COLUMN: Preventing plagiarism

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In recent weeks, the problem of plagiarism has been a widely discussed problem and rightly so. The incident of the plagiarizing Toronto school board director truly shone a light on the seriousness of the problem.

Certainly, universities and educational institutions have always maintained strict rules against plagiarism and cheating, along with teaching students proper citation methods and strongly drilling in the minds of students the importance of presenting one’s own work.

However, it is important students realize early on the importance of proper citations and referencing, as failure to do so could lead to plagiarism, even if it is unintended.

The growth of online paper mills in recent years has made it easier for students to plagiarize. But it isn’t just online sources such as these which are the problem.

Look at any university bulletin board and you will be bombarded by advertisements and posters, some of which mislead students into believing that the services advertised can produce certain grades on assignments and essays.

So it wasn’t surprising when I recently saw a poster on a bulletin board by a company that had blatantly stated: “We can help you with editing and writing essays so you can focus on what matters in your education.”

I would have to say that providing a deep analysis on a specific topic definitely matters in my education. Certainly, there exist many established companies and private teaching services which can truly help a student succeed in his/her course. However, it is also important for students to be wary of services which may be misleading. Universities must also actively remove any misleading posters from their bulletin boards.

Often times, university libraries hold specific sessions geared towards helping students write more effective papers and develop strong study habits. Using the many resources already available in the form of tutorials, extra office hours, and library help sessions are great ways to excel in any essay or term paper.

The recent incident of the plagiarizing school board director should serve as a reminder to students about the importance of integrity and truthfulness.

In recent years, many other high-profile cases of plagiarism have emerged, perpetrated by those who are in positions of power. Regardless of one’s position, plagiarism is unacceptable.

The rise of the digital age has certainly benefited us and made knowledge more accessible. Nevertheless, students must learn to use this information more effectively, citing any source of information that they use in their papers so they can prevent incidents of plagiarism in both their academic and professional career goals.

Northumbria University, in its Quick Guide to Referencing and Plagiarism, recommends the following ways in which students can avoid plagiarism:

• Writing down references (including URL and date) while making notes;

• Paraphrasing ideas when making notes;

• Colour-coding any direct quotes being used in the note-taking process.

Practising these skills in university not only ensures that one is able to avoid plagiarizing others’ ideas, but also teaches skills that are used throughout life.

Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University Surrey. He writes regularly for The Leader.


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