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Academic Plagiarism & How to Avoid it

Academic Integrity 

When I was pursuing my Masters, one thing which scared me the most was to be able to produce authentic work without plagiarizing. I never had to think about it in the past, but overnight it had become a cornerstone for academic excellence. It needed practice and patience and while the road wasn’t very cushiony initially, I did get through. Checking for plagiarism has become a standard practice across universities both in India & overseas and as a student, you are expected to present original work for assessment. Any attempt to malign the integrity of your work is considered to be the highest form of academic misconduct and penalized with varying degrees of severity depending on your University policy. I shall try and simplify academic plagiarism, and how you can keep your research papers/dissertations/thesis work original. 

What is Plagiarism 

Plagiarism etymologizes from the Latin word “plagiarius” which equates to a kidnapper, seducer, or a plunderer”. Simply put, it is an act of using someone else’s work and calling it your own. As a student, you will be referencing from a wide array of sources, however, whether the source is published or unpublished, digital or physical, it should be given its due credit, and any attempt to call it your own is defined as plagiarism. Following are probably the 4 most widely observed kinds of plagiarism. 

  • Direct: word to word copying a section of an author’s work without quoting or attributing the same. 
  • Self: using your own published/unpublished work without appropriate referencing or taking necessary permission from all parties involved. For E.g. using your project/research whether in part or in full, which was initially submitted as part of your undergrad assessment, but was again submitted while pursuing your higher education would account for self-plagiarism. 
  • Mosaic: using an author’s work, firstly without quoting/referencing and primarily without changing the original structure of the sentence and merely using synonyms, it is also known as patch-writing. 
  • Accidental: an act of misquoting or forgetting to acknowledge the author or using the same groups of words, sentence structure.

Quote, Paraphrase & Summarize. 

To not plagiarize, one needs to sharpen great communication & logical skills, however incorporating the following techniques can make your lives a lot easier, read on!! 

Quotations 

It is a word to word extraction of an author’s viewpoint and must be included in quotation marks (“ ”). Following is an example for better understanding. 

Excessive exposure to and dependence on digital devices has raised concerns amongst travel researchers about the ill effects of constant connectivity on a travel experience. Neuhofer (2016, p. 780) says “This has led to an ‘era of constant connectedness’, in which tourist experiences are no longer isolated events, but are at the intersection of travel, work, and life”. 

The use of quotes can help in catalyzing your point of view, to include definitions or an authoritarian voice which is crucial, to justify your findings/point of view. 

Paraphrasing 

As an effective and much-needed alternative to quotations, paraphrasing allows you to restructure the original point of view and present it in your vocabulary. It allows you to retain the author’s meaning and intent while avoiding direct copying, following examples should help understand further. 

  • Original: The findings show that psychological anxiety, although reported to be moderate, was found to have no impact on the preference of smartphone usage for travel purposes. On the other hand, behavioural anxiety, not only was found to have a relatively higher mean of 3.53 but also was found to have a low but significant impact on the preference for smartphone usage for travel purposes. (Shashank, Sreejith & Cody, 2018).
  • Paraphrased: As per a study conducted by Shashank et. al (2018), smartphone usage while travelling was found not to be affected by psychological anxiety. However, with a heightened mean of 3.53, smartphone usage preferences were observed to be affected by behavioural anxiety. 

Effective paraphrasing is an art according to me, while smartly using synonyms, one should be mindful to change the grammar, voice (active and passive), and structure of the sentence while maintaining the coherence between primary & supportive ideas as discussed by the author. 

Summarizing 

As the name suggests, summarizing is essentially condensing the idea/thought behind information while leaving out examples, redundancies, details, etc. In academic research, summarizing proficiently from multiple sources reflects highly on one’s ability to understand, disseminate and structure complex and layered information into an easily comprehensible thought; the same is highly sought after and is unanimous amongst published researchers. The following examples should help understand further. 

  • Original: The need for virtual comfort and security was found to have an even greater impact on the preference for smartphone usage for travel purposes. This is not surprising given that all of the virtual comfort and security needs of travelers (M=3.01) such as instant messaging (face messenger, Whatsapp, etc.), video chat (Skype, Whatsapp), and seamless internet browsing, along with other features such as high-quality camera, media players, location and maps, and Wi-Fi and mobile hotspot capabilities can be achieved through smartphones (Shashank, Sreejith & Cody, 2018; Jung, 2014). 
  • Summarized: As showcased by Shashank et al. (2018) and Jung (2014), digital connectedness with your loved ones greatly impacts smartphone usage and your travel experience due to its advanced capabilities. 

To clearly outline everything, let me show you a side by side example of what is an acceptable and unacceptable form of academic writing

Original Plagiarism (Unacceptable) Acceptable Academic Writing
The need for virtual comfort and security was found to have an even greater impact on the preference for smartphone usage for travel purposes. This is not surprising given that all of the virtual comfort and security needs of travellers such as instant messaging (face messenger, Whatsapp, etc.), video chat (Skype, Whatsapp), and seamless internet browsing, along with other features such as high-quality camera, media players, location and maps, and Wi-Fi and mobile hotspot capabilities can be achieved through smartphones
Source – Shashank, Sreejith & Cody, 2018, p. 431,Antecedents and Outcomes of SmartphoneUsage Among Indian Millennial Travellers, Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2019
As per previous research in the travel domain, virtual comfort and security have been found to have a greater impact on the preference for smartphone usage for travel purposes. One should not be surprised, since travellers use features like instant messaging (face messenger, Whatsapp , etc.), video chat (Skype, Whatsapp), and fast internet browsing while making use of high-quality camera, media players, location, and maps based on Wi-Fi and mobile hotspot capabilities

 Source – (Shashank et al. 2018)

Observation:

The student has copied the source apart from minor changes and use of synonyms.

Shashank et al. (2018) had discovered travel experience to be significantly affected by a traveller need to stay digitally connected with their loved ones while feeling secure in a foreign country because of smartphone features like google maps. 

Observation: 

The student has condensed the information effectively and wrote it in his vocabulary. Use of generic words like “google maps” is not considered plagiarism

 

It is pivotal for every learner to be fair in their work, being able to present your thoughts and ideology amongst your peers and professors is a fruitful experience that only broadens your spectrum of thinking. In your academic journey, it should be everyone’s endeavour to learn and present your voice and not merely vocalise the words and work of others. 

A good academic paper writing needs assimilation of various sources and employing various techniques. It needs patience and practice, but if I could master it, so can you. Happy Learning!

Disclaimer

Academic plagiarism rules vary from university to university and this write-up should not be considered as exhaustive or only the sole point of reference to understand the concept. Kindly connect with your upGrad buddy to further understand the relevant clauses of your particular institution; revisit your University’s plagiarism policy for further clarification.

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