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Definition of Plagiarism and Ways to Avoid it


Plagiarism is one of most up-to-date problems in academic writing nowadays. Students more often use the web as a source of information, not properly stating or not stating on purpose original authors. Plagiarism creates not only a mistreatment of copyrights, but also narrows ability of students of creative and independent thinking.

This research paper will discuss the most common ways of plagiarism and what plagiarism means as a phenomenon in today’s academic society. It will also state most effective ways of recognizing and fitting it.


Definition and history of plagiarism

In Webster’s New World Thesaurus (3rd edition, 1997) plagiarism is defined as “literary theft, falsification, counterfeiting, piracy and fraud” (p. 567). At the same time other sources define plagiarism as “using others’ ideas and words without clearly acknowledging the source of that information” (“Plagiarism: what it is”, 2004). In some colleges in United States plagiarism is defined with the term of "academic misconduct" (Standler, 2000), however the same author defines plagiarism as a fraud with legal consequences.

As of March, 1, 1989 any work created in the USA is automatically protected by copyright (Standler, 2000), which means that the author or the owner of the copyright could sue the plagiarist in federal court (Standler, 2000). Plagiarism by itself includes not only violation of the copyright, but also unlawful using of registered trademarks, miss citation of scholarly publications (using someone else’s work as your own). In this paper academic plagiarism as a specific way of plagiarism will be discussed. This includes miss citations, selling or downloading papers from the Internet, using journal articles as your own etc.

Why do students plagiarize?

In her article “E-cheating: Combating a 21st century challenge”, McMurtry (2001) discusses her personal experience with e-cheating, being a professor of English. Among the reasons why plagiarism over the Internet became so popular, she names first of all computers, which eased up not only writing original papers, but also looking up relevant information. The second important reason is presence of the number of paper mill sites (McMurtry, 2001). Interesting is that she separates the other reason: the big workload put on students in resent years. Students simply don’t have enough time to conduct few papers in different classes.

In the simplest research through the search engines, McMurtry (2001) also found that the majority of paper mill sites are created for high school rather than college students.

How to fight plagiarism?

In the same article McMurtry (2001) advices professors to give students enough time to prepare the assignment and make it as specific as possible.

Probably the easiest way of fighting or at least recognizing plagiarism in students’ works is using plagiarism detecting tools. There are many of them created in the web today, following plagiarism detecting tools can be found: (a) CopyCatch Gold (, (b) (, (c) EVE2: Essay Verification Engine ( ) etc.


It is important to understand that plagiarism is the problem of the personal morale of each person, because by its definition it is a willful action of the plagiarist. Yes, there are a lot of temptations to ease up your work by using someone else’s idea and not always circumstances are not on our side, but there is a line to be crossed between braking and not breaking the law (as discussed in this paper prior). Alas, plagiarism appears as a result in the lack of proper ethical education of high school and college students. Fighting plagiarism as a phenomenon that already exists is as important as educating students about it and it’s the consequences.


Standler, R. (2000). Plagiarism in Colleges in USA. Retrieved September, 18, 2006 from

McMurtry, K. ( November, 2001). E-cheating: Combating a 21st century challenge. T H E Journal (Technological Horizons in Education), 29(4), 36.

Webster's New World Thesaurus. (January, 1997).Third Edition. Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Plagiarism: What it is and how to recognize and avoid it (2004). Retrieved September, 19, 2006 from

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