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Literature Review on Plagiarism

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Section 1

Plagiarism is one of the most commonly faced and the most problematic issues in the academic world today. The easy access to millions of books and other resource materials through the Internet has added significantly to this problem. Earlier, plagiarism was not even regarded as much of a problem. Hansen (2003) notes that plagiarism was not always regarded as unethical and drawing from the works of others was rather encouraged. Morgan and Reynolds (1997) point out that “writers strove, even consciously, to imitate earlier great works” and having obvious parallels with an earlier work was considered a mark of pride, not plagiarism. But with the passage of time, it has been known as plagiarism which has been further defined as “the original sin” (Colon, 2001), “a writer’s worst sin” (Miller, 1993), and “a cancer that erodes the rich legacy of scholarship” (Zangrando, 1991). Wilson Mizner interestingly concluded, “When you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research” (quoted in Johnston, 2003).

The academic arena has a great possibility for plagiarism as students have a tendency to be unoriginal in their performance. McCabe (2005) thinks that plagiarism emanates from a bigger problem that the students have which is cheating. He suggests that it should be viewed in the broader context of cheating. It would mean that remedies to curb plagiarism would be quite similar to those that are used to curb cheating. To some researchers, plagiarism is a matter of academic dishonesty (Reams, 1987; Hollinger & Lanza-Kaduce, 1996; Caruana et al., 2000) and to others, it is a matter of unethical behaviour (Anderson & Obenshain, 1994; Buckley et al., 1998). 
Taken from park
Maurer et al (2006) conducted a survey whereby they look for ways in which plagiarism is committed in different academic works by students and they also devise some techniques to detect plagiarism. Their research is solely focussed on ways of detecting plagiarism but they do not attempt to detect the root cause of this practice altogether.

Some US based researches have shown that institutions in which honour code is used had lower levels of cheating and academic dishonesty which also includes plagiarism (McCabe & Bowers, 1994; McCabe & Treviño, 2002; McCabe et al., 1999). This suggests that there is in fact a legitimate link between plagiarism and cheating. But it would not be entirely right to say that plagiarism is only committed when the students have intentions to cheat. They may also commit plagiarism unintentionally and in order to avoid it, they try to improve their paraphrasing skills. According to Maurer et al (2006), paraphrasing is also cheating.
strange comment
So it becomes hard to draw a line as to what constitutes plagiarism and when it becomes acceptable to represent someone else’s idea in ones’ work.
From the works of Wilhoit (1994), Brandt (2002), and Howard (2002), it can be seen that students plagiarise mainly in the following ways:

  • Passing material as their own which has actually been stolen. This includes buying of a paper that is specially written or pre-written, copying of another’s work without proper acknowledgement, and submitting another student’s work;
  • Copying of sections of materials from different sources without quotation marks hence giving the impression that the material is paraphrased rather than copied;
  • Paraphrasing material from different sources without proper citation.
    taken from park
  • Park, C. (2003). In other (people's) words: Plagiarism by university students--literature and lessons. Assessment & evaluation in higher education28(5), 471-488.

It confirms that plagiarism is also committed unintentionally. Elander et al. (2010) propose the idea of students developing an ‘authorial identity’ which would help them in avoiding unintentional plagiarism. It refers to a sense that develops in a writer through continued writing. They develop a certain style that is individual and specific to them. When such textual identity is developed as an author, students tend to be careful in preserving it which results in their refraining from committing plagiarism. Elander et al. (2010) and Abasi et al. (2006) suggest that most of the unintentional plagiarism by students is a result of poorly constructed authorial identity.
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There also have been researches which ask for students to be specifically trained to avoid plagiarism. Harrington et al. (2006) identify one of the causes of plagiarism as,

“Studies of student understandings of what is required in academic writing provide insights into potential unintentional plagiarism. A comparative qualitative study, for example, found that whereas tutors interpreted the assessment criteria for written assignments in terms of students’ active cognitive engagement with sources and material, students understood them in terms of finding and placing material in their essays.”

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