Plagiarism or Copying?

Prof. Sally Brown thinks that students don't understand what plagiarism is. I agree - the word is misused in a downright dishonest fashion in many colleges and universities and it's no wonder students are confused. The simpler word 'copying' is a much better fit in most instances.

To plagiarize implies that a person is presenting the work as original, that he has asserted that he is the sole originator of the ideas where he is not, and even that the real author has suffered injury as he now has difficulty claiming the work as his own original work. Plagiarism is a serious business and it does happen in academia, but rarely at the undergraduate level.

In many cases, students are completing assignments, without any pretence that their ideas are original, that they are the first of the thousands or millions to have completed a similar assignment and to have had original ideas and thoughts on it. The professor isn't looking forward to gleaning new and fresh insights from his undergraduates. When a student cheats, by copying work or having someone else do it, sanctions are fine, but the grandiloquence is unnecessary and demeans the seriousness of real plagiarism.

Seeing students trying to outsource their own education is comical but is just a symptom. It speaks that the students value the qualification more than the education, which is the real root of the problem.

Posted by Alexander at June 19, 2006 12:49 PM

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