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Plagiarism and Online Education

Plagiarism is one of the major issues in post-secondary education. Technological advancements have made it possible to upload information on the internet, which enables students from across the globe to access it. Students can also find assignments and other educational materials on the internet when they enrol for online colleges and universities. This paper strives to discuss the notion of plagiarism, differences between intentional and unintentional plagiarism, and measures that one may undertake to avoid plagiarism.

Jabs (2002) details the way students can avoid online plagiarism. He asserts that plagiarism is not a new phenomenon. Apparently, computers have simply made it easier for students to plagiarise information. In fact, some with “even modest computer skills can ‘cut and paste’ a sentence, a paragraph, or even an entire article from a website into her own work” (Jabs, 2002, p. 5). Hereby, they may duplicate a sentence, paragraph, or an entire article.

Bowles (2013) provides a critical analysis of the issue of digital literacy. He claims that technological developments have made it easier for students to not only learn but also engage in plagiarism. Apparently, he provides an explicit explanation of the issue of plagiarism. Moreover, the author claims that it is vital for online students to know the consequences of plagiarising. The reason is that plagiarism may have a significant impact on education of an individual.

In higher education, such phenomenon as plagiarism is quite rampant. Ison (2012) undertook a study to determine the spread of plagiarism in online institutions. The article provides a critical analysis of the issue of plagiarism in online educational establishments. The researcher uses dissertations checked by Turnitin as a sample. The findings of the research show that “72% of the dissertations had at least one case of improper paraphrasing and citation (verbatim text accompanied by a citation) and 46% had verbatim text without any citation” (Ison, 2012, p. 227). The above fact proves that plagiarism is inherent in online institutions. Therefore, the results of the study should motivate such institutions to formulate strategies that would aid in tackling plagiarism (Ison, 2012).

According to Ison (2012), the word ‘plagiarism’ is derived from the Latin word “plagiarius,” which means a “kidnapper, seducer, plunderer” (p. 228). It is vital for students to acknowledge that plagiarism has severe negative consequences. In fact, it would pose various problems in the real world if they engaged in plagiarism to maintain their academic success. Tutors usually provide students with information on plagiarism and its consequences at the beginning of any course. Therefore, it is vital for students to comply with the rules to avoid engaging in plagiarism. Ison (2012) claims that plagiarism surfaced when people realised that they could copy words. Apparently, even some of the most gifted writers have borrowed words from other authors. Among such writers are “Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Martin Luther” (Ison, 2012, p. 227). However, the emergence of new technological trends has made it much easier to plagiarise information. The main reason why online students plagiarise is their laziness. However, it is vital for students to acknowledge that they may face dire consequences due to their deceptive practices. Students should also understand the difference between intentional and unintentional plagiarism. In intentional plagiarism, the writer intentionally misleads the reader, whereas in unintentional plagiarism, the author does it unintentionally (Ison, 2012, p. 228). Certain students may commit unintentional plagiarism since they have not understood the instructions on how they should paraphrase. Furthermore, the students may lack understanding of what plagiarism is or how to properly cite.

Bowles (2013) asserts that students may commit plagiarism in many ways. Therefore, it is vital for students to determine methods of avoiding plagiarism. Apparently, if students do not understand a certain concept, they should seek the assistance of their instructors to avoid engaging in plagiarism. In fact, students plagiarise if they submit another individual’s work and present it as their own, repeat words or ideas of another individual without giving them proper credit, fail to use quotation marks when they quote directly from another source, and provide wrong information on the source of the information they quote. Therefore, students can avoid plagiarism by providing full credit when they use another person’s ideas. Students should also acknowledge that they should not cite information that is available from several accessible sources. Paraphrasing or summarising information obtained from different sources would help students avoid engaging in plagiarism in their online education. Consequently, this would corroborate the information that the student used. However, students should insure that they always provide proper citation of the information. Although, students might not be sure whether the information they are using is common knowledge, it would be wise for them to cite it to avoid any unforeseeable consequences.

Jabs (2002) asserts that students are usually unable to identify plagiarism except in instances of extreme plagiarism. In such a situation, it is easy to determine how people who do not have proper knowledge on plagiarism could easily fall victim to the academic malpractice. Therefore, it is vital for instructors to provide adequate information on plagiarism within the online learning environment. The reason is that online learning involves virtual communication, which is significantly different from the traditional learning environment. Thus, the university should provide other resources that would help students avoid plagiarism.

Jabs (2002), Islon (2012), and Bowles (2013) acknowledge that it is easier for students who take online courses to engage in plagiarism than those who study in traditional colleges and universities. The reason is in the fact that students can ask another person to sit an exam for them using the internet. Apparently, there are various companies that provide students with an opportunity to receive help with writing their research papers. However, the bad news for students who would like to engage in plagiarism is that in the contemporary world there are various tools that aid in detecting plagiarised works. The tools make it difficult for students to cheat their professors on the way to attaining a good grade. It is a well-known fact that the availability of textual information in an electronic format makes it easier for students to plagiarise their assignments. Hence, students can copy the information using just a few clicks of the mouse. Thus, colleges and universities may use certain strategies to tackle the increase in plagiarism in higher education. The strategies would encourage the students to do their own work from scratch.

The authors also claim that it is vital for college and university instructors to know why students engage in plagiarism. The understanding of the underlying causes of plagiarism would help to tackle the root causes of plagiarism. Although some students do not know what plagiarism really is, there are those who are perfectly aware of it. However, the problem is that they do not acknowledge that plagiarism is wrong. Therefore, they are oblivious of its consequences on their college or university education.

I think most students who do online courses plagiarise due to poor management skills. Procrastination is one of the major factors that make the students engage in deceptive practices. Students should appreciate the fact that to develop a great research paper, they may spend several hours of extensive research on the issue under investigation. Therefore, it is vital for students to ensure that they timely start their assignments. In case the due date of the research paper approaches and an individual did not accomplish even a half of the assignment, they will perform shoddy work. In addition, certain university or college students have poor writing skills. Thus, the fear of getting poor grades makes them engage in plagiarism.

A significant number of students who take online courses are presented with many choices. Apparently, this makes them reject choices of low priority. In fact, most students who do online courses are parents and have full-time jobs. As a result, this makes them spend less time and put fewer efforts into assignments that do not interest them. Moreover, students generally try to economise. Therefore, they are more likely to satisfy their urge to take the shortest route to complete their courses. Consequently, they present other people’s ideas as their own. Certain students feel that it is right for them to engage in plagiarism if they are overloaded with work. However, this would be detrimental to their ability to become a successful professional in the future.

In conclusion, students who do online courses may use several strategies to avoid plagiarism. Students may utilize various available resources to avoid committing plagiarism. Students should ensure that they educate themselves on plagiarism. Lack of knowledge of plagiarism may have dire consequences on the students. It may become the reason why students fail in their papers, are expelled from the university or college, or fail the whole course. The students must acknowledge that downloading research paper or copying and pasting information from the internet is plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious offence in higher education institutions. Most colleges and universities have a zero-tolerance policy towards plagiarism. College and university instructors provide their students with resources that help them avoid plagiarism by properly citing any sources they use in writing their research paper. Proper citation helps to corroborate the information used in the paper. Thus, this improves the quality of the research paper.

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