Maintaining academic integrity and avoiding plagiarism is a fundamental requirement in academic work. It incorporates some fundamental values, including honesty, trust, responsibility, fairness, and the courage to endorse these values (Futurelearn, 2015). Also, Hayes & Introna (2005) supports that observing academic integrity calls for honestly about the origin of ideas presented in an article. However, achieving academic integrity might be challenging, and students often find themselves disregarding this convention. It is, therefore, essential for them to understand the issues surrounding academic integrity and plagiarism. The focus of this essay is to examine situations both intentional and unintentional that cause plagiarism. It will also cover some of the challenges I have encountered while trying to achieve academic integrity, and finally, explain the importance of avoiding plagiarism and maintaining academic integrity in society.
Intentional and Unintentional Plagiarism Situations
There is a need to have a deep understanding of plagiarism because it may be challenging to prevent without knowing its nature. For this reason, some situations can be termed as intentional or unintentional plagiarism, depending on the knowledge of plagiarism. Intentional plagiarism occurs when an individual uses other people’s ideas or knowledge as their own. In this case, the person knowingly ignores acknowledging the owner of the idea or work. Intentional plagiarism may occur under several situations (Lecture notes- Academic Integrity). One of them is copying text, whether from a lecturer’s notes or a textbook, without citing or quoting it. As long as the text is not the student’s idea or knowledge, they are supposed to quote and cite it. Although lecturers make notes for the students, it does not mean they should copy without acknowledging them.
Other incidents include copying non-written media such as pictures and maps without referencing them and changing the wording for someone else’s ideas. Some authors include information on images, charts, or maps. While plagiarism checkers like Turnitin may not indicate similarity from such information, copying it without acknowledging the owner is intentional plagiarism. Deliberately changing some words or writing someone’s idea as own without citing is intentional plagiarism. For instance, the original text may be, “All the vendors showed up in time except the bartender.” Then a student writes, “Only the bartender was late; all other vendors were on time.” If the student does not cite its idea, it is a plagiarism incident regardless of using different words.
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On the contrary, unintentional plagiarism may occur under three common situations. As stated earlier, it happens unknowingly and perhaps due to a lack of knowledge. Firstly, poor paraphrasing can lead to plagiarism. A student needs to invest in their paraphrasing skills, such as sentence structure and transfer of ideas. Secondly, poor quoting is a major situation where unintentional plagiarism happens. It is one common mistake that many students make. It occurs when quotations are misplaced. For instance, placing quotation marks in the middle of a quote, before a punctuation mark, or forgetting to put them. Lastly, poor citations. I am also a victim of improperly citing or referencing. However, all borrowed information has to be correctly cited and authors referenced.
Challenges I have Encountered Trying to Maintain Academic Integrity
Before studying this course, I was a victim of unintentional plagiarism, especially in poor citations and paraphrasing. As a good student, I was confident about my integrity. However, and as mentioned above, I was conducting a plagiarism offense. I remember one incident when I paraphrased a text from a website and ended up citing it incorrectly. Instead of citing that particular text, I cited another sentence that I had not paraphrased. This was an intentional plagiarism incident caused by not being keen. In the end, my marks for the assignment were deducted. I have been conscious not to redo this mistake, but there are few challenges that I have come across.
The main challenge I have encountered is a lack of adequate knowledge of plagiarism. Based on the example above, I lacked knowledge of where I should place a citation. Besides citations, I also lacked proficiency in paraphrasing. Still, I did not know which tools to use for easy reference and citation generation. For instance, I did not know how the Microsoft Word Referencing tool works or online tools like www.citethisforme.com, which automatically generates citations and references. Also, at times I did not know when to cite and when not to cite. For instance, I did not have clarity of what is considered plagiarism and what is not. Thus, lack of knowledge can be a major cause of committing academic integrity.
Another challenge I have encountered is laziness. From experience, laziness could be the worst cause of plagiarizing a text or paper. Some people already know how to ensure academic integrity, but they do not want to get tired. For instance, I could copy and paste a text because I did not want to paraphrase it, and I could not cite it because I thought it was a very long process. I could just provide a false reference list at the end of the paper. It is not astonishing to see students using false references due to lack of knowledge or just laziness. However, after learning this course, I have overcome the challenges, and I can now observe academic integrity.
Importance of Maintaining Academic Integrity in Post-secondary Environment and Society
Students and researchers in the professional world need to maintain academic integrity to prevent impacting their credibility negatively. Ezzat, Zheng, Zhu, Wu & Asa (2015) gives a story of two Toronto researchers, Sylvia Asa and Shereen Ezzat. They had been accused of falsification and were required to retract their paper from the American Journal of Pathology. The dishonesty impact did not stop at the retraction; Dr. Asa also suffered reassignment from the pathology department (Robinson, 2015). This implies that no matter the professional position, academic integrity can cost their title and career. Therefore, it is essential to avoid such pitfalls by remaining honest in every work done.
Secondly, maintaining academic integrity enables students to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge honestly. This, in the end, helps them navigate through the workforce, which reciprocates a benefit to society. Going to the library and conducting research by themselves is an excellent avenue of gaining potential skills that could help one do exceptionally well in the job market. From observation, I have seen students graduating with first-class honors and secure a job, but they only do for a short time, after which they are sucked. An example is my cousin, who graduated in 2017 and excelled. She was lucky to get a well-paying job in a big company immediately after her graduation. However, she was later fired a few after her supervisor noticed she could not deliver quality work. The assumption is that she graduated without the necessary skills to perform in the job industry, probably because she did not observe academic integrity while studying.
Observing academic integrity is imperative because one can critique information, unlike when copying and pasting information. In my cousin’s case, had she studied widely, she could have gained that job’s skill set and protected her employment. Under the academic integrity after graduation, the NAIT student’s responsibility offers the university the right to rescind any degree obtained through misrepresentation of skills or knowledge (NAIT, n.d). I feel this makes sense because, after all, the degree certificate cannot entirely help the student in the job market. Therefore, it is imperative, to be honest, fair, and take responsibility for one’s studies.
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To sum up, academic integrity and plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional. It can also be cumbersome, but students must avoid it. Many deliberate plagiarism situations include knowingly copying, paraphrasing, or presenting someone else’s ideas without citing or acknowledging them. Unintentional plagiarism may occur due to poor paraphrasing, poor citing, or poor quoting of a text. The main challenges I have faced when ensuring academic integrity are lack of knowledge and laziness to do what is necessary. However, through this course, I have made a step forward towards overcoming the challenges. It is crucial to maintain academic integrity for two primary reasons; to maintain one’s professional credibility and acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive in the job market.
Ezzat, S., Zheng, L., Zhu, X., Wu, G. E., & Asa, S. L. (2015). Targeted expression of a human pituitary tumor–derived isoform of FGF receptor-4 recapitulates pituitary tumorigenesis. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 125(8), 3303-3303. https://doi.org/10.1172/jci83399
Futurelearn. (2015, February 2). YouTube [Video]. https://youtu.be/4aCRYFzhlBY
Hayes, N., & Introna, L. D. (2005). Cultural values, plagiarism, and fairness: When plagiarism gets in the way of learning. Ethics & Behavior, 15(3), 213-231. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327019eb1503_2
NAIT. (n.d.). Fairness & conflict resolution. NAIT.ca. https://www.nait.ca/nait/life-at-nait/clubs-groups-community/fairness-conflict-resolution
Robinson, M. (2015, October 14). Top University health network doctor steps down amid falsified data investigation. thestar.com. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/07/27/top-university-health-network-doctor-steps-down-amid-falsified-data-investigation.html