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Please Don't Plagiarize!

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What Is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is not smart

And How To Avoid It - A Guide For ESL Learners

Do you plagiarize?

Plagiarism is an illegal form of copying. It means taking another person's work (without asking) and calling it your own. Plagiarism can be accidental or intentional. Copying an entire essay or story and calling it your own is plagiarism. Copying one sentence word-for-word without "quotations" is also plagiarism. Whether you hand it in to a teacher, or post it in your blog, plagiarism is against the law in most nations.

Examples of plagiarism

  • copying and pasting from the Internet and posting somewhere else without proper citation
  • putting your name on another person's essay or project
  • copying exact wording from another person's text
  • using another person's photo, diagram, sounds, or ideas without proper citation
  • presenting research in your own words without providing your references
  • purchasing another person's text and using it as your own
  • presenting ideas in the same format and order as your research source
  • having a teacher, native speaker, or higher level student edit your paper to perfection

Why do English learners copy?

Here are some common excuses English learners use:

  • "I didn't know how to put it in my own words."
  • "It's not illegal in my country."
  • "I thought the Internet was a public domain."
  • "I don't understand the rules of copyright."
  • "I wanted to get a better mark."
  • "I wanted to impress my teacher."
  • "I didn't understand the assignment."
  • "I have a small vocabulary."
  • "I didn't have time to do the work."
  • "My parents want me to get better marks."

There are two main reasons why plagiarism is taken so seriously in the academic world:

  1. Authors and artists work very hard to create original work. They deserve the credit.
  2. Teachers want to know that students understand their research. Copying requires almost no effort.

International Plagiarism

Most countries have copyright laws. In places like North America, plagiarism is taken very seriously. Students learn about plagiarism at an early age, and teachers in high schools and universities rarely accept any excuses for copying.

In some countries, the idea of "intellectual property" is not valued. Students from poor countries (or places where the government has a lot of control) may not understand the idea of an author owning his words or a photographer owning his photo.

There is NO excuse for international students to plagiarize in a foreign country, however. It is important to understand and respect the copyright rules of the author or artist's country.

Reasons NOT to Plagiarize

Even though most ESL or EFL teachers will not accept any of the excuses above, many students are tempted to plagiarize. Teachers are trained to recognize plagiarism. Most importantly, they know the level of their students. Learners who intentionally plagiarize will likely get caught.

Here are more reasons NOT to plagiarize:

  • It is unfair to the true author.
  • You will not learn anything.
  • You will get a bad reputation with teachers and other learners.
  • You will lower your chances of getting into schools.
  • Teachers don't want to be the police.
  • You will lose important references for future jobs.
  • You could get fined.
  • You could lose your job.

Copying from the Internet

Myth: "The Internet is a Public Domain."
This is not true! Most Internet content, including images, is protected by copyright. You need permission to use it. You also need to credit the author or creator.

Text on the Internet is no different than text in a book or newspaper. Anything that another person writes, including email, is copyright protected. Internet plagiarism often involves copying text or images from websites, blogs, forums and social media sites.

Copying from the Internet is very easy to do. It is also easy for teachers to catch. Teachers who suspect plagiarism can check the Internet for exact wording by doing a simple search.

The World Wide Web is a growing international community. It loses its reputation when copyright rules are broken.

Getting Caught for Plagiarizing

Students, job applicants, and even politicians have been caught plagiarizing. When you put research into your own words and acknowledge your sources, everybody wins.

The punishment for plagiarizing can be very severe. Some teachers will give you a second chance if your form of copying was unintentional. Many teachers have a strict policy and will not accept any excuses.

Here are some common consequences of plagiarizing:

  • Getting kicked out of school
  • Losing the cost of tuition.
  • Being asked to rewrite all previous assignments
  • Being sued or taken to court by the publisher or artist
  • Causing another website to lose its reputation or audience
  • Losing traffic generated by search engines

IMPORTANT: It is not only your reputation at stake. If you take part in blogs, forums, or discussion boards (such as MyEnglishClub), please respect the Terms and Conditions. When you copy and paste from the web and post text or images in any of the spaces mentioned above you are putting the host site in danger. Search engines have "spiders" that check for stolen images and text. Websites that contain copied material are "flagged" for copyright violation, even if the content was posted by members.

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