Copycat or creative license?
In academia, and in life for that matter, we are constantly exposed to an overwhelming amount of information. This information is distributed via various channels and we often absorb it without even realising it. This constant exposure influences us in more ways than we know and we often subconsciously adopt things, whether its phrases we pick up from friends, or the latest celebrity slang or a mass retailer taking its influence from major fashion houses or smaller ones in some local cases, or even academic works being reworded as our own. However, there are distinct differences between being influenced by external media, utilising creative license and downright copying, or plagiarism.
Plagiarism is a common occurrence particularly in the academic realm, and there are several forms of plagiarism that range in severity and the consequences that they entail. Plagiarism, according to the Oxford dictionary is “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own”. In the academia, plagiarism, especially deliberate plagiarism, is regarded as highly unethical and will most likely result in disciplinary action being taken against the perpetrator, and in extreme cases of blatant plagiarism will result in expulsion. Direct plagiarism is perhaps the most heinous and dishonest due to the fact that involves a conscious decision to copy someone else’s work and pass it off as your own – it is the omission of any quotation marks or referencing whatsoever, essentially any indication that the work may not be wholly your own.
Self-plagiarism is another common form of plagiarism. Self-plagiarism occurs when a student resubmits a previous piece of their work, or part of it, for another course without seeking or obtaining permission from the professors or lecturers who were previously involved. This is also applicable when utilising assignments previously completed in school, and passing them off as a new piece of work for a varsity assignment. Even though the work may be your own, resubmitting it is still considered academically and ethically dishonest. Mosaic plagiarism may be one form of copying that isn’t often recognised or acknowledged. According to Bowdoin College’s definition : “Mosaic Plagiarism occurs when a student borrows phrases from a source without using quotation marks, or finds synonyms for the author’s language while keeping to the same general structure and meaning of the original”. Lastly and perhaps most understandably, is accidental plagiarism. As the name indicates, this form of plagiarism is largely unintentional and occurs when a person fails to cite their references sufficiently, or paraphrases external content without acknowledging its original author. Despite this form of plagiarism being inadvertent and possibly deemed an honest mistake, it still carries some serious consequences.
The good news is though, that all forms of plagiarism are entirely avoidable if the correct procedures are put in place. These will protect you, as well as the integrity of your sources. Most tertiary institutions and courses also implement specified referencing styles or systems and should provide guidelines on how to do so in lectures and tutorials. However, if this is not the case, there are also hundreds of online tutorials and guides to referencing and citing sources easily and accurately, as well as online plagiarism checkers that will scan your piece of work and highlight areas that are deemed plagiarised or not an original piece of work. These will help ensure that you are not a copycat (accidental or not), but an original creative.