Plagiarism in Tertiary Education

Plagiarism in Tertiary Education

Plagiarism is a frequent problem in tertiary education and currently happens a lot in the entire world possibly because of the easy access to electronic information. Plagiarism is considered to be an advancing problem and tertiary education institutions are obligated to dedicate more resources and time to fight it (Gullifer & Tyson, 2010). The rampant growth in technology has quickly increased the rate of plagiarism where students make use of these technologies to get access to another person’s work and presenting it as their own work (Glendinning, 2014). In acquiring education in general, mainly in tertiary institutions, important questions arise on how the authenticity of intellectual work can be improved.  Plagiarism is defined as making use of or copying another person’s work whether printed or written without properly acknowledging the source (Walker, 2010). The definition indicates that plagiarism is the same as stealing an individual’s work and depriving the real owner the right of owning it. People consider plagiarism as a dishonesty in academics or conspiracy aimed at deceiving tutors and getting a prize or acknowledgement for stolen work (Berlinck, 2011). Regardless of the availability of plagiarism detecting software, new and increasing cases of plagiarism are reported worldwide (Okoro, 2011). The purpose of this report is to discuss plagiarism, its consequences in tertiary education, and ways of reducing it.Common types of plagiarism in Tertiary Institutions

Copying is a type of plagiarism involves writing down the same words written by another person and using it as your own without showing that you are making use of another individual’s work or without inserting quotation marks when using a direct quote (Alzahrani, et al., 2012). Copying includes, duplicating ideas, materials or concepts from documents such as reports, articles, presentations, drawings, the internet, computer software, and many more without the needed acknowledgement. The second type of plagiarism is collusion which is common in tertiary education institutions and involves working with someone with the aim of deceiving others about the originality of your work (Walker, 2010). These may include illegal collusion in doing assignments, copying and submitting the work of another student, sharing written assignments, and paying or not paying an individual to write your work.

Incorrect paraphrasing is also a form of plagiarism when not done appropriately by acknowledging the source as it involves it involves using a person’s work by modifying several words, changing the sentence structure, or using few sentences without pinpointing that the ideas and sentence structure are someone else’s (Gullifer & Tyson, 2010). Incorrect paraphrasing may also include developing the original ideas and information and changing several phrases while maintaining their original structure without citing the source. Wrong citation is another form of plagiarism and may involve citing sources that were not read without writing down the secondary that originally generated the information or idea used. Additionally, using false parenthetical citations, reference lists that have not been acknowledged in the assignments and writings that were not read for the assignment results to plagiarism.

Self-plagiarism is also rampant and happens when a student re-uses their previously written work without acknowledging their earlier work, thus leading to deception. Re-using personal work either partially or entirely can also be referred to as double submission, duplication, republishing or recycling without admission (East, 2010). In tertiary education, self-plagiarism is considered when a student re-writes, presents, or re-submits a part of or the whole of a previously written assignment for academic assessment without correct citation.

 Reasons for Students’ Plagiarism

Many students have inadequate research skills and fail to get assistance from their tutors thus making them plagiarize. These inadequacies in research skills may occur when the students fail to understand how they can incorporate other people’s ideas into their own and acknowledging them due to reasons such as natural errors as a part of learning.  Additionally, student lecturers may assume that their students are already knowledgeable of the appropriate rules and procedures of documentation and research (Gabriel, 2010). Many tutors also fail to train their students as they try to acquire proper research skills, and instead require them to complete assignments or research with proper documentation (Lofstrom, & Kupila, 2013). Unfortunately, a big number of students are unable to perform these tasks efficiently and their tutors fail to consider the difficulties of these students.

Secondly, countless students have problems of carefully assessing and differentiating academic writing, which may influence the students’ writings and process of research. Researchers show that over sixty percent of university and college students are unable to differentiate plagiarism and paraphrasing (Berlinck, 2011). These difficulties increase when the students come across complex words and new vocabularies and make them to use writing styles that result in plagiarism (East, 2010). The failure to differentiate between texts that have been paraphrased, those that have been plagiarized and incorrect text citations are usually the primary causes of unintended plagiarism

Thirdly, in many instances, students confuse several terminologies and this increases their anxiety and confusion when writing their work (Glendinning, 2014). Some students may fail to understand the meanings and purposes of different forms of writings like argumentation, thesis, exposition, essay, report, and words such as discuss, evaluate, and analyze, and thus making them opt to plagiarize other people’s writings (Lofstrom, & Kupila, 2013).

Poor taking of notes also often leads to plagiarism where several students unintentionally plagiarize when performing initial research. This mainly occurs when a student mixes up material that was paraphrased and those that were quoted and later fail to differentiate their own writing and those that came from other sources (Curtis & Popal, 2011). Additionally, poor note taking makes students to have an inaccurate or unfinished reference lists or is unable trace the sources used to minimize plagiarism. Other causes of plagiarism include external factors such as competition between students, pressure from relatives, the commodification of academics and knowledge, lack references of ethical writing behavior in academics, and internal factors such as poor management of time (East, 2010). However, these factors should not justify the use of plagiarized work.

Consequences of Plagiarism in Tertiary Education

The consequences of plagiarism in higher education range from individual, professional, and legal consequences. Plagiarisms ruins the personal and academic reputation of a student and in many instances leads to the reduction of high grades, failure in the whole course or individual assignments, expulsion or suspension, and ruins the good relationship between teachers or lecturers and students (Glendinning, 2014). A student’s academic record can be considered as a violation of ethics, probably making it hard for the student to be accepted in other institutions of higher education because plagiarism is considered a serious offence. Additionally, most students who are found guilty of plagiarism allegations ruin their academic career since they are barred from publishing any work (Okoro, 2011). Publishing one’s work is a significant part of an impressive academic career and losing the permit to publish affects an individual’s academic status.

The legal consequences of plagiarism are intense since many patent laws are unconditional and require that no one should use someone else’s material without including proper references and citations. There are frequent cases of authors suing researchers, students, and other people who plagiarize; some of these cases have been regarded as criminal offences and led to the imprisonment of the plagiarists (Gabriel, 2010). In other cases, plagiarists are made to pay monetary compensation to original authors as penalties.

Plagiarizing research in critical areas such as medical disciplines has led to the loss of resources and in other instances lives (Shirazi, et al., 2010). This shows that the effects of plagiarism can be far-reaching, affects many people and lack of knowledge or the status of someone in the society should not make it excusable, legal or ethical (Berlinck, 2011). These consequences evidently show that both intentional and unintentional plagiarism is a harmful act to both the person plagiarizing, their academic institution, their tutors, the general society and should be avoided at all costs. Moreover, it would cause the loss of time, effort, finance, and even though one did not intend to plagiarize, they would still face the consequences.Ways of minimizing Plagiarism

Before students start to write an assignment or project, they should be trained and made aware of plagiarism, how it occurs and how to avoid it. Online tools such as plagiarism checkers can be used when a student has a missing citation before submitting an assignment (Gabriel, 2010). Students also need to carefully evaluate and understand the topics they are writing since having a clearer understanding of concepts will enable correct taking of notes that will lead to easier use and tracing of resources thus ensuring that plagiarism is avoided.

Students should keep track of the sources used by taking notes when writing or revising their essays. This ensures that these sources can be easily identified and acknowledged to minimize plagiarism. To ensure accurate note taking, some students use direct quotes during note taking; this action ensures that the student knows when to quote directly or paraphrase (Wheeler & Anderson, 2010). While it is simpler to keep track of journals and books that are physically present, it is also crucial that electronic sources are cited.

Writing a research project can be time consuming and should be planned in time to avoid plagiarizing. Cutting and pasting information from other sources without using quotation marks, paraphrasing without mentioning the source, copying other students’ work, and failure to correctly quote the sources should be avoided to minimize plagiarism (Curtis & Popal, 2011). Additionally, tutors should ensure that their students acquire proper skills on research, paraphrasing, and referencing. However, it is imperative that both lecturers and students have access to conditions that enable them recognize and gain skills to avoid plagiarism.


Plagiarism is a frequent problem in tertiary education and has dire consequences to both the student, their institution, and the society at large. However, it can be avoided when the students practice good academic ethics, are trained on how to avoid plagiarism before they start writing academic and research papers, have respect for other people’s academic property, and when ways of monitoring plagiarism are used.

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