The Time I Almost Got Caught For Plagiarism

plagiarism

I’ve never particularly enjoyed group work. I prefer full control, or at least a clear power structure, so that I know who I am reporting to. That’s not how group work works, and it annoys me. Particularly because I am the kind of person who likes finishing stuff off early and having plenty of time to go back and polish it until it is perfect.

Now I am in my first year of uni and several months ago we were assigned a group report in one of our modules, and were informed it was due in the 26th of January. Tomorrow. Two other group members and I finished our parts of the report way before Christmas. One handed his part in the day before yesterday.

Now, I don’t know how things work in other systems, but in the IB, plagiarism was taken very seriously. You could risk getting kicked out of the program and not allowed back in. This guy that handed his part in the day before yesterday, let’s call him John, did A levels. Again, I don’t know how seriously they take plagiarism, or how throughly they teach referencing. At uni they take it very seriously, again to the point where you can get kicked out.

Generally I trust my group members to do their job properly, especially as I have no form for authority over them, and no real reason to follow behind them and check up on their work. This time, however, it just so happened that another group member and I were the ones assembling the report and thus went through everyone’s part, did any additional referencing and so on.

Everything about John’s work seemed perfectly alright; I gave it a quick skim and thought it all made sense, was well written and everything. However, he hadn’t done any in text referencing and just left the link to the article he’d used at the bottom of the page. No big deal, really, as it was only one reference and easy to fix. When I went onto the article, I spotted one of the figures he’d used in his part of the report, and not referenced. Still, at this point I figured that oh well, no harm done. Then I started reading.

In the end I found more that more than two entire paragraphs were directly copied and pasted from the article, as well as several minor bits here and there. Upon further inspection it also turned out that lots of other information didn’t come from the linked article at all and just blatantly wasn’t sourced or referenced in any way. Four hours later, my fellow group member and I had successfully paraphrased, rewritten and sourced John’s entire part of the report, as well as done all formatting and referencing.

It is one thing to annoy your group members by turning in your work at the last minute, it is another matter entirely to turn your work in at the last minute, blatantly copy&pasted, without telling them and thus risking not only your own, but also innocent, hard working people’s academic careers and futures. And yes, the other group members and I went to our programme leader today and explained the situation, and in addition to tell us that we should tell the lecturer in the relevant module, she could confirme that if we had handed in the report without fixing John’s bit, there would have been serious repercussions.

Plagiarism will never be alright, but it is especially horrendous when it could get such serious consequences for people other than yourself, that had nothing at all to do with it. It is safe to say that I will never be working with John again, and he burnt several bridges to his course mates that day, by not only plagiarising and not telling us, but then defending it by saying that he hadn’t gotten caught for it before.

Don’t be like John. Don’t plagiarise. 

stock photo: death to the stock photo

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