University is an exciting time for many, with many new opportunities. The majority of degrees at university require essays and dissertations to be completed independently. Understandably, many students find this difficult and turn to less than favourable methods of getting the highest mark possible – one of these being plagiarism.
What actually is plagiarism, and why is it a bad idea? Many people don’t even realise that they are plagiarising something, so how do you make sure that your writing is completely your own?
In short, plagiarism is when someone passes off someone else’s ideas or writing as their own. People do this by copying text from textbooks, research projects and other student’s work. If you get caught plagiarising an assignment at university in the UK, the consequences will vary depending on the severity of your plagiarism.
In this article, I will be talking about the consequences of plagiarism at university and the main ways to avoid it altogether. Please read on to find out more!
What are the Consequences of Plagiarism at University?
Here is something you must remember – if a professor or teacher so much as suspects that you have plagiarised, even a little bit, in an assignment, they can easily check if you have done so using plagiarism checkers.
Nowadays, online plagiarism checkers are so easy to access and quick to use that it is safe to assume that if you have plagiarised in your work, you will get caught. Sometimes essays and dissertations are automatically checked for plagiarism, even if there is no suspicion!
The consequences of your plagiarism will vary depending on the importance of the assignment and amount of information you have copied.
Even so, it is safe to assume that when you get caught, you will at least have to re-write the assignment from scratch. In more major cases of plagiarism at universities in the UK, students have been suspended or expelled.
Plagiarism is a form of lying and doing so makes you a dishonest person. Professors and employers are less likely to trust you in the future if you plagiarise. Not only this, by plagiarising, you are showing your teachers and professors that you don’t have the ability to complete an assignment for your degree without lying which harms their opinion of you also.
What Is Plagiarism?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, plagiarism is ‘the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own’.
People can plagiarise anything, but the main sources are from textbooks, online articles, other student’s work, and other online research documents published by other people.
Plagiarism is linked to copyright in that the person copying the work has not asked permission from the original writer or publisher to take their work.
In the past, it was quite difficult to spot when people plagiarised their work as the only sources of information were on paper such as books and research papers.
It was a tedious task to check individual essays for signs of plagiarism unless you had somehow memorised multiple books cover to cover! Nowadays, the internet has made it easy for professors and teachers to check for plagiarism on assignments, especially at universities.
These institutions have plagiarism software that they can run your work through to get a plagiarism percentage. This makes it very hard to get away way with.
How To Avoid Plagiarism (Even Accidentally)
A common misconception about plagiarism is that it can only be done on purpose and those that have done it have done so with full knowledge. This, however, is not the case.
Some students find it difficult to complete their assignments with external sources of information around them. So how do you make sure that you are definitely not plagiarising when completing your work? There are a couple of ways to do this.
Switch Words and Sentence Structures
The human subconscious is a strange thing, and sometimes even having a textbook in front of you, open on the topic which you are writing about causes you to simply copy the text from the book without realising it.
You should get into the habit of making sure that you are rewording sentences which you are finding in your sources of information.
A thesaurus, either an online or physical copy, would be a good tool to use for this. Try to switch the order of words around or use different words with the same meanings to avoid your worked being flagged up as copied.
Even if you think that you aren’t plagiarising work by reading from a text and then writing, you should check.
Put Your Work Through a Plagiarism Checker
The great thing about having technology available to you at almost all times is that you can use it to check your own work for plagiarism.
There are so many free online plagiarism checkers for you to copy and paste your work into. This is a great idea in order to find out whether you have accidentally plagiarised someone else’s work, whether you meant to or not.
The benefit of checkers being online is that they can search billions of webpages and documents for any sign of plagiarism in your work efficiently.
Of course, you could check your work for plagiarism the manual way by re-reading your sources of information and comparing them to your own work. However, this is a less efficient and time-consuming way of checking your work.
What To Do If You Have Plagiarised
So, you have checked your work, either by running it through a plagiarism detector or re-reading it and have found that you have indeed plagiarised a part of your work.
The best thing to do is to own up to it. No need to panic, the good thing is that you have caught it early before you are reprimanded for copying. You have a couple of choices about what to do.
Rewrite Your Work
If you find that all or the majority of your work is plagiarised, you should probably get to work rewriting your essay.
Change your sentence structures and use a thesaurus to pick different words with the same meanings (be sure not to do this too much as it can make your writing flow badly and feel generally clunky).
By doing this, you are preventing yourself from having to face the consequences of copying and also educating yourself on your subject in a more in-depth way.
Use Quotations and Cite Sources
If you find that only small parts of your work have been ‘copied’, you might want to try putting quotation marks around the parts of the text you have taken and citing the source of these quotes.
Quotations do not count as plagiarism as you are crediting the author or publisher in your work. There are many ways of citing sources in your work.
On software such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs, there are features which let you automatically add a bibliography of sources at the end of your work to make your life a lot easier.
Research the parts of your work which are plagiarised – you should be able to find information such as an author, date and location related to the quote you have used.
Fill this information into the sources feature when writing your work and your assignment will no longer have traces of plagiarism in it!
For more information about how to cite sources in your work, check out A Quick Guide To Referencing.
Can Teachers Tell You’ve Plagiarised?
You may think that you are being sneaky while plagiarising. By copy and pasting other people’s work, you must be tricking your teacher into thinking you have a good understanding and range of vocabulary to use in your work, right? Wrong.
If you ask most teachers and professors up and down the country, they will tell you that it is pretty easy to spot when a student has plagiarised someone else’s work in their assignment.
Writing style, vocabulary and the layout of the text often give it away – if one of your assignments doesn’t line up with your previous ones, it is obvious that something is going on.
All in all, plagiarism is a bad idea. The majority of the time, you will get caught and the consequences for doing it are simply not worth it at all. Remember, the internet is your friend, use the resources available to you to make your assignments the best that they can be!