When I was still teaching research writing and related subjects, plagiarism has been my major enemy. Initially, I was getting exhausted addressing grammar related problems. My job was supposedly to develop and substantiate the content of each paper. I failed to foresee that handling grammar related concerns would become a workload. There came a time when I started to encounter well written papers. I thought I was encountering excellent students. I later discovered that this posted more problems. A well written and grammatically perfect paper signifies a high potential for plagiarism. My next strategy and next source of problem was how to detect plagiarized papers.
I initially used Google's search engine power to detect the presence of plagiarism. I simply copy the paper's text and enter it at Google's search bar. This strategy works to some extent. Google can no longer detect duplication when the text gets too long, words were replaced by synonyms and sentences were rephrased. Google can detect only the evident cases of plagiarism. When some alterations are implemented, a more powerful tool will be needed. I started to search for freeware that offers detection of plagiarism. Unfortunately, some freeware just work like Google's search engine. The paid software and applications have proven to be very effective in detecting incidents of plagiarism.
Even with the presence of powerful technological tools, there are still people who commit plagiarism. Worst is that students are not the only offenders. We are all aware of government officials, businessmen and other notable personalities who were found to have plagiarized speeches and compositions. The more important question then is why people still commit plagiarism?
1. The thought of not being caught - Unfortunately, some people believe that they can still get away with simple cases of plagiarism. Students submitting plagiarized reaction papers thinking that they are just shallow requirements anyway. Speech writers who believe that listeners will not take the speech seriously. Hence, doing some forms plagiarism is fine.
2. No one owns words, no one owns thoughts, knowledge is meant to be shared - Some implement some alterations before plagiarizing. A few synonyms, rephrasing then it's all done. Some would claim that thoughts and ideas are not patented anyway. This mind setting provides some writers the strength and right to plagiarize.
3. No penalty for plagiarizing - Some schools penalize students for plagiarizing. Some implement suspension to expulsion. But the thing is, not all schools have concrete policies for plagiarism. In the "adult" world, there are laws that penalizes plagiarizers. Unfortunately, it will take a lot of time before penalties will be implemented. Also, it would take a lot of effort to establish deliberate plagiarism. In some cases, parties involved resort to out of court settlement. The conflict was resolved but the plagiarism act was not really addressed.
So how plagiarism can be addressed? Similar to treating any disease, the concept of prevention is better than cure can be implemented to address plagiarism. While there are laws to penalize, preventing people to commit it seem to be right strategy. Students on their younger years should be conditioned about the moral implications of plagiarism. On the side of the teachers, outputs required from the students should be as much as possible, crafted not to make students plagiarize. What I always advocate, doing case studies and analyses are better. Students don't have to look for references. Students are forced to analyze situations which also develops their critical thinking skills. I knew of an international school that does not require students to undertake research and thesis writing. Students are instead required to read and produce a total of 500 case analyses. If the younger generation become highly trained, adept and comfortable with writing then incidents of "adult" plagiarism can be eliminated. As for adult plagiarism, government officials, and the like who plagiarize, this remains as a challenge. Laws and penalties can be made to be strict especially for government officials.
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