10 Good Reasons to Never, Ever Plagiarize A College Paper

When I was a professor, I was pretty lenient with my students. I let students turn in things late if they had a decent excuse, and bent lots of other rules as well.  But there was one rule where I never exercised leniency with students, and that was plagiarism.  If I could prove that a student had plagiarized a paper, that was an automatic failure for the course and a report to the dean’s office.  End of story.

Why was I so serious about plagiarism?  Because plagiarism is seriously wrong.  Here are ten good reasons why students should avoid plagiarism:

1) It’s stealing and lying. Stealing and lying are wrong, remember?  Stealing someone else’s words and putting your own name on these words is wrong.  And even if you have permission from the original author to do this, you’re still lying to your teacher.  This isn’t exactly an ethically gray area.

2) Writing skills. You need them.  Trust me.  Jobs where you don’t need to know how to be a proficient writer are few and far between these days.  Writing assignments teach two things: first, whatever it is that the course is about, but second and perhaps more importantly, writing assignments are about writing practice.

3) Consequences.  Check your school’s policies about plagiarism.  It might involve failing an assignment, failing a class, or worse.  Usually, getting caught cheating multiple times means suspension or expulsion.  It’s not worth it.

4) Professors aren’t stupid. I was always amazed by some of the ridiculously poor attempts some students made at cheating.  There’s the classic “copy from Wikipedia” strategy.  Duh!  If a professor suspects cheating, they first thing she does is a Google search.   But even “smart” cheating often doesn’t get past professors. They may not be able to catch the cheater, but if the writing is significantly different than the student’s other work, they can still tell.  Which brings me to my next point.

5) Professors are vindictive.  It’s true.  If a professor has a pretty good idea that a student has cheated — even if there’s no physical evidence — the professor’s opinion of the student will go down the tubes.  Professors see plagiarism as a personal insult since, after all, it shows a pretty blatant amount of disrespect for the professor and the class.  So when it comes down to giving that student a grade for other assignments, well, watch out!

6) Technology. Has a teacher ever asked you to turn in a paper in digital form?  That’s probably because your professor has access to anti-plagiarism technology.  There are several kinds.  Some schools buy software that allows them to easily search for similar work.  Other schools just save copies of papers for popular classes and compare new papers against the old ones.  In other words, it’s easier to catch plagiarizers than ever.

7) Plagiarism doesn’t necessarily fulfill the assignment requirements. One of the easiest ways that professors can prevent plagiarism is by giving assignments that have very specific requirements. That way, if a student tries to turn in a paper from another class for this assignment, that student will get a low grade because the requirements weren’t filled — plus the teacher may suspect plagiarism since the student didn’t do the assignment per the specific requirements.  I used this trick all the time, and lots of other professors use this too!

8 ) Don’t even think about using “paper mill’ websites!  Yes, there are websites where you can pay someone to write a paper for you.  These sites typically are (a) very expensive, (b) deliver terrible quality products, and/or c) are a scam.  Sometimes these sites hire people from developing nations to write the papers for cheap — which means the writers may not be native English speakers, and it shows.  And again, even if a student manages to get a decent paper this way, the professor still may be able to tell it’s plagiarized, which gets back to that “vindictive” thing.

9) Anxiety. You think test anxiety is bad?  Imagine sitting there in class waiting to get back the paper you plagiarized, or losing sleep because you’re worried that you’re going to get caught.  It’s not worth it.

10) There are better alternatives.  In my experience, most students cheat because they are desperate.  They have a huge deadline and can’t meet it, so they find another option.   This can be avoided through better time management, or by asking a professor ahead of time for a short extension.  Or if you’re really stuck, many professors will accept a paper late for a certain number of days with a lateness penalty.  The lateness penalty is a much better alternative than cheating.  If anything, an honest and adult, “I’m really sorry, I just didn’t have time to finish the assignment,” will be much better received than a plagiarized paper.








One Response to “10 Good Reasons to Never, Ever Plagiarize A College Paper”

  1. Petra Gutierrez says:

    It is incredible that some students still believe that they can get around an assignment by stealing somebody else’s work, not just partially but completely in some cases. I was once told by a professors that it is not only the technology that educators rely on to point out cheaters, but also their instincts as they know their students and their style of writing.
    I am surprised and amused by the fact that there is such a thing as “paper mills”!


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