Plagiarism can come in many forms, but the end result is that the plagiarist stole something from someone else. Plagiarism is using someone else's ideas and information without acknowledging that person as the source. Like all other forms of theft, plagiarism has many disadvantages associated with it.
Types of Plagiarism
Plagiarism can be both intentional, when you attempt to pass someone else's work as your own, or unintentional, when you forget to properly cite the sources for your work. Regardless of the type, plagiarism always has consequences when it is discovered. Often, the punishment for accidental plagiarism is minor or temporary. Because determining accidental plagiarism requires knowledge of intent, the overall reputation of the plagiarist becomes the deciding factor.
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Plagiarism is a constant issue at schools as students create many papers using a large amount of research in a small amount of time. Many schools, like the private middle and high school Baylor School and Duke University, have bodies like an Honor Council or Office of Judicial Affairs that will review each case of plagiarism and determine a punishment. Minor infractions might result in receiving a "0" on the assignment, while major infractions will result in suspension or expulsion. Either way, plagiarism is embarrassing for the student and will have his future work scrutinized more closely than other students.
Numerous journalists, writers, academics and creators have had their personal and professional reputations ruined over accusations of plagiarism. Not only do plagiarists have their current work halted, either by being fired or by having contracts dissolved, but they also can find it difficult to get future work. A particularly bad or memorable episode of plagiarism can ruin a person's reputation and force him to change careers to avoid the stigma of plagiarism.
Most of the consequences of plagiarism occur once the plagiarist is caught, but the personal consequences happen regardless of any outside involvement. When discussing plagiarism, Baylor School notes that students who plagiarize fail to learn many of the research and writing skills that the school is supposed to be teaching them. Once they leave the school, those students lack the ability to produce original material, since they have only cheated in the past. Additionally, there is a psychological impact to plagiarism, as the constant lying and deception can take its toll on the psyche.
In addition to all the personal and professional difficulties that plagiarism might create, in certain cases there are legal consequences as well. The plagiarism of a copyrighted work for profit can result in the plagiarist having to pay monetary damages, both for any ill-gained profits and for any other potential losses the plagiarism may have caused the original writer. In some cases, plagiarism can even result in the plagiarist having to go through a criminal prosecution where the outcome can range from fines to imprisonment.
Shawn McClain has spent over 15 years as a journalist covering technology, business, culture and the arts. He has published numerous articles in both national and local publications, and online at various websites. He is currently pursuing his master's degree in journalism at Clarion University.