Students might think that plagiarism is one of the most thoroughly explored and well-understood topics on the planet. However, that’s not always the case. Whether it’s new advancements in the field or simply a lack of conversation around important issues, a lot of valuable and fascinating information on plagiarism slips through the cracks.
With that in mind, here are (in no particular order) five things that students might not know about plagiarism:
1. Plagiarism Isn’t Just About Text
With plagiarism, the focus is often on paraphrasing and quoting. However, one can plagiarize just as easily by using facts, ideas, and information without proper citation.
Determining when a fact requires citation is a tricky matter. Generally, facts that are “common knowledge” don’t require citation, but if you use data and information from outside sources without attribution, not only are you failing to support your arguments, you’re also committing plagiarism.
If you’re unsure about what needs to be cited and when, it is always best to speak with an instructor.
2. Plagiarism Detection Tools Have Other Uses
Plagiarism detection software isn’t just used for catching those taking unethical shortcuts in their writing. They are also used to evaluate historical documents and determine their sources. Since plagiarism detection software can spot overlapping phrases, it can be very useful for finding potential sources or identifying authors of older texts. As such, it’s a common tool for historians and literary experts of all types.
One example of this came earlier this year when Dennis McCarthy and Lafayette College Professor June Schlueter used such software to provide evidence of a new source for some of Shakespeare’s writing. A similar approach was used to show that Shakespeare’s Edward III was a likely collaboration between Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd.
However, the evidence isn’t limited to academic literature. Plagiarism detection software was used to provide evidence that most, if not all, of the letters attributed to Jack the Ripper, were fake and that many were likely faked by the reporters covering the story.
3. Plagiarism Problems Happen Everywhere
Though plagiarism is often seen as an issue belonging to academia and journalism, it can be found in almost any industry.
For example, in January, a plagiarism controversy over the cryptocurrency TRX’s white paper contributed to it losing over $13 billion off its market cap. If you’re looking for something less technical, the knitting and crocheting communities have dealt with repeated instances of plagiarism involving patterns.
Whether it is Nick Simmons facing allegations of plagiarism in his comic book, plagiarism in crossword puzzles or accusations of plagiarism in photography, plagiarism is a problem in nearly every single field where creativity is valued.
4. Plagiarism Even Comes Up in Papers About Plagiarism
You might think the one area of academia that would be safe from plagiarism is the research and discussion of plagiarism itself. You’d still be wrong.
In 2017, a paper published in Saudi Arabia on the factors leading to plagiarism, as well as suggested remedies, contained plagiarism. In 2015, an Indian paper presenting guidelines for plagiarism was retracted for, once again, plagiarism.
While such incidents are still very rare, especially when stacked up against other areas of research, even the research of plagiarism is not immune to plagiarism.
5. Despite All of This, Plagiarism Really is Easy to Avoid
With plagiarism being so ubiquitous, it might seem as if there’s no hope in avoiding it in your writing. After all, if plagiarism experts writing about plagiarism can’t always avoid it, what hope does anyone else have?
Actually, there are a variety of ways to write with academic integrity. Using plagiarism detection tools just to double-check your rough draft before an assignment is due can be very helpful. Also, techniques such as using a “writing cleanroom” can help you to avoid plagiarism entirely. It illustrates how, by clearly and carefully separating your work from the work of others, you can easily avoid negligent plagiarism. Making small, but significant changes in the way you write can make you 100% certain your work contains no plagiarized text.