A college professor’s worst nightmare? A student’s ill conceived obstacle or the dean’s unhappy policy files looking back at them? It is probably all of these and then maybe none of these things rolled into one. College papers and thesis teem with this though. Unreferenced material, misplaced text and poorly named quotations. How many teachers have you seen being berated because the student under their wing could not perfect the art of referencing according to APA? Or how many students have had degrees and diplomas stalled because of poor referencing.
I always go back to the textbook definition of things before looking at their pros and cons. Rooting plagiarism out is necessary purely because every academician believes that original work should be cited to the source. Who came up with the word itself? Romans and that truly are curious. It turns out however that Roman were deeply protective of their scripted or written works. So much so that they created a word literally meaning “kidnapping” to illustrate meaning for those who stole credit for others’ work.
Nowadays though, the checks for preventing this phenomenon seem flimsy in lots of ways. But it’s much more important to consider how this affects different kinds of students. Take the example of a student with multiple pressures, academic and financial think about how wrong footedness on checking for referencing can potentially lead to a dismissed thesis and hence further expenses. The only reason why plagiarism is still a big issue to handle for academicians is because of two primary reasons. One, we misinterpret who is being affected the most by it which makes us identify it wrong. Second, campus politics have a rigid manner in which they can punish or hide anyone they deem fit.
But why is knowing the implications so important? In many cases a simple misquoted text whilst mistakenly there can get a thesis disqualified. So why is correct quoting so “important”? The simplest reason for that is authenticity. But this quest goes all wrong when the quote in question is marked down when it is not even relevant. In a dissertation or a written piece: you will come across all kinds of texts and subtexts. Some of them will be present as tertiary sources whilst some may simply be in the text for written purposes. If that is penalized then the actual chunk of the thesis is being thrown out for no good reason.
Go forward two steps and we have software that checks for copied text. Now these programs run through the entire text and not just look for literal copies of the texts in question but for semantic ones as well. So the problem becomes exacerbated because now you have lines, paragraphs and even entire pieces getting dismissed because they contain semantically similar results. Realistically, that should make no sense because any thought or idea we put within a thesis will have its roots from somewhere so if we are to put reference cited against each sentence then our written pieces might just be a big mess.
Currently, students simply look for a method by which they can scrape through the screening and turn in their works. Our own standards for checking have to be inclusive and augmentative of the writing process for students rather than adding ten extra obstacles for them. This is where a lot of teachers even feel that when the works are being screened than a certain portion of text being copied is alright. I mean you can only paraphrase a certain piece of text in so many ways.
Concurrently, the debate also goes on about whether the accepted norms for plagiarism should still hold. With the information as readily available as it is, tracking sources is easier but so is copying material. Because such a list of materials can be remotely infinite, it’s important our educators make the rules on plagiarism more flexible than they currently are. In the longer run, such action can seek to overturn the obstacles that students face but in case of none we might be stuck with unaccepted thesis and growing expenses from the student’s end.
We welcome your feedback to our work.
Daniel & David
Plagiarism: A Weed Without An End