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Plagiarism starts from lack of research skills: Study

Lea Barton, a professor of government and history at a small New England college, expresses great concern about the entering college freshmen. Her experiences with students’ writing and research skills are expressed in her May 7, 2007 Associated Content article, “Term Paper Mistakes: College Professor Tips.” She explains that the decline in the quality of research paper submissions are due to the overuse of the internet:

“The internet has been a wonderful development for education in many ways, [but] most students have no idea how to do appropriate research. …Students are not given proper research skills in middle school and high school, and it shows in their [research] paper submission.”

Barton emphasizes that most of us were not taught in middle and high school how to accurately evaluate a source, how to use an index, how to search through a database, and how to recognize the bias of a source. Consequently, the lack of proper research skills may be the reason that students resort to plagiarism.

Research and Term Paper Mistakes That Lead to Plagiarism

Further, Barton comments that most students go on the internet to find all their information about a given topic. She, as well as other professors, often finds students’ work packed with documentation from various sources such as Wikipedia, blogs, and simulated web pages. Moreover, below are the five most common mistakes that students make on term and research papers:

Do not use Wikipedia as a main source and never cite it as a source. However, it is an excellent location to find general information that will help generate ideas and provide links for your research. The links at the bottom of the Wikipedia entry commonly are valid and helpful sources. Be cautious of bias information since Wikipedia is a user-edited cite.

Do not cut, paste, and tweak (CP&T). Your instructor has access to several anti-plagiarism software, such as The Plagiarism Checker, that can detect plagiarized work. In most universities, plagiarized work is an automatic “F” and possibly grounds for dismissal.

Never purchase a term paper from sites that sell essays. Again, anti-plagiarism software will catch purchased term papers thus your grade and reputation is at risk.

Avoid using someone else’s opinion on a website as a resource. Government websites are valid sources; partisan blogs are not. A person’s opinion is not considered a valid source.

Always use the citation style your instructor requires. If she tells you to use MLA (Modern Language Association), refer to this manual and follow it precisely. Always avoid a citation style that you have not been given permission to use. Citation styles vary depending on the type of assignment you are given or the subject on which it is written.

The mistakes pointed out above confirm that plagiarism (academic dishonesty) is a growing problem. Essentially, plagiarism is more commonly practiced because the internet is easily accessible and easily transferred from website to assignment.

Plagiarism is Cheating — Accredit Another’s Words and Ideas

Plagiarism is a form of cheating and it will result in a failing grade or, worse, expulsion. Giving credit where credit is due is the motto used repeatedly in academia. Throughout his lifetime, Wayne C. Booth, a former professor at the University of Chicago and co-author of The Craft of Research [U. Chicago Press. 2008] was dedicated to the spirit of research. To his students, he stressed the importance of accrediting one’s findings to the author’s work and ideas. His commitment to research and preserving its quality are emphasized in his book My Many Selves: The Quest for a Plausible Harmony [Utah State University Press, 2006]. He states, “When addressing someone else’s ideas, your obligation is to treat them as you believe all human beings ought to treat one another’s ideas.” Always credit the writer for his thoughts regardless if they are his directly quoted words or simply paraphrased into an original sentence.

Develop Good Research and Writing Habits

In short, don’t plagiarize. Your high school years are critical to your success. These years provide a practice ground for you to develop useful skills that will be applied throughout college, career, and life. Avoid developing bad habits and bad practices that could potentially corner you into a cycle of desperation.