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Plagiarism is an author’s attempt to represent fraudulently the thoughts of another writer as his original work. Zobel and Hamilton (2002) quote the Association of American Historians when they describe plagiarism as “the misuse of the writing of another author including the limited borrowing, without attribution, of another’s distinctive and significant research finding, hypotheses, theories or interpretations.” Plagiarism is a violation of academic ethics and standards of integrity. Consequently, Ting, Musa, and Mah (2014) indicate that university students experience tremendous pressure to excel in their academic studies while at the same time engaging in extracurricular activities. The lack of priorities can lead to a bottleneck whereby an aspect of a student’s university life is sacrificed. Upholding academic integrity and standards is of critical importance to educators. These standards ensure that any scholarly activity maintains, fosters, and respects set academic integrity and ethics. Intellectual communities value trustworthiness, honesty, and civility in the pursuit of higher learning. Given the prevalence of plagiarism, this paper strives to address the factors that influence the misappropriation and misrespresentation of another persons’ academic work and its ethical implications to academic excellence and pursuit.
In a study on plagiarism, Honig and Bedi (2012) focused on the demographic and institutional indicators of copyright infringement. The authors have considered lecturers because they are responsible for the instruction of undergraduates. Thus, these specialists have future researchers in their responsibility. Honig and Bedi (2012) concentrated on the academic’s status, nation, sex, and education as plagiarism indicators. The results of the study have demonstrated that most incidences of plagiarism occur in the countries outside of North America. At the same time, Cheema, Mahmood, Mahmood, and Shah (2011) have found that while some unoriginality in advanced education is intentional, some plagiarism is unintentional, and it occurs because of the lack of awareness of copyright infringement laws. The authors have discovered that while most scientists have a general understanding of what constitutes copyright infringement, many of them do not know about the different forms of plagiarism (Cheema et al., 2011). More to say, a considerable number of scientists do not understand the punishments exacted in presenting plagiarized work. In their conclusion, Cheema et al. (2011) have recommended that academics learn about the right referencing techniques and intellectual property laws.
Factors that Lead Students to Plagiarism
Factors that contribute to students’ plagiarism are multiple and they include weak research skills since numerous college undergraduates do not possess relevant research skills. Many of them cannot conduct an effective research using resources such as library indexes, journal databases for articles, or utilize reference sources properly. Making the grade is another cause of plagiarism. Students are constantly under pressure from lecturers, family, and peers to perform academically to qualify for the opportunities on the job market and limited scholarships. This makes them focus more on maintaining good grades by any means necessary instead of working towards gaining the appropriate skills in academic writing. Most students justify themselves by claiming that all their peers do it and that instructors condone their behavior. These factors and the lack of penalties make it very easy for many university students to engage in plagiarism.
Most university students have problems in critically assessing the value of internet sources. This affects the research process and impacts the students' academic writing negatively. To compound the problem further, the Internet offers no quality control of information collected from it. As many professions have a particular way of expressing things, the industry’s specific terminologies intimidate students, affecting their comprehension and the ability to write plagiarism free material. Students have trouble in differentiating between an essay, report, argumentation, and an expose. In an assignment, such terms such as analyze, discuss, explain, list, and identify tend to confuse and disorient most students substantially. The issuing of unclear assignment instructions further aggravates the problem of plagiarism. Moreover, the inability to cite reference sources accurately and the lack of consistency among the distinctive style guides exacerbate the problem that undergraduates face when referring to sources. In a year, a typical student can utilize around four unique style guides, with each guide giving different formatting instructions.
Moreover, poor planning and time management cannot be ignored. Often, students need to manage their time as they are engaged in social activities, committed to college sports, and they are under family and peer pressure. Many university students often misjudge the time commitment and the effort that their academic writing requires. They do not take the time to research the assigned topics properly, and hence, they end up working on their research papers within a very limited timeframe. Therefore, Howard (1995) argues: “students overtaxed lives leave them vulnerable to the temptations of cheating.” Furthermore, online sources are very tough to reference. First, there is no consensus about the style guides to use in referring to online sources. Second, most websites’ URLs are temporary and they change arbitrarily, or the address is extended, intricate, and baffling. Apart from these factors, negative attitude towards lecturers and class work only aggravates the problem. Moreover, students may cheat where they feel that assignments have no value to their academic courses despite the teachers handing them out (Howard, 1995). Poor relations between lecturers and students lead to high chances of students resorting to plagiarism in their works as these students feel that their instructors will not closely review their assignments.
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Why Are Ethical Considerations Important to Academics?
Ethical considerations in academics are critical. Moral norms are the standards or measures for behavior that is recognized as right or wrong. Ethics aid in distinguishing acceptable or unacceptable behavior. The reasons why contemplating ethical considerations is important in academics are multiple. First, ethical standards help safeguard academics from falsifying or distorting information and advance the quest for learning and truth, which is the essential objective of education. Moral conduct is also the basis for shared work since it fosters and encourages an atmosphere of trust, responsibility, and common appreciation among academics when considering the issues related to information sharing, copyright rules, authorship, privacy, and numerous related factors (Howard, 1995). Scholars observe ethical norms for the public to acknowledge and exercise confidence in the results of their research. The public requires certain guarantees that have researchers applied the necessary moral principles, for example, human rights, conflicts of interest, animal welfare, obedience to the law, and industry benchmarks.
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The treatment of these ethical issues incredibly affects the honesty of the examination process. The way these issues are addressed affects the integrity and proposition of the academic process. Since moral contemplations are so vital in research, professional organizations have developed the codes of conduct and guidelines that govern and regulate their operations. These regulations address diverse issues, for example, respect for intellectual property, trustworthiness, objectivity, social duty, secrecy, non-segregation, and so on (McNamee & Bridges, 2002). Despite these codes and strategies providing guidelines, the issues that require ethical excellence to avoid unethical behavior or actions confront researchers and academics.
An example is the ethical considerations in the analysis of the prevalence of plagiarism among college level students. Every student has a critical role to play in the advancement of the educational policy regarding plagiarism. To maintain and promote academic integrity, it is important for authors to document reference sources properly, act ethically in pursuit of learning, present only original material, and set a good example for others to follow.
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In conclusion, lapses in academic ethics are prevalent in the world of writing and publishing. The factors provided indicate the scale of the issue that aspiring students encounter in their academic writing career. Despite the prevalence of plagiarism, some remedies, when properly utilized, can cultivate respect for ethics in academics. Institutions should provide clear-cut guidelines and policies available to faculty members and students on how to avoid and recognize plagiarism. Before the actual writing begins, the roles on projects and authorship should be clearly defined to preempt misconceptions relating plagiarism and respect for ethics in the academic process. The importance of ethical behavior in all their activities must be impressed on students. By highlighting the connection between learning, values and academic development, students will find it easy to behave ethically. Instructors must seek to engage students fully in the learning process to ensure that they grasp the material being presented, thus equipping students with the skills, attitudes, and reverence for ethical standards.