As the end of the semester approaches, final exams and research papers loom over the heads of many students. But along with these important final assignments comes the temptation of a shortcut: plagiarism.
Plagiarism is defined as using another person’s work as one’s own, and is an issue that commonly plagues large-scale projects, such as presentations, speeches and research papers.
Plagiarism is considered an act of academic dishonesty by the University of South Dakota, and stands as a widespread problem across high school and college campuses.
“A lot of students plagiarize, but I saw it happen more in high school than I do at college, just because the consequences are more severe at this level,” first-year student Nina
However, some students do not view plagiarism as a primary issue.
“I don’t feel like I’ve heard of a lot of cases of plagiarism,” first-year student Maria Decker said.
Associate professor and chair of the English department, John Dudley, shares a different view on the matter.
“Plagiarism is a problem everywhere right now,” Dudley said. “Part of this is due to the availability of information on the Internet.”
Dudley said the growth of information available on the Internet has resulted in a cultural shift regarding intellectual property.
“People are now used to downloading music, movies, books and magazines,” he said. “The idea of having intellectual ownership over something is challenging for people to grasp.”
As far as USD is concerned, plagiarism is no more or less of a problem than at other academic institutions, Dudley said.
When a referral of plagiarism or academic dishonesty is presented to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, additional investigation occurs to acquire more information on the case. Following this process, the student meets with Student Rights and Responsibilities and provides the office with personal information. After additional investigation, the focus shifts to what exactly the student is responsible for.
Teresa McDowell Johnson, director of Student Rights and Responsibilities, said there are various consequences for plagiarism or other acts of academic dishonesty.
“A student may fail that specific assignment, fail the whole course, be removed from the course or possibly be able to resubmit the work,” she said.
In certain cases of academic dishonesty, a student may face severe consequences.
“If someone has perhaps paid someone else to take a test for them or complete homework assignments for them, these instances could result in an individual either being suspended for a period of time, or expulsion from the university,” Johnson said.
Consequences are required for these violations, but Johnson said the main objective is to aid students in learning from their mistakes.
“We focus on students taking responsibility for their actions, and what we can do as far as educational opportunities to see how we can help these students learn and develop,” she said.
Although plagiarism stands as a widespread problem, there are plenty of resources available for students to ask questions and receive assistance.
Michelle Gannon, director of the University Writing Center said the Writing Center strives to assist students when it comes to problems with plagiarism.
“Writers that stop in may come with questions about plagiarism, and a consultant will try to help them address that problem,” Gannon said.
Consultants at the Writing Center may point out to the writer that a problem with plagiarism exists within their work, but it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to fix these issues.
The Writing Center does not act as a “police” of academic dishonesty.
“We don’t fink on writers who commit plagiarism when they come to the Writing Center,” Gannon said. “This is a place where we want to nurture and help the student grow as a writer.”
The goal is for students to graduate from USD with knowledge of how to handle information appropriately, as well as correctly incorporate sources into their writing, she said.
Johnson said she sees a significant rise in the number of plagiarism cases as the end of the semester approaches because of a general lack of preparation for the stressful week of finals.
“Watch out for procrastination,” she said.
Dudley said students should never hesitate to ask a professor with questions regarding plagiarism.
“The main thing is to just ask the instructor,” he said. “The instructor should always be able to help students out.”
For more information on plagiarism, students may access the University Libraries’ website for additional information about plagiarism, and how to avoid it.