Plagiarism is not unnatural

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This idea that plagiarism is not unnatural is very powerful, and the phrase is not mine, I copied it to a professor in a discussion on this topic in the social networks. The university (by the reports of students) and publishing world (by the papers in their journals) are concerned about plagiarism, as it is estimated that the level of plagiarism of digital content will reach 63% by 2014.

Now it’s easy to copy because technology facilitates it and there are much information available on the Internet, although it is a double-edged sword, because it will be increasingly difficult to say something new that is not in the network and also because there are increasingly better tools to detect plagiarism.

According the same estimates, more than half of the students think that plagiarism is natural and do not give it importance. Therefore, the best anti-plagiarism tool is to follow the work of each student. I’m tutoring several undergraduate and graduate theses, and the best guarantee is the weekly or monthly monitoring with the student, seeing their ideas, problems, their evolution, etc.

But this cannot be done with journals, as editors cannot track authors the same (we only need that!), but they have many options:

  • Set journal rules about previously published works. Now with open access is easier to know if there is something similar published.
  • Choose quality authors: university professors, PhD, academic affiliation, among other checks.
  • Use anti plagiarism tools to review manuscripts.
  • And there is always the peer reviewer filter, which will give a good look at the manuscript.

Returning to the main topic, we humans learn by imitating others, that’s how we improve as a species, allowing for the transfer of information between individuals and generations. Therefore, if plagiarism is not unnatural, what needs to be done is cite the sources, preferably by going to the original source, and use old ideas to build something new and give value to what we are providing. Well, that’s why the review of literature is an important part of a paper.

As professors, we lead and train generations, do you put enough emphasis on this issue? Do you teach students how to cite and deal with plagiarism?

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3 Responses to Plagiarism is not unnatural

  1. April White Feiden says:

    As an instructor of the basics of academic/research writing, I cover how to avoid plagiarism. I also put controls in place to prevent students from plagiarizing. Incidentally, I stole my latest spiel on plagiarism from some math instructors who do not allow “magic” solutions; they require students to show how they derived each solution. So, I say to my students that similar to math, I will not allow any “magic” papers. Thereafter, I monitor their paper writing from inception to final draft through a number of online and in-class interactions and several rounds of drafts.

  2. Pingback: Reblog Friday: “Plagiarism is Unnatural” | COLT

  3. Pingback: Worst practices for misconduct authors | How to publish in journals

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