Plagiarism: Types and Causes of Plagiarism


Plagiarism is “the deliberate or reckless representation of another’s words, thoughts, or ideas as one’s own without attribution in connection with the submission of academic work, whether graded or otherwise” (Instrument of Student Governance, 2009, par. 6). Within the academic arena, plagiarism is an act practiced by dishonest students who do not wish to give credit to the work of others. However, there are a large number of students who are not aware of what constitutes plagiarism, and therefore commits this act without their knowledge. Plagiarism has also become a common problem for those students taking on English as a second language because most of the time, they have no choice but to paraphrase the text that they are reading, and in the process, they end up committing plagiarism. The research paper aims to define plagiarism and examine the different types of plagiarism. The paper will determine the causes of plagiarism, why students studying English as a second language have a problem with plagiarism as well as explore recommendations for avoiding plagiarism.

Types of plagiarism

The academic arena recognizes five main types of plagiarism. First, there is the “copy and paste plagiarism” (Barnbaum, 2002, par. 2). This is whereby students obtain the text of an author and proceed to copy it and then paste it verbatim to pass as their own. The second type of plagiarism recognized within the academic circle is “style plagiarism” (Barnbaum, 2002, par. 3). In this case, a victim has the habit of following the text of a given article source systematically, in their writing. In other words, a student is in fact copying, literary, the reasoning styles of the author to such material. This is the case, even if the sentences that a person committing plagiarism constructs are different from those of an author whose work they have plagiarized. “Word switch plagiarism” (Barnbaum, 2002, par. 5) is the third type of plagiarism. In this case, a student copies a given sentence from, for example, an article source by a given author, then alters a few words from the sentences, without even utilizing quotations marks from the ‘borrowed words’. In “idea plagiarism”, a student takes the solution or creative ideas of an author from an article source written by such an author, and they fail to give credit to the author in question (Barnbaum, 2002, par. 6).

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Many students today do not distinguish between, on the one hand, creative ideas in the public domain, and which can, therefore, may be taken as general knowledge, and thus less vulnerable to an act of plagiarism and on the other hand, creative ideas of a given author that requires giving credit to the author. “Metaphor plagiarism” (Barnbaum, 2002, par. 4) is the fifth type of plagiarism. Here, a student uses metaphors of another author in their work, as a way of, for example, emphasizing a certain idea. In addition, students may also borrow metaphors from another author to enable a reader to have access to an analogy that better emphasizes emotions or senses of the idea conveyed, compared with a plain narrative of, for example, a process or object. Whereas there is no harm in using the metaphors of another author, nonetheless, there is a need to give credit to them if a student wishes to avoid plagiarism.

Causes of plagiarism

Although there are diverse causes of plagiarism, nevertheless it is possible to classify them into two main groups. First, plagiarism occurs when students are quite unfamiliar with the established culture in the academic arena (USQ, 2009, par.1).

The implication is that students are not yet familiar with the importance of recognizing authorship, and therefore giving credit to the work of another author. In addition, many students are yet to come to terms with the moral ethics of committing such a heinous crime as plagiarism. Furthermore, when students lack the necessary skills that will enable them to blend well with the established culture in the academic arena, this is yet another cause of plagiarism. The second cause of plagiarism comes about due to the actions of students whose intention is to deceive (USQ, 2009, par. 1). In this case, these students are well aware of what plagiarism is, and yet they commit this crime.

Is plagiarism a problem for second language learners?

Different ideas have been put forward to suggest that second language learners usually fall victim to plagiarism when compared with native speakers. For example, according to Hyland (2001, p. 376), second language students often find it hard to identify plagiarism. In addition, it is also equally difficult for them to transform the text that they use, in a bid to avoid committing plagiarism. In addition, Evan and Youmans (2000, p. 55) have noted that students taking English as a second language, have a problem in identifying legitimate collaboration on the one hand, and plagiarism, on the other hand. The literature by Hu (2001) appears to have shed more light on the relationship between increased cases of plagiarism and students taking English as a second language. The position of this author stems from the fact that an inherent conflict exists between, on the one hand, conventional western ideas that have been provided on the issue of plagiarism and the other hand, actual process of writing and reading in a language foreign to a student. Accordingly, students taking English as a second language have no choice but to make use of English words and phrases taught from a variety of article sources and texts. While this may seem like an easy task for a native English speaker, nevertheless it is quite a challenge for their counterparts who are taking English as a second language.

Avoiding plagiarism

There are various strategies that students can adopt, as a way of avoiding plagiarism. To start with, students need to ensure that they put in quotes all information borrowed from another author (Barnbaum, 2002, par. 6). Another strategy is to ensure that students always paraphrase the text that they borrow from a source article by another author (Barnbaum, 2002, par. 6). Moreover, it is also important for students to ensure that they compare the text that they have paraphrased with its source, because there is a chance that they could have accidentally copied some words verbatim, and hence a source of plagiarism. Overall, giving due credit to the author of a text is the most important thing. A proper referencing can do this. It is also important for students to ensure that they only borrow the most important ideas from the text of another author, and then proceed to develop them in their own words. This way, the ensuing text has originality, and this helps in avoiding plagiarism.

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Plagiarism, the practice of representing the thoughts, ideas, or words of another author without giving them credit for their work, is increasingly becoming a problem within the academic arena. Although plagiarism is a dishonest act, there are still many students who practice it because they are not aware that entails plagiarism. However, other students are fully informed about plagiarism and its penalty, and so they do it deliberately. The aim of this research pare was to define plagiarism, examine the different types of plagiarism, discuss why plagiarism could be a problem for students studying English as a second language, and offer recommendations on how to avoid plagiarism.

Reference List

Barnbaum, C. (2002). Plagiarism: a student’s guide to recognizing it and avoiding it. Web.

Evans, F. and Youmans, M. (2000). ESL Writers Discuss Plagiarism: The Social Construction of Ideologies. Journal of Education. 182 (3), 49-65.

Hu, J. (2001). An Alternative Perspective of Language Re-use: Insights from Textual and Learning Theories and L2 Academic Writing. English Quarterly. 33 (1), 52-62.

Hyland, F. (2001). Dealing with Plagiarism when Giving Feedback. ELT Journal. 55 (4), 3 75-81.

Instrument of Student Governance (2009). Academic dishonesty.Web.

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USQ. (2009). Causes of plagiarism. Web.

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