Plagiarism. It’s that thing that everybody talks about, your teachers mention it at the start of the year in their syllabi, and you constantly groan over because you’ve heard about it so many times. You’ve heard all the rants about how if you get caught you could be punished by the university, how it would go on your record and how you could potentially lose your job in the near and not so distant future. But for so many people, they’ll point out that big red “if” in the argument. ‘If’ you get caught, there will be all these consequences. ‘I won’t get caught,’ they say, but is it really worth that risk?
First off, I should say that the answer is a big NO. It’s not that hard to slap a few words on the page, for example, that’s what I’m doing now. Following my brain processes, and then somewhere else down the line I’ll edit, later. Besides, that’s what a good essay is. 5% ideas, 95% editing. However (and here’s a major BUT coming on), some students will say, “Well I can’t fail this essay, because I’ve goofed off instead of doing my homework and it’s led to this,” or something a little more realistic like, “But my parents will kill me if I don’t get a good grade, and I’m a terrible writer.” And so they resort to the terrible monster, called plagiarism.
A ton of kids every single year plagiarize. It comes in many different forms, whether not citing a source for a particular quote, or “borrowing” a friend’s essay only to claim it as your own. And besides, the risk is even greater. People such as you, wonderful creators of this scholarship, have come up with websites that allow others to see if your paper has been plagiarized. Universities often investigate potential ‘victims’ of this heinous crime, and sometimes the lawman is involved. And so the consequences far outweigh the gains.
So let’s look at this example of Suzy. (Note: these are not real people, and are only used for a representation model) Suzy, has been failing her English class. So she asks her friend Anthony to help. He in turn gives her his paper from last year (since he’s a year older) in order to point out how one should go about organizing an essay, which is the main concern of Suzy. He gives this copy to her, as an example which she could base her own essay off of. Instead, Suzy hands in Anthony’s old paper, changes up a couple of words, and puts her name on it. This is an example of plagiarism. What consequences could happen to Suzy?
Well first, when they find out, consequences happen. What consequences though? That’s what I’m here to tell you! First, her student reputation gets destroyed, like a wrecking ball through a brick wall. She could get suspended or expelled. Normally, at least from what I’ve seen around my area, students on their first offense are suspended for a while, and then put on academic probation. However, for multiple offenses, or if it was a thesis paper or something massively important, students get expelled. This expulsion ends up on your record and follows you throughout your life. What college would want a student that cheats?
Secondly, the lawman comes into play, as there are legal repercussions as well. You know how when you open that Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings book and when you find the date of when it was published, there is also the copyright? Yeah, copyright laws are absolute. It can be seen as a criminal offense, you could be sent to jail or even prison, they can press charges, and of course, this leads into what is known as our third point in this essay.
Thirdly, there is monetary repercussions. For those of you who don’t know, monetary means money. The very thing that makes the world go round. In many cases, when the lawman comes into play and copyright laws are involved, as well as lawyers, and case files, and the judge, not only might you go to jail, but you might have to pay money, a “fine” if you will. And if you’re in college, you know how much money you have, you are normally dirt poor. Where are you gonna come up with the money to pay this fine?
So what’s all this got to do with a successful career? I know all of you are thinking it. Well, how many good, upstanding businessmen would want to hire somebody with a criminal record? What if you’re going into a medical field and you stole somebody’s writing for a medical journal? But, what if it wasn’t necessarily finished? If it hadn’t been thoroughly tested? That could mean thousands of people losing their lives. And that’s kind of like murder.
Now for those of you who want an actual example, I am bringing up Harry Potter again. If you have never heard or read or seen Harry Potter I suggest you do so in your next batch of free time. I am talking about Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Or more importantly, Gilderoy Lockhart. This man, plagiarized others work in order to grow wealthy and famous. He was a fraud, a liar, and a disgrace. He was thought of as less of a person, he wasn’t able to get a job afterward, and he also would have been brought up on criminal charges (think: Azkaban.) While he got hit with a memory charm and became a permanent fixture in St. Mungo’s Hospital, I warn you that you wouldn’t be so lucky.
So really, if you’ve read all that, and are still thinking, “I am going to copy someone else’s work and make it mine own!” I want to bring something else a little closer to home. If you did that, and your friends and your family members, and the people you like and want to impress found out, what would they do? What would you do? What would they think about you? If they expressed those opinions outloud, what would you think? Feel? Bad only covers the tip of the iceberg, and I don’t think you want to sink your future like the Titanic did. It’s not good, is it?
I know you all are fretting, what can I do to create a novel like J.R.R. Tolkien? How can I make a 25 page essay in three days since I procrastinated? How can I ensure that I get that grade that I wanted? The answer’s simple, like everything in life, you work hard towards it. If that means staying up for three days and nights and drinking red bull and coffee, then so be it! (Just try not to get a heart attack). If that means swallowing your pride and asking for help from the writing center on campus, or asking a friend to edit your paper, do it! What’s the worst that could happen?
There’s plenty of other ways to get around this. You shouldn’t have to copy off others. Develop your ideas, be proud of what you write (and if it’s a first draft, it’s called a shitty first draft for a reason!) Don’t get swallowed by the dragon called plagiarism. Instead be King Arthur who defeats the dragon and makes a pretty good idea all at the same time. That’s all you can do anyway, is do the best that you can do. The End.
The essay is written by one of our talented Scholarship contest participants, Elizabeth Kahler.