Integrity is a cornerstone of academic achievement. So, it’s not surprising that universities and schools institute consequences if a student is found guilty of plagiarism, or the act of presenting someone else’s work as your own.
And while this is not new news, the rise of ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence (AI) writing tools, plus software created to detect AI writing, has muddied the waters concerning plagiarism.
Now, more than ever, students and professors need to thoroughly examine plagiarism. This article is a first step. In it, we look at the different forms, outline consequences, discuss the role technology plays in detecting it, and equip you with preventive measures and next steps if accused.
Plagiarism is a serious accusation, and your understanding of it is the best prevention, and defense if accused.
Plagiarism is the act of presenting someone else’s work – ideas, words, images, and graphics – as your own without proper acknowledgment or citation. It includes direct copy-pasting and paraphrasing, or rewording, without giving credit to the original creator.
Plagiarism undermines the principles of originality and intellectual honesty. And its impact extends beyond the individual student. It also affects the integrity of educational institutions and, in a broader sense, the entire academic community.
The Varying Consequences of Plagiarism
The consequence for plagiarism varies depending on certain factors. For starters, the nature of the offense matters. If you directly copy and paste another’s work and submit it as your own, that offense is egregious. It is an archetype of academic dishonesty, and the consequence is severe. In most cases, schools and programs of study will dismiss you completely. However, if you inadvertently omit a citation, you’ll usually receive a less severe repercussion.
The level of coursework is another factor regarding consequences of plagiarism. If you’re an undergraduate student (and a first-time offender), you’ll likely be asked to redo the assignment or to drop the course and take it again in a different semester. But, many times, doctoral or professional school students are dismissed from the school entirely if found guilty.
Another consequence of the accusation of plagiarism is the fight to prove your innocence. It can be long and one riddled with hours of preparation, questions, and meetings, all while trying to complete regular coursework. Since most individuals don’t have experience proving their innocence in formal proceedings, the learning curve here is steep. And unfortunately, this ramification comes well before a verdict of your guilt or innocence is rendered.
We must also mention a tarnished reputation, which is also a consequence of the accusation of plagiarism that sometimes has far reaching effects. For example, even if proven innocent, many universities, programs of study, and medical schools suggest a forthcoming approach when applying to them. They usually encourage you to reveal the past accusation and subsequent procedure from the start. Even if proven innocent, just the accusation can be costly.
Using Technology for Plagiarism Detection
Technology plays a key role in identifying plagiarism. Detection tools like Turnitin, Grammarly, and SafeAssign compare submitted work against a large database of academic content.
And recently, some companies have released software to determine if a student used AI to create the assignment. In most cases, though, these tools are still in the testing phase. But already there are instances of institutions using this brand-new software and (sometimes wrongly) accusing students of using AI. (In one specific example, the student was able to use the version history of the assignment inside Google Docs to prove innocence, but the process was difficult.)
How to Prevent Plagiarism and Best Practices
Being proactive is key to combating plagiarism. From the start and throughout a student’s tenure, institutions and professors must educate on proper citation methods, referencing techniques, and why originality matters in education. Teaching students to value their own contributions to the academic world is vital. Also, offering resources like writing centers and plagiarism tutorials helps students to develop strong research and writing skills, which may lessen cases of plagiarism.
As for a student, start early on assignments. Waiting until a project is due adds stress and pushes you to take measures usually not considered. And when research and writing services are offered, use them.
Plagiarism Allegation – What to Do When Accused
If you’re accused of plagiarism, stay levelheaded and take the allegation seriously. First step, review the accusation in detail; work to understand the specific concerns raised. Next, consult with your trusted academic advisors and/or professors. Ask them to point you to resources and school policies on plagiarism. Also, locate any original drafts, notes, and resources you used. If innocent, these may help to prove it. Lastly and most importantly, reach out to a group like ours, one well versed in education litigation, to get advice.
The Education Litigation Group Can Help
In conclusion, combating plagiarism is a collective effort, one that requires educational institutions, teachers, and students to be proactive. Knowing the definition of plagiarism and the tools used to detect it is a good start. But we encourage students and teachers alike to be familiar with their schools’ policies about reporting plagiarism and the process for litigating such cases. Understand, too, that dismissal from your program of study and/or school is a possibility if found guilty. And that may have lasting effects on your future.
We hope you never face an accusation of plagiarism. But if you find yourself in this situation, reach out to us. We’ve helped hundreds of students like you.