Consequences of Plagiarism: Why to Be Aware And What to Look Out For

About Plagiarism

26 Jul 2021

Plagiarism is a word that is thrown about all the time in student circles, but what exactly is it? Why do students plagiarise? And more importantly what is the definition of plagiarism? Well, plagiarism is the act of copying or passing off someone else’s work as your own. It is classed as bad practice, unethical and can land you into a lot of trouble. That said, not every student intends to plagiarise; far from it.

In this article, you will understand the different types of plagiarism, why it happens, and the consequences of plagiarism on both researchers and professionals. Whilst not an exhaustive guide, the following is designed to give you a better understanding of what to look out for, and will provide tips to avoid such negative outcomes in the future.

consequences of plagiarism

When And Why Plagiarism Happen?

It may be a surprise to learn that not all people caught plagiarizing meant to do so. Students and professionals can all fall into the plagiarism trap without even realising it. One of the main culprits tends to be the effects of improper research and note taking.

Accidental Plagiarism — With No Intention to Copy

When working on an academic paper, students sometimes write hundreds, if not thousands of pages of notes, and if that note taking system is not organised, they can fall into difficulty very quickly and leave themselves open to a plagiarism penalty. It can be so easy to write down a great idea, only to later discover you have no idea where it came from.

There are also certain misunderstandings of what is plagiarism. Some students are under the impression that they only need to cite when dealing with direct quotations, but of course, this is incorrect. When dealing with quotations, scholars need citations for any information that is either summarised or paraphrased. Remember this and you could avoid a plethora of plagiarism problems.

Deliberate Plagiarism — Due to Mistake

Of course, while we acknowledge that some students fall into the plagiarism trap accidently, it is true to say that some students have been caught plagiarising in college, with full understanding of what they are doing. As with everything in life there are a number of reasons for this, one being poor management of time. Essay writing is time laborious.

There is the reading, the research, the note taking, the drafting, the second drafting and so on. If a student is prone to leaving things to the last minute or has a habit of trying to condense too much work into a short space of time, they may find that they plagiarise out of sheer desperation. Don’t do it. Trust us, it’s really not worth it.

Main Reasons Why Students Might Plagiarise

Another example of plagiarism problems comes in the form of reputation and appearance. We live in a digital society where more often; people and their achievements are broadcast for the whole world to see. Perhaps a younger sibling has always been an academic highflyer, or your parents have always been the brainy ones. Very quickly you can feel like you have something to prove, that you simply have to keep up. However, what happens if you’re not academically minded? What if you don’t have any interest in the subject at hand?

For some, copying someone else’s work is the only way to secure success. This scenario also comes into play if you are someone that has always had high grades, but something has happened in your personal life to cause you to fall behind. In this situation plagiarism could be seen as a quick fix.

Whilst incredibly risky and arguably stupid, you may find it surprising to understand that some students actually get a kick out of plagiarising in college. The thrill-seeking academics amongst us may actually enjoy the idea that the essay they are currently writing could be their very last. Likewise, there are the students who plagiarise because they don’t feel like they will ever get caught plagiarising. They feel invincible, they know that their teachers have hundreds of papers to read and feel there is no chance that they will spot a few copied paragraphs or missed citations. The bad news for them however is with the use of an online plagiarism checker, they probably will spot them, and you are likely to face plagiarism consequences.

Negative Consequences of Plagiarism for College Students

There are really two types of consequences. The first type is academic: They fail the assignment and sometimes the course too. That's basic. But, there are also bigger consequences, in terms of trust. Accidental or intentional, when a student plagiarizes, they're stealing credit for someone else's work. It's not a good look.

Miriam R. Bowers Abbott, Associate Professor and Faculty Fellow at MCCN

It’s the golden question; what happens if you plagiarize? As with all crimes, in order for prevention to be taken seriously the punishment needs to be strong, and with plagiarism it can be very severe indeed, but what are the consequences of plagiarism for students?  Well, if successfully caught plagiarising, a student can be expelled from a college or course, be subject to their work being destroyed or can even face the possibility of legal action along with a series of fines or penalties. That’s if you still think is plagiarism illegal or not. Furthermore, what Furthermore, what many students don’t realise is that if they plagiarise in college, it can cause damage to their long term plans, well past that of college or university.  All students have an academic record and institutions are free to update it with information as they see fit. If for instance, a student is studying for a degree and is expelled from their course following successful findings of plagiarism, it is likely that they will find it very difficult to gain entry onto a similar course in the future. Further issues could include:

  • Inability to apply for other courses at other institutions
  • Being stopped from progressing to master’s or PHD courses
  • A severe impact on career goals and lifelong earning potential

How Universities Deal With Plagiarism

One may be forgiven for thinking that these plagiarism consequences are pretty drastic, but have no doubt, universities take a hard line against offenders and get very serious indeed. Both Oxford and Harvard, two of the world’s most prestigious universities in the world, clearly stipulate that whether intentional or accidental, plagiarism is never acceptable. All material that you use in your work, be it from manuscripts, print, or electronic means, must be cited. Should you be caught plagiarising, you will be committing a disciplinary offence.

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Consequences of Plagiarism for Researchers

Naturally, as a student you will want to avoid plagiarism in an effort to protect your future career, but what happens when the research you are carrying out is your career. Researchers the world over read, summarise and take notes on other people’s work all the time, however, if you forget to cite the work of others you could be setting yourself up for failure. The same could be said when citing your own work. Self-plagiarism is the act of re-using words that you have written in previous research papers and passing them off as new works.

The act is seen as highly dishonest and if you are caught, the consequences of plagiarism could cause significant damage to your reputation and a reduction in respect afforded towards you in future research papers. Whether being reprimanded for self-plagiarism or plagiarism of the work of others, researchers in particular can expect to face a loss of funding, or even their position at the institution being terminated.

You could also be stopped from submitting any future work, regardless of how ground-breaking it may be and run the risk of copyright infringement.

What are the Consequences of Plagiarism for Other Professionals?

The effects of plagiarism can be widely felt, not just for the student or researcher who has been caught plagiarising. Firstly, just as your reputation with a university may be impaired if you are caught, so too can the reputation of your peers, teachers and the institution itself, especially if you are working on high profile studies.

It has a knock-on effect with the academic system as a whole, damaging the credibility and external perception of all stakeholders. With the increase in social media, plagiarism consequences can be felt very quickly around the globe for other academics and institutions to see at the click of a button.

Very quickly, those around you who have had no part in the plagiarism could also have their reputation and careers thrown into doubt and have to face severe punishment. This would be even more distressing should any of these people already hold a hard-earned academic position, or even positions in the political or religious spheres.

Also, there is an argument of fairness here. A good piece of research can take a very long time to accomplish to get to the point where it can be added to a resume. If you plagiarise your work and add that research or study to your resume, it instantly dilutes the efforts and dedication given by other professionals in their field. The bottom line is, be nice. To stop others facing punishment, don’t plagiarise. 

Legal Consequences of Plagiarism

We’ve already touched on it briefly, but if you have not yet been convinced that it is a very bad idea, let’s take a look at some of the plagiarism outcomes that might appear from the legal side. If caught plagiarising, the consequences include being expelled from school, fired from your job or facing difficulty when trying to seek out alternative employment.  You may also invertedly break a number of copyright laws which are designed to protect the interests of original authors. If so, you could face financial penalties based on the damage caused to the author.

If any monies are found to have been lost by said author as a result of your own negligence, or if the author finds that they can no longer use their original work as result, these financial penalties could end up being very large sums of money. At the very serious end of the spectrum, you may also find yourself facing criminal prosecution which brings with it jail time or community service.

So, before you next consider plagiarising, ask yourself, are the plagiarism consequences really worth it? 

Summing Up All the Outcomes 

Be it an accident or a deliberate act from the start, we need to ask ourselves what are the consequences of plagiarism? If you’re short on time, have little interest in the subject or you’re trying to retain your high academic reputation, it can sometimes be tempting to pass the work of others off as your own. If caught plagiarizing in college or at work however, you could face your work being destroyed, fines, or indeed expulsion from your course or institution. Furthermore, with the possibility of criminal charges being brought against you and future earning potential being skewed, it really is not worth the risk.

The good news is it is easy to prevent yourself from falling into the trap in the future by always ensuring that you check your work at Fixgerald plagiarism checker before submitting it. If something doesn’t look like it was written by you, check, check and check again. Furthermore, get into the habit of accurate note taking. When taking notes from the work of others, ensure you have a workable system for referencing who wrote it, where they wrote it and when. This way, you will never fall into the trap of accidentally claiming the words are your own.


Is paraphrasing considered plagiarism?

If you paraphrase but don’t go on to credit the author who wrote or said the words, then yes, it is classed as plagiarism. This is because you are effectively saying that these are your words, from your brain, and you alone should be credited for them. Don’t let this prevent you from paraphrasing however, simply cite the original source first.

How do I avoid plagiarism in academic writing?

First and foremost, keep great notes and a workable way to note the author of the information you are going to use. Then, use quotation marks, use a range of sources, and most importantly, never ever copy and paste material into your final essay. You should focus on making your own arguments and using the cited work of others to back up your claims.

How serious is plagiarism?
Very. If the prospect of a damaged reputation and dismissal from your job or institution isn’t enough to make you think twice, then think about the possible financial ramifications and the limitations of your future career. If that doesn’t work, for the most serious cases, the plagiarism penalty could even include prosecution.

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