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Teacher or Student Responsibility? Plagiarism is getting out of hand

Call it blame-shifting, call it a lack of responsibility and academic integrity, call it whatever you want. Plagiarism is rampant in our schools and colleges, and while the onus ultimately falls on a writer for failing to give credit for his or her sources, does some blame also rest with instructors?

It’s easy to dismiss plagiarism as a problem of your students’. However, the situation is more complicated than that. Plagiarism is growing to be an out-of-hand issue, and as this problem rises to the forefront of the national media, it’s one that educators are forced to address.

What Constitutes Plagiarism?

Question anybody, and they’ll likely give you a different answer to the question: what is plagiarism? While there are many different types of plagiarism, there are very few clear-cut answers as to what constitutes academic dishonesty. That being said, you can generally lump plagiarism into one of four different categories.

The first kind of plagiarism is the easiest to identify - direct plagiarism. This form of plagiarism is when you copy, word-for-word, somebody else’s work. You do not give them credit and you do not use quotation marks. This kind of plagiarism is usually deliberate and it should be considered the severest form of academic dishonesty.

The next type of plagiarism isn’t quite as easy to identify or to discipline as a teacher. Self-plagiarism is when a student submits previous work - or includes portions of previous work - without being given express permission to do so.

Next up is mosaic plagiarism. This is when a student “borrows” comments or information from a source without using quotation marks or appropriate citations. They might plug in synonyms for several of the author’s words, but they will more or less stick to the same structure and message of the original passage.

Last but not least is accidental plagiarism. Luckily, this is the most common type of plagiarism - and it’s the easiest to address in the classroom. Accidental plagiarism is when a writer fails to address his or her sources or paraphrases incorrectly. He or she attempts to give credit to a source, but does not do so in the proper manner.

Is the Teacher Responsible?

Teachers should never be blamed for students’ plagiarism, because when it really comes down to it, nobody is forcing a student to cheat. There are always other options for completing an assignment - especially those that are more honest in nature.