Why Is Plagiarism an Important Subject at Colleges?

by Amy Sterling Casil Google

    Any time a scholar copies material without citing a source, it is plagiarism, as is turning in a paper under your own name that someone else wrote. A 2005 study of 80,000 undergraduates by Rutgers professor Donald McCabe revealed that 43 percent of North American college students admitted to plagiarism. Turnitin.com identified some plagiarized content in more than 50 percent of papers in a 2012 report.

    Many colleges and universities have honor codes that prohibit plagiarism. Penalties for violating the code range from failure on a single test to expulsion from the college. An academic integrity violation will follow a student to a new school, and serious violators risk having their degrees revoked. At the University of Virginia, in 2001, 158 students were caught turning in identical 1,500-word papers to an introductory physics class. Nearly 50 students were expelled, and three who had already graduated had their degrees revoked.

    According to ZDNet, UCLA's Anderson School of Management began using anti-plagiarism software in 2012, and almost immediately discovered plagiarism in 52 admission essays, rejecting the applicants. Evelyn Tate, director of graduate recruitment and admissions for the MBA program at Northeastern University, told "Bloomberg Businessweek" that the school was interested in students with strong ethics, who would go out and make a positive difference in the world. Applicants who plagiarize the first document they present for admission show that they possess neither qualification.

    A degree earned through plagiarized work has little value once the graduate is on the job. In 2010, the higher education community was shocked by the confession of "Ed Dante," a writer of papers-on-demand. Dante wrote a 160-page thesis on business ethics for a graduate student. After the student received her degree using the purchased thesis, she thanked Dante: "Thanx so much for uhelp ican going to graduate to now." This level of writing skill is not acceptable in a business management position.

    According to Aquinas College, students need to trust their professors to provide accurate, up-to-date education and to be reliable and fair in their evaluation of student work. In turn, professors should be able to have confidence that students are honestly learning and are presenting their best work in papers and projects. Instructors who grade plagiarized papers are evaluating the work of someone who is not in the class. Instructors and students alike are demoralized and harmed by plagiarism.

    About the Author

    Amy Sterling Casil is an award-winning writer with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chapman University in Orange, Calif. She is a professional author and college writing teacher, and has published 20 nonfiction books for schools and libraries.

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