Plagiarism: What Do Students Think?

It is only a week and a half into the semester, and already my office mate and I are talking about plagiarism.  There are hangovers from last semester – cases that never quite got resolved - and our college has a new plagiarism policy that requires, among other things, that we submit any plagiarism accusations to the dean within 15 business days.  (This is good to know; sending off those letters often falls to the bottom of my to-do list.)  So we’ve been wondering what instances will rear their heads this semester, and what we can do to head them off, beyond the myriad precautions we already take.

In discussing it, an old question from a friend and reader, Gen X, emerged for me: if you asked students, what would they say about plagiarism?  Why do they do it?  Why do they continue to do it even though they know it a) may get them into trouble, b) does not help them learn, and c) is both cheating and stealing?  Do they see it some other way?  Are they desperate?  Do they (as I suspect) really feel it’s no big deal as long as they don’t get caught (and sometimes even if they do)?

I would be very interested in anyone’s take on this; I’d be especially interested to hear from students, but we’ve all been students at one time or another.  Have you ever plagiarized?  Why?  Did it seem justifiable, or did you not understand the problem, or did you know you wouldn’t get caught, or did you feel it was your last best resort?  If you did get caught, what were the consequences?

(I did it on minor assignments in high school all the time.  If my biology teacher asked me to answer five short questions about the beluga, I knew he wasn’t asking me to copy information out of the encyclopedia, but I was never, ever reprimanded for doing so.  I never plagiarized anything in university, from what I remember, but I had friends who did, shamelessly.)

Why do students plagiarize?  What can be done to prevent them from doing so? Is it really such a big problem?  Gen X wants to know, and so do I.

Image by  Michal Zacharzewski

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56 responses

  1. Our department at our university has just developed its own policy to address plagiarism in our communication classes. It is a serious problem and students do not realize how serious it is. Too many feel that honesty is not being caught.

  2. I am a high school student. I’ve never plagiarized, but have seen many others do it. To students, it seems easier to waste time copying another’s work rather than actually completing an assignment. They rarely realize that the time taken to plagiarize could’ve been the time used to complete the assignment.

  3. I have never plagiarized assignments and never copied in tests or exams. Besides believing that it doesn’t make sense because you don’t learn how to do the things yourself (especially in high school where single grades are not so important), I have never trusted anyone else’s performance more than mine. I know it sounds pretentious… but I’d rather hand in mediocre work from my own hand than taking the bet of submitting someone else’s – the odds of succeeding are the same and the time spent on it is more or less also the same.

      • I’m not sure about the confidence issue – it might be the case in university but I have never heard of cases of plagiarism among my peers. In business majors individual assignments are uncommon, while group assignments create some sort of “competition” among students, so there is a certain pride in pushing original ideas. Also, in this major there is often no real “right” or “wrong”, and if a group might try to get the solution of a case study from someone else in order to avoid going in a completely wrong direction (confidence issue), they will likely make the rest 99% of the work by themselves, or they won’t “survive” the presentation in class.

        In grade school, I think the reason for copying is mainly laziness and failure in estimating the required time/effort. Like @Ilana said, when it came to evaluated homework (Italian and English only), I saw some of my classmates copying and trying to make the assignments looked like they weren’t copied, with the attitude of “I won’t ever need this stuff in life so let’s not waste time on it” and ending up employing more time than I did.

        I can’t recall “not understanding the problem” as a reason for copying homework, in the schools I went to, since this kind of homework (all scientific subjects plus Latin) was usually not subject to evaluation. It was absolutely no problem to telling the teacher “Sorry, I tried this and didn’t understand – can you explain again?”. Most homework was not even consistently checked, because anyway not practicing is going to cause drawbacks when the test comes. Italian grade school it is normal to have oral tests in every subject, so people who don’t study eventually get caught no matter what.

        Also, like @Jessica Little said, I didn’t really know about plagiarism in the strict sense of not citing references, until university. “Research assignments” are basically a lot of copy-paste anyway. Essays, on the contrary, are supposed to come from the author’s mind only, so they shouldn’t reference anyone else.

  4. I once plagiarized an English paper during the last quarter of my freshman year in high school. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me, because I did stuff like that for all 8 years I had spent in a German public school before, and I never got caught.
    The reason I plagiarized was because I was frustrated with researching the stuff I needed to research. I didn’t find that information, however, no matter how hard I looked. So after hours of futile research, I just skipped to page 7 on Google, found a document, copy-paste, done.
    The consequence was getting a 0%, as well as a meeting with my English teacher and my parents. I got owned by her and she made a huge deal out of it. My parents just said, “Just don’t do it again, alright?”
    But in order to even things out again, I wrote a five-page research paper on the Cold War that summer. She marked it with a 92%, but I didn’t get the credit, of course.
    Coming from the German school system, I didn’t even know that plagiarism was a thing. Well, I found out the hard way, I guess.

      • I think it’s like that because teachers don’t really care about their students. As long as the students hand in the stuff on time, and the teachers get their paycheck, everything is fine. Teachers treat their job like exactly that: a job. There doesn’t seem to be much of personal interaction between teachers and their students in German public schools. In fact, both “groups” seem to despise each other. It’s a mess, really. That’s one of the reasons I transferred to that international school in 8th grade.

  5. Siobhan,

    I think I’m going to offer extra credit to any of my sophomores who come to this thread and post a response (given that it actually answers the question). I’m interested in hearing what they have to say.

  6. As a high school student in the 1990′s in Nova Scotia, I accidentally plagiarized when writing research papers, because I did not know how to compile and synthesize information. In my first years of university, I no longer plagiarized when writing essays, but I wrote rambling papers with no coherent structure. It wasn’t until my second Bachelor’s degree, when I was obliged to take an introductory “how to write an essay” class, that I actually learned how to correctly synthesize information, incorporate quotations, and cite correctly. In Nova Scotia in the 1990′s, no one taught that in school. Seriously.

  7. I’m not sure my previous post is entirely clear. What I am trying to say is that as I grew up and continued my education, I gradually picked up tips about how to write correctly, including how to cite, and hence how not to plagiarize. However, it really wasn’t until that introductory essay-writing class that I felt that I had learned everything I needed to be an effective essay writer.

  8. I’ve only known a handful of people to actually plagiarize papers they submitted, but they all did it because they felt that they weren’t capable of getting a good grade on the assignment through their own effort.

    They saw the classes as gateways to other things they thought they would succeed at if they could only get there, so plagiarism was more a means to avoid an ‘unfair’ roadblock.

    The only time I recall plagiarizing was occasionally copying other people’s maths homework in high school.

    I’ve never used someone else’s words without quoting or their ideas without citing…at least not intentionally; there have been times when I can’t quite pin down where an idea or bit of language in my head came from, whether it’s mine or something I read in passing months or even years ago. If I can’t find it after trying to remember what I’ve read on the topic and searching online, I use it without attribution…I’m not sure what else to do.

    In a similar vein, I’ll sometimes arrive at ideas or arguments or metaphors entirely through my own deliberation such that they are original to me, but that I don’t necessarily think are original in the literature–the old saying that nothing new is ever thought or written is surely false, but it still has significant truth I think.

    This last is a problem case for me; I know that I created these ideas from start to finish, but also suspect that others may have done the same. How to proceed? If I were trying to publish, certainly I should find and acknowledge any such instances, but that’s often a great deal of work…do we need to do that for school papers?

    I want to say no, but I’m not entirely sure.

  9. I have never done it but I think for those who do, at least the ones that I know it’s a lack of confidence or miss guided laziness.

  10. I remember writing an essay on WWI about the great poets Wilfred Owen and Siegried Sassoon. I had/have trouble trying to think of the right things to write and spent nights on something that should have taken no more than a few hours for a typical A Level English student.

    In order to understand what was expected of me I read studies and poems from their life but when I re-wrote that in my own words it was very difficult. I thought I managed it but my teacher told me I needed to work on it more and a particular section wasn’t my own words.

    This shook my already flailing confidence and I couldn’t understand what it was that I wrote within that paragraph that wasn’t my own words!

    I didn’t finish that course – I dropped out in the final year due to my inability to complete timed essays which were an important part of the exams and their constant termly reports that said ‘she has to have confidence in her ability’.

  11. As you said it is considered stealing and from a sophmores point of view I don’t think kids realize plagerizing is as big as stealing a car or robbing a house. When I have plagerized in the past I don’t think anything about it in a way as stealing at the time. Also plagerizing makes kids homework so much easier. I have never been in trouble by plagerizing, i have seen kids get zeros on book reports for plagerizing though.

  12. After reading an article by Stanley Fish in the New York Times [http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/09/plagiarism-is-not-a-big-moral-deal/
    8/16/10], I began talking to my students differently about plagiarism. Drawing from Fish, I tell them that yes, in society, the rules about file sharing and intellectual property are blurring. I impress on them that they are taking courses at a university, which is academia. And that the rules in academia are quite clear: you must not copy others’ words or ideas. The simplest way to avoid that is to be meticulous when taking notes, and to CITE YOUR SOURCES. I also stress that global plagiarism [copying one's work in it's entirety, or paying someone to write a paper or speech for them] is extremely unethical and will result in their failing my course.

    As Richard stated above, we have recently implemented an Academic Integrity Policy in our department, which is based on work from the Center for Academic Integrity [http://www.academicintegrity.org/]. This policy is a restatement of our university academic honesty policy, and offers professors and instructors quick-to-complete forms that both make reporting Academic Integrity infractions quick, easy, and recordable. We will keep a copy of each infraction in a book in the chair’s office, so that repeat offenders can be easily identified and consequences may be intensified.

    I think that changing my approach to talking to my students has helped to reduce the number of incidents of plagiarism in my classes, but I have no proof of that. I hope that it at least helps students to understand where we are coming from in the academic world.

  13. I think that many students think it is harder/more time consuming to do the work. What they fail to see is that if they plagiarize the assignments and homework, they will be unprepared for exams and for their upper level coursework when they get to college. I use turnitin.com for all major assignments and this has helped to curtail plagiarism to some degree. I have had students submit to the site, realize they were “caught” and then not turn in their paper, which is a shame. Instead of re-doing and trying the assignment, they just give up.

    I have never plagiarized a major assignment in all my years of schooling, but I can remember so many of my friends doing so in high school, mostly for the same reasons I see my students doing it now. I was guilty of copying answers to the Spanish workbook homework, which is also why I probably cannot speak Spanish to this day, despite having taken years of it in school.

  14. i used to think plagiarism wasn’t a big deal because it was homework and it took such a short time to do but i now know its just a big as stealing any other thing and people should never do it.

  15. I teach in Hong Kong and it’s quite common here. Our policy is that if we catch you, it’s a straight zero for the assignment. Get caught twice and it’s an F for the course. Students do it and do it all the time. I think there are a few reasons:
    1) All through there scholastic career, they are basically taught to regurgitate facts and keep their opinions to themselves. So, in their minds, they are just taking that to its logical conclusion.
    2) They don’t really know how or think they need to cite properly. Put something in your Works Cited and you’re good. Time and time again I’ve had to explain that once I find a plagiarized passage, it puts everything in doubt.
    3) It’s a gamble. Do your own work and you may barely pass. Plagiarize and you could either get a much higher grade or get a zero. Lots are willing to take that risk. I think far too many teachers in their pasts were as Jan Simson describes above: too lazy to check.

  16. I never really thought of plagiarism as a big deal, your just copying and pasting something, but when you actually think about it, someone took time out of their day to write the paper that you are copying, even thought we may be busy with sports, other homework, and family outtings most teachers give us time to do our work in class. So we may as well just do it then rather than waiting till last minute and stealing someone elses work.

  17. Funnily enough, I never plagiarised at any level of my schooling; however, in high school, I helped all kinds of people with their English essays by letting them see mine, or if they were younger and taking a course I had already finished, I would let them use my essays, essentially helping them to plagiarise. I guess it was the teacher in me (wanting to help), but it was a little misguided. Everything after high school was always by the book, whether it was my own work or helping another student, I never gave my work to anyone again, as I realised that what I was doing would not help in the least.

    There is a whole culture of cheating in our school systems and I know for a fact that students don’t take it seriously until they got caught. I have caught dozens and dozens of students for plagiarism and all of them knew that that was what they were doing, but they still did it. All I can say is, I find the whole thing EXHAUSTING….

  18. I think students do this because it cuts back on time, and doesnt take as long to do the homework. They are to lazy to just reword the things themself. It is a very big deal and huge problems in schools. I know kids who get zeros on assignments becuase of this, but its not like you can catch everyone.

  19. It’s not the best route to take but I guess as a student it feels like away to lift the weight of having to write a paper. And it doesn’t really seem like stealing even though it is. Yes I have plagiarized before. Nope it’s not the best last resort. When I got caught and other people around me the paper usually went in the trash.

  20. I’ll admit that I have plagiarized a couple times when I had to write papers. Especially if I had a short time time until the due date. I never really knew how serious it was. I’ve now learned that it’s like stealing from a grocerie store. There is a punishment in my English class that if we get caught plagiarizing we get a zero on our paper, but people i know in the class still do it. I really don’t think getting a zero is worth plagiarizing another persnons work

  21. Siobhan, I am so very pleased that you wrote this post, AND very interested by the comments! At this point, one of the things that stands out is this: students often are not TAUGHT about citing sources correctly (so how in the hell can they do it?), are not informed of the seriousness of plagiarism, or what ‘intellectual property’ really means. That doesn’t mean they are not accountable however. Yet, as some readers have said, ‘I learned the hard way.’ My question takes it further: ‘Ok, you learned the hard way, but WHAT exactly? Not to get caught the next time, or that the right thing to do is to write your paper, use your OWN ideas (albeit reading about the subject to help you make your own opinion on it), and do the work to make it happen?

  22. Siobhan,

    I go to a private college in Chicago, and take my education seriously. I don’t remember the last time that I’ve intentionally plagiarized, mostly because I’ve always seen it as wrong. But I will try to explain why I’ve seen some of my classmates (more so in high school than in college) plagiarize.

    Firstly, it’s so hard not to plagiarize. We (meaning the classmates of my generation, not necessarily including myself) have to compare our work to peer-reviewed journal articles, which completely outstrip our level of education, motivation, resources, or familiarity with plagiarism. The careful notes required to fully cite our information is so far beyond what we understand is needed that we don’t realize sometimes if or when we have plagiarized. Also, in most cases with our usual reports, the amount of sources needed to support our information is less than ideal.

    Secondly, it’s so easy to plagiarize. The Internet has become a limitless resource, and so the temptation to do less work is there. This is further coupled with our inability to fit an extensive report in with our twitter feed, facebook posts, youtube movies and rants (basically, our “social life”). We are brought up to understand that this resource is unlimited in knowledge and information. There is also no time to create a respectable paper, so what’s the use in trying?

    Thirdly, the idea that our report could be anything besides boring is oppressing. The only reason for writing about research is to teach us how to research, cite sources, form arguments, and other such skills. The content of our papers is superfluous to the actual report, and so, with no motivation that our teachers will understand our interests, we ignore how important they say writing research is.

    Finally, although there is inevitably that one lecture saying how important it is to “cite your sources”, the punishments for slipping up are so outstanding that it seems impossible to understand the consequences. The report becomes a competition to see if the teacher cares enough to check if your information is legitimate.

    These aren’t necessarily my beliefs, or the beliefs of those in my school. I am simply trying to state some possible reasons why the problem with plagiarism is so prevalent.

  23. I’m a recent college grad. I never plagiarized but if I did I would do it only for spite. Must I be told about plagiarism in every class, every year, at every waking moment? ESPECIALLY in college. My slightly abstract view (in light of the comments above) is that plagiarism should be taken much more seriously before college than during/after, for the following reasons:

    1) We pay massive amounts of money for college. It seems like a nice give ‘n take if I can get away with plagiarism a couple times throughout college in exchange for thousands upon thousands of dollars. Keep this in mind.

    2) If I do plagiarize, and no one finds out, and therefore I pass my English course, graduate, and go on to be a business owner or an engineer or what have you, and SUCCEED, who’s really getting hurt here? The author I stole from isn’t losing money or anything. If I’m fired because I’m an idiot because I plagiarized instead of doing my work, then I got my comeuppance. The world works itself out.

    The university teacher is meant to teach the material, help the students, advance ideas, etc., but when it comes to the actual work the students are doing, … as I’m sure you’re well aware that’s entirely out of their hands.

    How I’d like plagiarism to be taught in the university system: on the first day of class and the first day only each professor says, “Plagiarizing will result in failure. Don’t plagiarize. Moving on.”

    • I know this isn’t your argument, so sorry for the use of the second person.

      “We pay massive amounts of money for college. It seems like a nice give ‘n take if I can get away with plagiarism a couple times throughout college in exchange for thousands upon thousands of dollars. Keep this in mind.”

      The confusion, I think, here, is that you are not paying for results. You are not paying for As, or passing your courses. You are paying for the opportunity to spend time bettering yourself. Plagiarizing and cheating don’t make you better. And, fair play, sometimes education might not either. But if you have other things to do, and better things to spend your money on, then do. Who’s forcing you?

      • Good counter argument. But it misses my point, which is unclear, I apologize. We need to look at this thing on the large scale, which definitely includes the huge bill.

        “You are paying for the opportunity to spend time bettering yourself. Plagiarizing and cheating don’t make you better. And, fair play, sometimes education might not either.”

        That first line totally disregards reality, as recognized by the third line. What I’m paying for is unclear. Sometimes it’s betterment and expansion and rounding and so on and so forth. Sometimes it’s just to gain connections to people who can get me a job after I finish the four-year ritual. Sometimes it’s an extremely expensive stepping stone. The point being that if students buy something as expensive as that experience and decide to cheat, it’s basically them doing what they will with the product that they purchased.

        Finally, if the student comes to the point where he believes actually doing the work is pointless/a waste/etc. and DOES think he could use his time more wisely, he CAN’T spend his money elsewhere, because he NEEDS this product. Society demands he purchase this product. Thus, he satisfies himself by not wasting his time, and he satisfies society by plunging himself into debt – he plagiarizes. I don’t condone it, I think it’s misusing the product and, as you say, the time being spent, but I understand it.

        I think we too often and too easily associate K-12 education with that of the university system. As soon as money coming directly from my bank account enters the equation, everything changes. I have now purchased something. And I disagree that it’s “the opportunity to spend time bettering [oneself].” That’s another definition for life. And although life costs many things, monthly payments for 30 years it does not.

  24. I view cheating and plagiarizing (U.S. spelling) as two forms of the same thing. Just a couple days ago I was discussing this topic with my North African husband, here in North Africa. There were some articles in the news about middle school teachers being attacked (one stabbed repeatedly with a knife, and the others were attacked by a mob of students throwing stones) because the teachers would not tell answers to the students on the national exams, nor let them cheat.

    I was shocked by my husband’s comment (my husband of 20 years) who said, “If they cannot do it, of course they will cheat.”

    I think this issue plays into plagiarism as well. Some students plagiarize (or cheat) because they are lazy and don’t want to do the work. Some students plagiarize because they don’t have confidence that they will be able to say anything worthwhile. Other students plagiarize because their culture views it as totally acceptable (yes, really). Others do it because they were brought up in a culture that condones dishonesty with anyone that condones dishonesty with anyone who is outside the family and close friends circle. Others do it because they were brought up in a dishonest family.

    I noticed that some students from certain European cultures claim they were never taught NOT to copy and paste for a report. As an American teacher living overseas for two decades, I can vouch for what they are saying. If you have foreign students in your classroom, perhaps you should therefore make mention of this during the first day of class. In many countries, students are not taught to write in the way we are in America. We ask students to start writing narratives and opinions coming from inside themselves even as early as second grade, and this continues throughout school. When we learn in elementary school to write a report, we are expected to come up with topic sentences and a thesis from out of our own heads. My daughter attended a local North African school and other children of foreigners I knew over the years attended these as well as local French international schools. In these schools, when they turned in a report as we are taught to write, they got very low grades. The reason is because when the teacher says, “Go do some research and bring it tomorrow,” what they mean, is photocopy something out of a book (before the internet) and hang it up on the wall with your name on it, or now, print something out from the internet and hang it up on the wall with your name on it. So as you can see, foreign students used to this kind of system really do need an explanation the first day of class about what plagarism means, and what is expected. Maybe it would be worth having one class session just for foreign students about this issue and giving them some guidelines about how to do research, since some of them truly will have no idea about American expectations. Try to show them what you are looking for.

    Furthermore, some of the cultures that some students will come from do not have a type of inner-directed morality. It’s totally outer-directed, such as, “Do anything you want, but just do it in private, and don’t get caught.” So even those to whom you explain your expectations, if they are lazy, will take the easy way out and plagiarize (or cheat) because they have been brought up in a society where everyone cheats, and everyone thinks it is “normal.” These sort of students you will never be able to “reach,” so don’t even try. Try to reach those who, with help and an explanation, are willing to try to do the work, and be honest.

    –Lynne Diligent

  25. Why students plagiarize is a good question to ask. The teachers may tell us and show us how not to plagiarize but students still do it. I think we plagiarize because some may not still understand how to quote from others work. Also when plagiarizing it is an easy thing to do. You highlight what you want, copy it, and then paste it to your work. So i think students plagiarize because its a quick process even though we know it’s cheating and stealing

  26. This is something we have been going through at my district. I asked a handful of high school seniors (who were caught plagiarizing portions of their research paper) why they plagiarized? Their excuses ranged from a) they didn’t have time, b) they forgot to cite and c) I didn’t think I was plagiarizing. I could beat my head up against a wall with how utterly annoying their plagiarism is!

  27. Truely, plagiarism is not the best thing to do, but as students get into higher grades and they feel as if they have little time to do homework because of their friends, then they believe that is the best policy. As we all know that is wrong, it is like copying someone else’s homework, or writting a poem and as the next year comes, you notice it in a book, or in the paper.

  28. After skimming through the comments everyone seems to make a good point. In a nutshell, I think the problem with plagiarism is the lack of knowledge regarding proper referencing skills. Referencing is a science in itself, and look at all the referencing styles that are out there! Our school has just switched from MLA to APA and I am one of the teachers, who has to help the students learn the new rules.
    The other factor contributing to plagiarism is having a teacher, who does not take the time to check the student’s work. As you said, Siobhan, you only did it in high school, where you were never reprimanded by your biology teacher. If students understand the consequences, they will not plagiarize, or will only do it in the classes where they know they can get away with it.

    The battle goes on…
    Alexi

    • When students don’t ask questions regarding citing styles, I assume the lessons and modeling I’ve completed in class were enough to get the point across. Nothing is more frustrating than working to explain a concept and hearing “I didn’t understand” when the final project is graded. I constantly review smaller components of student work in order to ensure this isn’t the issue, but that doesn’t keep them from moving out of my class and using the same line (“I don’t understand. We didn’t learn this last year.”) with another teacher.

      Does that mean it’s always laziness? No. But I think laziness is responsible for it’s rapid spread among students. Let’s face it: plagiarism IS easy. Students, even ones who learn to cite properly, rarely believe it’s a big deal. Even when I call attention to the problem, most students look at me like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.

      I try to read each paper (particularly rough drafts) carefully so I can point out any examples of plagiarism, but even the best teacher can miss it occasionally. I only hope I manage to deter my students from taking that route.

  29. I am a student, and I have copied math homework, used notes on internet tests and quizzes when I wasn’t supposed to and I even paid my biology major friend to write a research paper for me.

    That was all years ago, I have seen the error of my ways and I now complete all my work honestly.

    Why do we cheat? I justified it like this, “If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin.” or, “Everybody cheats, if I don’t I am at a disadvantage.” or, “If they didn’t want me to cheat they would make it a lot harder to do.”

    All idiotic reasons.

    I quit cheating when I realized that I liked to learn. I don’t know how you teach that to students though.

  30. I get the impression that students plagiarize because it’s quick and easy and they have more interesting things to do with their time than think about stuff professors want them to think about.

  31. I think students do this because they are just lazy or do not have enough time to put things in there own words. I have plagiarized on some things i do admit. I would take a sentence or two from a website for a paper. It is hard to put something in other words when it is already put in a good sentence and they make it sound good enough.

  32. I think students plagiarized because they are to lazy to do the work themselves. Coming from a sophomore, high school can be overwhelming and some students can’t handle it so they feel that the only way to succeed is to use someone else’s work. I honestly think there is no way to prevent kids from doing this unless you have read every piece of work out there. To some people, plagiarism is a big deal because some believe you should take credit for your own work and not someone else’s.

  33. As a seventh grade language arts teacher, I’ve often wondered about this myself. I’ve noticed that students put more time and effort into an assignment when they are motivated to do so. If they don’t see the point in the assignment or if it doesn’t hold relevance outside of the classroom, then they may just view it as another hoop to jump through. In that case, I do understand why they would plagiarize. I plagiarized on a physics paper in high school, but never in college. The question now is how can teachers create motivating and relevant assignments?

  34. I have never plagiarized on a paper or anything like that, but I have copied someone elses homework a few times because I forgot to do it, or I didn’t get it totally completed. I think that if you plagiarize, you don’t learn the material. Usually the purpose for assignments and projects are to help you learn the material. I myself have copied homework and usually there is a quiz the next day and I failed the quiz because I didn’t do the homework that I was assigned, which was assigned to help be ready for the quiz.
    Plagiarizing doesn’t seem like a big deal when you’re doing it, but when you sit down and think about it, it’s really a huge deal. People take their time, effort, individuality, and ideas to write a paper, and then someone who doesn’t “feel” like doing it just gets online and puts their name on it, thinking that no one will find out. It’s not fair at all to the person who spent their time writing it.
    Honestly, I do not think that there is a way to prevent plagiarism from happening. There is so many types of plagiarism, it’s hard to prove that someone has plagiarized. Some people may have just used a sentence from someone else’s work, or they may have used the whole paper. There’s no way every teacher can prevent this from happening when they have up to or more than a hundred students in class a day.

  35. I think that the reason students plaigerize is simply laziness and lack of originality. When you need some help writing a paper, it’s much easier to just go online and copy and paste someone else’s work. It’s not fair to the people who spent numerous hours on their work and to have people come along and steal it as their own. I don’t think it’ll ever really stop for good. People find easy ways to hide plaigerism into their papers and essays.

  36. The few times that I have plagiarized in a paper happened because I was desperate. I needed the grade badly enough to risk the consequences, and I knew that, as with most teachers, they would say that they would check, and give us consequences, but they wouldn’t do that. The one time that I actually plagarized an entire paper, I hated the teacher I had. I hated her because it was a dead give-away that she played favorites and there were only three of those in our class and I was not one until I told her that she sucked as a teacher. Then she perked up, and I became one of such “favorites” and I hated that too. So in conclusion I only plagiarized because I hated my teacher, or I didn’t have enough time to get the paper done, and my teacher had no backbone.

  37. I think students cheat for a variety of reasons. I am a former English teacher who is currently an assistant principal in discipline. When students cheat, they get referred to the discipline office. I have some that flat out deny that they did it, even though we can find the exact line that they copied from the internet word for word down to the grammar errors or unique punctuation. But, I find that they cheat for a variety of reason. When plagiarizing from the internet, it is because they get pressed for time. I also find that sometimes they truly don’t get what they have to cite and what is actually common knowledge. They also don’t understand how their paper can be anything but a series of citations, especially if they don’t know anything about their topic.
    As far as cheating on a quiz or test, most are either pressed for time to study, or they feel the stress or pressure to do well. Most of the time, it is just a lack of studying.

  38. Hi, I am 12. School is hard, and kids don’t want to do their work. I don’t plagerize because it is mean to the author and I am pretty sure it is illegal. Yes, it is right?

    so anyway, maybe kids plagiarize because they are bored and want to play video games or read. Teachers give too much homework, WE HAVE LIVES TOO!!!! so anyway, a boy in my class plagiarized in science once and he got caught on “turn it in” or whatever. SOme kids dont try to plagiarize. I try really hard to use my own words because i want to be an author and so i need practice. Maybe they forgot to cite their sources. If the kids doesn’t turn in homework a lot, they are probably bored and should go to the principal.

    sorry i am not that descriptive, i am kinda new to this plagerizim thing since i just started writing big papers last year in 5th grade..

    My teacher asked me to answer this question because she said i am a “talented writer”

    bye hope i helped

    from Allie J.

    • Plagiarizing in a school paper isn’t illegal exactly, Allie, but you’re right that it’s mean to the author, and it is also cheating. And it’s true that sometimes students plagiarize because they don’t know how to cite properly; that’s one reason it’s important for us to teach citation in school. Thanks for commenting!

  39. I know I’m coming to this discussion a year later, but if you’re still taking comments, I’d like to add something.

    I know a lot of people have mentioned laziness and a lack of confidence as a motivating factor for plagiarism. I’d like to illuminate that a bit. Yes, sometimes plagiarism can take more time than actual writing or research. I don’t think it’s necessarily the time involved that’s the issue. The issue is depth of thought. To sit down and come up with your own words and ideas is tough. It requires long periods of intense focus and concentration. Most people aren’t accustomed to devoting that much thought to anything. When you want to eat, you go to a restaurant or pop a meal in the microwave. When the car breaks down, you take it to someone else to fix it. Want the best resume? A professional has to write it. Want a good deal on a house? You need a realtor. Want to pass a test? Hire a tutor. These days, we don’t even decorate our own homes. There’s a person to do that, too. Sure, it takes a lot of time and money to employ a professional, but then we don’t have to worry so much about acquiring the skills required for the task, or the results we’ll get.

    So it’s no surprise that students would approach writing essays with this mindset. Finding a good source to copy might take a while, but it doesn’t require any abstract thought, and the results are pleasing (at least initially).

    Then there’s the whole issue that some students simply don’t know how to engage in abstract thought or put their ideas into words. Literally. They are totally lost. They sit down to think and all they hear is a roar of chaos. They don’t know how to quiet their minds or organize their own thoughts into logical order. They’ve never had to do it before because their lifestyle doesn’t require it. So they go online to find some examples of a good argument and stumble upon a perfectly worded essay that expresses exactly what they’d like to say. And then they think, “What’s the point in doing it myself if it’s been done before? I’ll never be able to write phrases like this on my own. I might as well turn this in.” So that’s what they do. It might get them a zero, but that’s a better deal for some folks than having their grammar and ideas mercilessly picked over by a tyrant with a red pen. (The tyrant being me.)

    I’m starting to think that eliminating plagiarism for good may require a complete systematic change in teaching methods, expectations and curriculum, from K to B.A.

    • April: “I’m starting to think that eliminating plagiarism for good may require a complete systematic change in teaching methods, expectations and curriculum, from K to B.A.” I totally agree. In particular, the overwhelming emphasis on grades to the detriment of learning compounds all the problems you list above. When to we stage the uprising? Because I’m ready.

  40. There would be a whole lot less plagiarism if there weren’t just one way to cite things, I know there are MLA APA and all those kinds of things, but to students, neither of them have ever mattered. What I am saying is we need not have someone else’s school of thought on what makes a good citation or a bibliographic citation, we need to know how that teacher can best identify the source information.

    Also some of us students do not fall within the favorite category. Not every Teacher has this category but the ones that do had better be on the look out for major plagiarism. I once plagiarized an entire 15 page book about Catherine the great, because I hated that Teacher so much that I wanted her to read every single law that Catherine the Great ever wrote, but could only find 15 pages worth. Thats all I have ever purposely plagiarized, but the rest has just been because of the complication of MLA and APA and Chicago whatever style. It’s not impossible to learn such things, but it is nearly that to remember them.

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