That Thievery That You Do Not Think is Thievery

According to Dictionary.com, plagiarism is “the act of taking someone else’s work and claiming them to be your own,” and has the ability to destroy entire careers, or in students’ cases: Their grades.

“It comes down to stealing something that doesn’t belong to you and saying that it belongs to you,” says teacher Emma Gist, who has dealt with plagiarism several times over the course of her career as an English teacher at Da Vinci High. Out of the many subjects students tend to take each year, English is one of, if not the most, subject to plagiarism. Even with several workshops, instructional powerpoints and the like over the year, students still plagiarize, even if they know the consequences.

Even teachers get tired of it. “It’s frustrating,” says Ms. Gist. “It makes me wonder if they took it seriously or if they think it was a problem or not, or if they just failed to learn what the difference was.”

One of the primary objectives of schooling is to give people the ability to make things of their own creation. So having someone completely copy another person’s work is the complete opposite of that. That’s not to say you can’t be inspired by someone’s ideas and use them in your work, but if you’re using the exact same words they had written down, then that’s plagiarism.

Plagiarism has shown up in almost every form of media imaginable: books, movies, music, and even government documents. Anyone who’s been caught for doing these acts of plagiarism has had their reputations consequently ruined, if not getting into legal action due to copyright infringement.

Even in Da Vinci, plagiarism has led to the destruction of friendships, the breaking of trust, and massive reductions to grades. It’ll be marked on your record and most likely ruin your chances of getting into a few colleges. Plus, because of Da Vinci’s project-based curriculum, if the plagiarized work ends up being the final products of projects, or the entire project ends up being plagiarized, then it’ll give everyone in the group a big zero and marks on their records.

Sometimes students will unknowingly plagiarize something because of other group members’ work. A student describes how they felt when this happened to them, “The feeling I had when that happened was something like defeat or emptiness. I had to talk to the principal and I had to tell them that I didn’t really know what was going on,” they continued.

This student, along with many others, is just one victim of the easily preventable problems caused by plagiarism. The end product of this copied project wasn’t a slap on the wrist, it was a destruction of faith between two friends, and a permanent mark on not only their records, but their conscious as well. Of course, that’s not to say people can heal from this.

“I think about it off and on, but it’s something you have to come to terms with and accept at that point whether there was influence on that person to do that or whether it was because they were lazy or whatnot,” said the anonymous student. Students can have any reason to plagiarize, but this victim gives advice for those who feel tempted by it, saying, “Don’t copy things word-for-word. Read something, internalize it, and try to write your own version of it. That’s the only advice I can give.”

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