The Phenomenon of Plagiarism


In the world, the phenomenon of plagiarism becomes more widely recognized as the time goes by. It can appear in many different contexts, but it most commonly found in academic settings. In the university, students will cheat others’ works to get good grades in their courses. In society, academics sometimes copy other people’s articles because they want to be famous faster. But people might be confused about plagiarism and ask questions like what is plagiarism? And why do people want to plagiarize?

Who would have thought Martin Luther King’s Speech “I Have a Dream” was subsequently inspired, or more likely noted as copied, from the speech of another African American Preacher Archibald Carey(Kernan, 1990)? Did he say similar words, or could it be that being able to hear Carey’s speech, he was able to coin the idea of the said speech? Being a more popular individual, King’s speech was more recognized than that of Carey’s. This is the reason why it is most often misconstrued that King plagiarized another preacher’s speech and presented it as his own. This instance can suppose the idea that people might be confused about what plagiarism is? How did it develop and what specific changes have been incurred with regards to the assumption and then compared to the current way of plagiarizing in the world today?

A majority of people have already defined the word ‘Plagiarism’. People can search this word in Google Scholar or Wikipedia, and hundreds of definition could be found. According to Alfrey’s (2000) definition, “plagiarism is the unwarranted manner by which a person copies another individual’s work and claims it to be his own.” All people can understand that sentence, a person crib others’ articles, sentences, ideas or books to substitute for their own works.

A good word to explain literature is ‘original’. That means every person racks their own brain to write every word and to compose every sentences in their article. The antonym of original must be ‘plagiarism’. Using others’ work, stealing others’ resultant, all of these sounds like a crime.

Many years ago, my grandmother who spent three-quarter of her life to be a good Chinese language teacher told me that writing a article seems like drawing a picture in the sky, you can draw a cloud, rainbow, everything else you want, but plagiarism must be the rainstorm and flashing lighting in the sky, they can totally destroy the fantastic landscape. I can totally understand what she means. I believe that if she can add one more crime in the ten cases of crimes, it must be plagiarism. Now, people can see how academics hate plagiarism. And a majority of scholars believe that plagiarism is a crime against personal property.

However, the public is often confused regarding plagiarism and who should be identified in this manner. For instance, if an individual merely accidentally used another’s thoughts or ideas in a speech or written work, the public may make accusations regarding plagiarism. In reference to the Martin Luther King example, people might have accidentally used another person’s thoughts due to the memory of these ideas from another speech. Can public affirm this action should be form of plagiarism? In my opinion, the answer of this question should be No.

In the America, people can use works cited to avoid the plagiarism, if they have no intent to copy another’s work. But in China, there is no works cited, no references, how can they distinguish the intentional or accidental? An instructor in NanKai University told me that when they read an article written by student, they will use professional software to check up, but there still issues that can occur during this process.

It is almost impossible to not plagiarize in some ways. Simple sentences can be plagiarism. Thoughts can occur that someone else has had. People sometimes are not trying to plagiarize when they do. Sometimes it may be a simple mistake and not someone trying to steal others thoughts.

Another common mistake is paraphrasing. Students often think if they reword someone else’s work then it is not plagiarizing. This is not true. Although paraphrasing is acceptable, this must also be sited. Credit must be given where it is due.

The culture difference in Literature also can mislead people to determine the form of plagiarism. There is a good example for this point. I am an international student from China studying in the America now. Last year, when I came to the American University, I have no idea about what is work cited, therefore, when I was asked to write an essay about Religion in my English class, I made a big mistake.

I wrote an essay about Buddhism, and I used some original sentences said by a Lama (is a title for a Tibetan teacher of the Dharma) and original sentences in some Chinese Buddhist scriptures without cites, quotations. After reviewing the paper, my professor had a conversation with me to discuss the paper as a form of academic plagiarism. Therefore, the professor gave me one more chance to rewrite the essay because I had no intent to copy and cheat. However, if the person has deliberately used another individual’s thoughts as an addition to his article without acknowledging those thoughts, this is a form of plagiarism.

Another way of plagiarizing that became widespread during the 1970’s includes that of academic writing (Blum, 2009, 122). In her book, Deborah Blum tried to relate her experiences as a college student. She says that many of her colleagues used old assignments as their own. They use the same topics, use a huge part of the papers submitted in the past, and made small changes to make sure that these papers meet the current requirements in class. This is in many aspects a form of cheating in an academic setting. However, in terms of being specifically in command on how the words were changed for the need of the student using the paper, plagiarism is often considered as a more appropriate form of description of the matter.

More students plagiarized in the school as the technology develops. The ways to plagiarize becomes easier when the internet can be used in public. The ease of copying and pasting information from the internet has become a source of cheating and happens on the part of students, especially as to how they complete activities assigned to them by their professors. This shows the consideration that students place on the value of hard work. The phenomenon of plagiarism specifically created a sense of defining work as something that can be completed easily without the application of hard work into the matter ( Lanthrop, et al, 2000).

However, the question of why people plagiarize has bothered scholars for many years. I did a survey about this question to interview people around me ( most of them are students ). The most common answer is that students want to pay less but get more, it means they do not want to spend much time on their work but they want to get good grades in their paper in university. A male said “ people who coin others’ works always think they will be lucky and nobody will find the truth, their desire of being successful more than their morality.” Being famous and successful has a great attraction for everyone, some people had lost them self, the only reason is they want to become successful faster. Those who reap where one has not sown are the ‘criminal’.

2006, a very famous Chinese young author named Jingming Guo was recognized plagiarizing others article. Jingming Guo becomes well-known when he was a student because of the book written by him named ”Never Flowers in Never Dream” in 2004. He was able to write this book that caught the attention of many readers. People praised his work and recognized the hard work he has applied to accomplish the said success.

Nevertheless, no secret can be kept forever, 2 years after, a man named Yu Zhuang announced that Jingming Guo copied his articles from his own blog on the internet. The newspaper ”People’s Daily” published this news event in 2006. When the truth was revealed, all his ‘fans’ and ‘followers’ including me felt disappointed. It seems like he achieved a dream for all teenagers, made all teenagers proud of him, and then he destroyed this dream, he let all people down. Yes, he has been successful, but he lost people’s trust. He becomes a liar in the public. Now, he is still writing, but when people read his book, audience will think does he plagiarize? “People’s Daily” did an interview to Jingming Guo about why he copy other’s book? He said he wanted attention and recognition from public and perhaps from his mentors.

Plagiarism takes place because people want to be successful, but do not desire to do the hard work that is necessary to reach this point. They take the easy way out. They get successful at the expense of others. This is why plagiarism can be such a big deal. The person who does the work deserves the credit and success.

Another question should be deal with is that how can public deal with the question about plagiarism. Students should be educated to never cheat, coin others’ ideas, or copy others’ opus when they come to school. Individuals should know the importance of morality. Educating the students about plagiarism is important. This would allow the students to understand that gravity of the act, not only against the laws of the academic ethics, but also against their personal growth in relation to the learning process they get involved with. Next to consider is the fact that the students should be guided properly in relation to how they could make sure that even though they get an idea from another writer or from another paper, they could reference it properly and not be flagged for plagiarism. The instructors should be strict enough to make policies that would tell their students how serious they are about the matter.

This would help the students realize the gravity of plagiarism in relation to direct perception of honesty and integrity. It is assumed that through these steps, students would be well informed regarding the acceptable and unacceptable acts that could bring them better grades and better sources of learning. This could help the students have pride in their own work.

Other options that teachers and institutions could use is the approach in helping the students ease out from the stress of the pressure that they receive from writing a lot of different papers all at the same time. When they are not that pressured, then perhaps, they would think twice in copying the works of others and actually put their efforts in their works. This then calls for a better way of helping the students through scheduling activities in different subjects in a university with properly coordinated list of tasks and activities to be given for the students to complete.

These activities and tasks will help the student’s learn to complete their own work, morally. Activities will help them do assignments without plagiarizing. Practice will help students complete their own work. Once students understand how not to plagiarize it will happen less often.

Though plagiarism is easier to do and often done, Plagiarism is a serious offense in academics. It is important that students understand how important it is not to plagiarize. That it is important to not copy others works. It can sometimes be difficult to understand when successful people that are idolized are found doing this. It is important that universities instruct students how important it is not to plagiarize and how to avoid plagiarism through activities and learning and not simple make it a punishable crime.























Works Cited


Alfrey, Penelope. “Petrarch’s Apes: Originality, Plagiarism and Copyright Principles within Visual        

     Cuture”.MIT Communications Forum.2000.

Blum, Susan D. My Work!: Plagiarism and college culture, Ithaca: Cornell University Press,2009.

Kernan, Alvin B. The Death of Literature. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990. Print.

Lathrop, Ann, and Kathleen Foss. Student Cheating and Plagiarism in the Internet Era: A Wake-Up

     Call. Englewood, Colo: Libraries Unlimited, 2000. Internet resource.