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Plagiarism: Why it is Never Worth the Risk

Lauren Lord

Liberty University


In life in general and particularly in academic writing, it is important to get things right and one of the ways to get off to a good start as a student, is to practice proper etiquette when finding sources to use for one’s research papers. Little is more important in the constructing of these academic papers than the giving of credit where credit is due, pardon the cliché, if you may. There is great peril awaiting those students who fail to properly or forget to cite altogether when using other people’s written or recorded materials. The chances of becoming banned from ever being published or denied the awarding of a sought after degree, are two of the most serious major penalties, the writer who fails to properly list his or her references, can face. Plagiarism is certainly not a welcome activity and therefore, every precaution on the part of the writer, must be taken to avoid becoming an unwilling participant in the activity of plagiarizing. This paper will identify and define what it means to plagiarize, how to avoid plagiarism, why some students plagiarize and outline the process that is required to properly cite sources for a research paper.

It is important to understand the importance of not borrowing another person’s work without providing the proper credit to the original creator. “A charge of plagiarism can have severe consequences, including expulsion from a university or loss of a job, not to mention a writer's loss of credibility and professional standing.” (Brizee, Allen, 2012). The penalties for such actions are clearly ones to be avoided as they could potentially lead to the derailing of an academic or a professional career, neither of, which are welcomed outcomes. Whenever writing a paper, one must be careful not to omit providing credit to those who originally created the idea, as the theft of any intellectual property, is a crime that is punishable by law in certain cases and could result in a civil law suit being filed against the accused party. So what is plagiarism and how could such a seemingly banal action, lead to such serious repercussions? According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to "plagiarize" means to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own, to use (another's production) without crediting the source, to commit literary theft and to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source. In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward, (Merriam Webster, Online, n.d.). It may be difficult for some to believe that is the case, but the laws are quite clear in indicating that whenever one tries to pass off another’s creative property as their own, it is considered not only improper, it is literal theft. According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property, and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or a computer file). The most common forms of plagiarism are as follows: turning in someone else's work as your own, copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit, failing to put a quotation in quotation marks, giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation, changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit, copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on "fair use" rules), (, 2012). 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