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Consequences of plagiarism

Understanding plagiarism | Intentional and unintentional plagiarism | Avoiding plagiarism |
Taking notes and paraphrasing | Additional resources




". . . think about who is really being cheated when someone plagiarizes."

Robert Harris, Anti-Plagiarism Strategies

Hurting oneself--and others

     The major consequence of plagiarism is that people who engage in it hurt themselves.  Good research and writing involve a host of skills:  for a start, evaluating sources, taking careful notes, selecting appropriate quotations, paraphrasing, and giving credit to others for their ideas and words.  Students who plagiarize may never learn these skills, and life in college and beyond can be difficult without them.

     Of course people who engage in plagiarism also hurt others:  for one, their classmates, and for another, the school or university they attend.  At the very least, turning in plagiarized work is unfair to students who do their own work.  It also jeopardizes the integrity of the grading system.   And whether detected or not, plagiarism violates the implicit contract of the schoolroom:  that students and teachers are working together to help students learn knowledge and skills that will enable them to fulfill their potential.

     Plagiarism also undermines the whole notion of academic integrity on which the academic world is grounded.  All knowledge depends on previous knowledge; as Sir Isaac Newton said, "If I have seen further [than certain other men] it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants" (  We want people to be able to evaluate what we say, and we want to acknowledge our debt to those whose thinking has helped us.  We do so by carefully crediting others for their ideas and their words. 

Penalties at Baylor

     As we have already seen, plagiarism can be unintentional or intentional. 

     As the quotation at right demonstrates, intentional plagiarism is a clear-cut matter at Baylor.  Teachers turn in any students they believe have willfully plagiarized.  The Honor Council hears each case, and students found guilty suffer these consequences: 

1)      They receive a 0 on the work in question.

2)      They are suspended, most often for two or three days.  The length depends largely on the student's behavior before the Honor Council; truthfulness and contrition are appropriate when the evidence is compelling.  Ordinarily the student misses a day of school for the first day of suspension (and receives a 0 on all work that day).  Remaining days are "reverse suspension"; students serve these during the next vacation. 

3)      Students who are convicted of plagiarism also receive specific final warning and will suffer expulsion if they are convicted of a further honor offense.



"at Baylor, as at other academic institutions, intentional plagiarism is an honor offense, and teachers turn in to the Honor Council any student whose work they believe to be dishonest."

--The B Book:  A Handbook for Students and Parents

     The penalties for unintentional plagiarism are not quite as clear-cut.  A teacher may assign plagiarized work an academic penalty (most often a 0) but not send the author of that work to the Honor Council if the teacher is convinced--given the age of the student, the nature of the offense, and the scope of the offense--that the student did not intend to plagiarize.  For example, if a younger student, in taking notes, failed to quote a six-word phrase and that phrase ended up in his or her essay without quotation marks but with the source cited, a teacher might conclude that the student had been careless rather than intentionally dishonest.


"The honor committee [at the University of Virginia], made up entirely of students, can expel current students if they are found guilty [of plagiarism].  It also could recommend that the students who have already graduated lose their diplomas." 

  --"Computer Program Targets 122 Virginia Students for Plagiarism"

Penalties in college and beyond

     Colleges and universities take plagiarism every bit as seriously as Baylor does, and they assume that students know, or should know, how to avoid it.  Students may be suspended or expelled from college for plagiarizing.  As the passage at left notes, they may also have their diplomas revoked after they have graduated.

     Accusations of plagiarism in one's professional life can have even more devastating consequences.  People in academic and scientific communities have lost their jobs and their reputations for copying the work of others without giving credit to it.  Some popular historians have recently been embroiled in plagiarism controversies and as a result have lost credibility in many academic communities.



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