With Plagiarism it does not matter whether you really are creative

Copy from one, it’s plagiarism; copy from two, it’s research.
Wilson Mizner (1876-1933)

I did grade 22 essays last week (never again!). In at least two of them I found cases of plagiarism. I should not be surprised, these were second semester Bachelor students and the way they are prepared for scientific work is … ‘not that well’. I think there is a frequent misconception that plagiarism is simply “missing to set the quotation marks”, a mistake of punctuation, but it is way more than that.

One of the students did state some very good ideas, but after discovering two cases of plagiarism in the text, how could I evaluate the value of the essay? If you plagiarize, you are not only using someone else’s writing (which wastes the time of the university lecturer, because any feedback the university lecturer gives is useless to you because you did not write the sentence and the original author will not get this feedback), you are claiming another person’s writing as your own, you are claiming his or her idea(s). So no matter how brilliant the ideas are you yourself have later, no one will believe you that they were your own.

You cannot be creative if people do not believe you that it was your work. And if there is only the slightest case of plagiarism is your work, you have pretty much screwed yourself. Even if students do not understand the concept of scientific integrity anymore (which I do not believe), this at least should stop anyone attempting plagiarism dead in his or her tracks. With plagiarism doesnt matter how good or creative you really are — it’s game over, plain and simple.

So avoid plagiarism — use a content outline (see also Outliner in Scrivener vs Outliner in Circus Ponies Notebook — Structure (Scrivener) vs Content (CPN) Outlines and Circus Ponies Notebook: The Best Tool for Structuring Creative Writing Projects (esp. Research Projects)) and make sure you keep the source with the idea in the outline.

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