Plagiarism is the ultimate crime of academic dishonesty and can have far reaching ramifications. These consequences can be personal, professional, ethical and even legal. We now live in an age where advanced computer software makes it possible for universities, colleges and schools to check thousands of publications for evidence of plagiarism, and plagiarists are being caught at an ever increasing rate.
Plagiarism is not limited to academics or students either, and professionals, journalists, authors and many other professionals can find themselves on the receiving end of an accusation. Once a person has been found to be guilty of plagiarism, they will most likely always be regarded with suspicion by their peers and colleagues. In short, plagiarism is a black mark that is not easily erased from one’s reputation.
Allegations of plagiarism will normally lead to a student being expelled or suspended from their institution. More so, the offence will usually be permanently recorded on their academic record, which could seriously hamper any attempt to enrol in future courses at any educational institution. First offences usually lead to suspension, with future crimes carrying a sentence of expulsion. Schools, colleges and universities normally have special departments whose job it is to police the academic integrity of students.
Damage from a plagiarism accusation can stay with a person for their entire career. Professional business people, politicians and public figures are just some of the sorts of people who can find themselves come unstuck from plagiarism.
In the short term, they will likely be asked to leave or fired from their present position, but in the long term, they will almost surely find it difficult to gain future employment in the same field. It could be that the person is so well known that the accusation completely ruins any chance of them finding a meaningful career again.
Much of an academic career is spent in publishing and it is an integral part of that role. Most academic employment is conditional on their publishing a certain number of journal articles per year. Therefore if an academic is accused of plagiarism and loses the trust of the journal publishers, it is very likely that their career will soon follow.
Journalists and authors must be ever mindful of copyright laws and take care not to stray over any lines. If another person’s work is used without citation or reference, then the original author and copyright holder has the right to seek legal action against the plagiarist. It is not unheard of for plagiarism accusations under copyright law to lead to criminal proceedings and even a prison sentence.
Continuing from the above point, if a plagiarist is found to be guilty of their offence, then the consequences may be financial instead of legal. The plagiarist may be instructed to pay damages to the copyright holder. It is not unusual for copyright fines to stretch into tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds, which as I’m sure that I do not need to tell you, could lead to bankruptcy or other severe financial consequences for the plagiarist.
If research is plagiarised then it can have particularly far-reaching and severe consequences. Especially if the research is of a medical nature, then plagiarism could literally cost lives. Of all the forms that plagiarism takes, faking research has got to be one of the most heinous.
The consequences of plagiarism are very far-reaching and there is no immunity or excuse. Neither ignorance nor stature offer any kind of defence against an accusation and the ramifications can be legal, ethical or personal (or all three).
The best defence you can give yourself against accidently committing plagiarism is to make sure you fully understand what it is. Read up on the subject and make sure that you are fully informed before starting any kind of writing project. The rules are not complicated and you should not have any problem following them.
Thankfully, the same tools that are available to markers to scour the internet for evidence of plagiarism are also available to you. If you have any doubt as to whether or not your piece of work is within the rules, run it through one and find out. Chances are that, if the checker that you are using flags up a possible instance of plagiarism, then the one that your university is using definitely will.
Most incidents of plagiarism are not carried out intentionally or maliciously. However, as already discussed, there is no excuse, and plagiarism through laziness or dishonesty, can and probably will lead to a destroyed reputation, the loss of a career and future prospects, and financial and/or legal ramifications. In short, do not do it.
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