Plagiarism, a form of academic dishonesty, is a serious issue across academia and can have major consequences, such as in the 2012 Harvard cheating scandal when more than 35 students were forced to withdraw because of cheating on a take-home test. A study by the Center of Academic Integrity reported that cheating and plagiarism are on the rise at universities all across the United States.

With the advent of the Internet and increasing technological changes, students sometimes commit plagiarism without realizing that they are doing so, said Collin College’s Central Park Campus Writing Center Director Betty Correll.

“A lot of plagiarism is probably unintentional,” Correll said. “Some students don’t realize that when including borrowed ideas, statistics or little known facts in a paper, they must acknowledge the source and do so in a conventionally accepted manner. Failing to do so is academic dishonesty and a form of stealing.”

Students can avoid plagiarism by distinguishing their personal notes from the words of sources, Correll said. Writing Center consultant Brittany Whitstone said students should manage their time effectively so they don’t end up completing an assignment at the last minute.

“Don’t be afraid to sit down with your professors during their office hours if you’re having problems,” Whitstone advised. “Pay close attention to examples and sample essays of the kind you are supposed to write. Show up to all the classes—chances are, discussion with other students and class activities like peer review will help.”

Although students might be tempted to simply copy and paste an essay from the Internet, it’s a bad idea.

“Plagiarism is much easier to catch now. Before the Internet, if the instructor suspected that you’d plagiarized, they would have to hunt down the physical book or article, which could prove daunting,” Whitstone said. “Today, a professor can punch a line from an essay into a search engine and see what comes up.”

Collin College Writing Centers offer free workshops on plagiarism and how to recognize and avoid it. The Writing Center staff at the Central Park, Spring Creek and Preston Ridge Campus, as well as those at the online center, help students in other ways with their compositions, addressing such concerns as generating ideas, narrowing the focus and developing a thesis statement.

For more information about workshops and other writing assistance Collin Writing Centers offer students, visit the Collin College website http://www.collin.edu/writingcenter.

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