Plagiarism is the most common type of academic misconduct. It can be deliberate or accidental, but either way, it is a punishable offense. Although different educational institutions have different disciplinary measures to deal with plagiarism, it is still rampant for a variety of reasons.
Why Do Students Plagiarize?
1. Lack of Organizational Skills
Students with poor organizational skills often have difficulty prioritizing tasks. They also have a tough time staying focused when they have many tasks to complete. So they tend to procrastinate, leading them to have very little time to complete their assignments and hence end up plagiarizing.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines procrastination as “the act of delaying something that must be done.” One of the most common reasons why students resort to plagiarism is because they tend to procrastinate. Owing to poor time management, they are less likely to have sufficient time to complete their assignments, which causes them significant stress. Thus, in a rush to finish, they may end up either accidentally or deliberately plagiarizing out of desperation.
3. Poor Understanding of the Topic
There are several reasons why students genuinely may not understand the assignment topic. Most often, it is because the topic is too complicated or uninteresting. Either case causes students to choose an easy way out: plagiarism.
4. Lack of Research Skills
Be it an English assignment or a STEM project, many students struggle with research due to little or no research skills. While some students don’t know how to properly cite sources, others find it hard to verify the reliability of a source, resulting in unintentional plagiarism.
5. Poor Writing Skills
One of the main reasons students put off writing is because they feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. Writing an assignment is more than just simply putting a few words together. Writing requires significant research, which involves tons of hard work that often overwhelms and distracts students. Learning disabilities like dyslexia, dysgraphia, etc. further make writing difficult for several students. Also, those whose native language isn’t English may have difficulty writing in English and may therefore engage in plagiarism.
6. Pressure to Do Well
From peer pressure to pressure from parents and teachers, students are under the impression that they must meet others’ high expectations to be successful. Such high-pressure situations may tend to cloud their judgment and lead them to plagiarize. Students who resort to plagiarism hardly think of the possibility of getting caught and tend to believe that plagiarizing can help them score better, which is far from the truth.
7. Lack of Awareness About Plagiarism and Its Implications
Citing a false source, not citing a source, paraphrasing despite citing the source, and resubmitting a previously written assignment are all considered plagiarism. Since not all students are aware of what constitutes plagiarism and the consequences of plagiarism, they often end up plagiarizing knowingly or unknowingly.
How Can Universities Discourage Plagiarism?
1. Providing Proper Instructions for Assignments
Instructing students about what is expected of them — what their assignments should or shouldn’t include, specific points that should be covered, specific sources they can refer to, etc. — will help them plan and complete their assignments well and on time.
2. Educating Students About Academic Integrity
Most universities have strict academic integrity policy guidelines in place to discourage students from cheating. Because academic misconduct or dishonesty can sometimes be wholly unintentional, it is important that educators clearly communicate and explain such guidelines to students. Professors should clearly let students know the necessary dos and don’ts to keep in mind while working on assignments.
3. Explaining the Perils of Plagiarism to Students
Educators should create awareness among students about the consequences of plagiarism and some techniques students can use to avoid it. Students should be made aware that plagiarism can significantly affect their reputation. From being expelled to failing the subject, engaging in plagiarism can have serious consequences.
4. Encouraging Students to Communicate Openly
While explaining the consequences of academic dishonesty can discourage students from cheating, it is important to ensure that they don’t feel intimidated or fearful. Encouraging students to communicate openly can help build a positive student-teacher relationship. And those students who have a good relationship with their instructor are less likely to cheat or resort to academic dishonesty.
5. Instructing Students to Properly Cite Sources
Instructors can provide proper guidelines to help students avoid plagiarism. Students often end up plagiarizing when they don’t properly cite sources. And since not citing sources, intentionally or unintentionally, is considered plagiarism, students should be clearly instructed about how to cite and reference sources appropriately. Giving students a specific list of references can also help them refrain from plagiarizing.
Teachers can also educate students about plagiarism detection tools online and encourage them to use such tools to check their content for plagiarism.
The reason or motivation for students to cheat are many. However, universities and educators need to guide them and help them better understand plagiarism and its consequences so they are discouraged from plagiarizing.