Google itself. Perhaps this is the most accessible tool for professors and reviewers of academic articles. Just copy excerpts from the student text and drop them into the search field.

Google will recognize words and phrases that have already been used in other works. You can access the supposedly original content. And check if, in fact, the student used a paraphrase, mosaic or full copy of that excerpt.

2. Turnitin

As the site says, Turnitin was created to “encourage a teaching environment where students appropriate their ideas and produce original content, a process that prepares them to succeed academically and innovate beyond the classroom”.

They show how much of the student’s document resembles the contents of the databases. So those teachers can understand how much of the document is not original. Turnitin also says the sources the student used to write the work.

 3. CopySpider

CopySpider is a free tool that accurately and quickly verifies internet documents that resemble the work presented by the student.

How to avoid plagiarism?

Avoiding plagiarism in your academic papers is simple: assign the source. If the content is not yours, mention the author, let the reader of your work know who that excerpt belongs to. To do this, cite it in the body of the work and don’t forget to add it to your research references.

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