Development of new means of communication, particularly the Internet, contributed to faster exchange of thoughts, ideas and other forms of information, as well as music, photographs and pieces of graphical design – everything that can be called ‘intellectual property’. As in many cases above mentioned is demanded by large audience, and therefore, directly or indirectly, produces benefit for the creator, issues of ownership and illegal copying have become of high significance. It is now widely accepted that usage of intellectual property without paying its owner (as it is in music industry) or mentioning the owner (as it is in academia) is unethical and forbidden.
One of the tasks pursued by nowadays’ civilized society is to inculcate respect towards intellectual rights – the best way to do it is to start from educational institutions, which undoubtedly contribute to formation of personality. For that reason copying of other works is strictly forbidden at every level of education. The higher the level of education is, the more serious the attitude towards copying is – starting from Bachelor’s level not only direct copying of text is forbidden, but also the usage in the written form of others’ ideas.
While in majority of cases a wrongdoer is perfectly aware of the fact that his/her behaviour is unethical and punishable, it often happens that students do not realize that they are plagiarizing. The latter situation is divided into two categories (Berlinck, 2011): i) accidental, which happens as a result of imperfect knowledge of citation styles and referencing rules that are used in the institution and ii) unintentional, which occurs due to immense amounts of expressed ideas and thought’s resulting in the situations when one repeats ideas of the other being unaware of that. While the problem of accidental plagiarism may be relatively easily addressed by more thorough education of the students on citation and referencing, the problem of unintentional plagiarism is a bit more complicated as it may be difficult to differ intentional plagiarism from unintentional and therefore either punish a students who was not guilty or allow a student to escape sanctions for a wrongdoing. The issue is particularly important given that the plagiarism checks are being mostly performed by software that counts the percentage of coinciding words and phrases in a verified work and works from databases, which may be inflated by unlucky occurrence of using similar vocabulary with probability of it being not negligible. Therefore my statement is the following: dividing cases of plagiarism into categories is crucial for successful solving of the problem.
In my opinion, to be able to address the issue of plagiarism efficiently, the institutions need to classify the cases according to the reasons rather than base their policy on absolute numbers. The ways of fighting intentional plagiarism dramatically differ from those aimed against accidental or unintentional (if the latter needs to be fought against at all) plagiarism. In the study that offers implications for the universities, Alam (2004) relied on the data obtained from the students, and not only the author’s suggestions were directed on the development of integrity, diminishing of incentives and creation of disincentives to cheat, but the study also came to a conclusion that awareness needs to be developed also among staff members as well as among students. Apparently, from time to time lecturers have the problems with defining plagiarism, too, with author calling for seminars and workshops to increase their awareness in the first place, before proceeding with students.
Keeping in mind that students’ academic ethics is where business or workplace ethics may be developed from, I believe that the importance of the issue should not be undervalued and want to contribute to the topic.
Alam, L. S. (2004). Is plagiarism more prevalent in some form of assessment than others? In R. Atkinson, C. McBeath, D. Jonas-Dwyer & R. Phillips (Eds), Beyond the comfort zone: Proceedings of the 21st ASCILITE Conference, 48-57, Perth, 5-8, December. Retrieved from: http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/perth04/procs/alam.html
Berlinck, R.G.S., (2010, February), The academic plagiarism and its punishments - a review.
Revista Brasileira de Farmacognosia, May-June, 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S0102-695X2011005000099&script=sci_arttext