Plagiarism is one of the most common problems in the academic world. Professors pay particular attention to teaching their students critical thinking, but they download texts from the internet, rewrite somebody else’s papers, and present them as their own, looking for higher grades.
Although such a practice has serious consequences and professors don’t ignore plagiarism, making sure that students caught on it learn what academic dishonesty is, the latter don’t stop cheating. Plagiarism is not going away, and students don’t think that it’s a problem. The statistics are shocking:
- 86% of college students plagiarize content.
- Almost 60% of them don’t think that cheating is bad or believe that they cannot succeed in college without it.
- 42% of college students buy papers online.
- 76% of students who plagiarize their works rewrite them word for word.
Of course, all professors know how to spot plagiarism. In addition, there is a lot of software that detects plagiarized content, leaving no chance for students who want to cheat. Algorithms of such programs get improved and updated all the time so that it takes seconds to see whether or not some paper is original.
It’s easy to plagiarize, and it’s even easier to detect a plagiarized paper, but students are willing to take risks. Why are they so desperate?
Why Do Students Plagiarize?
Some people think that only lazy students and those who lack writing skills can choose this way to complete their assignments. However, the truth is that those 86% of college students cannot all be poor writers or procrastinators. There are many psychological factors that make plagiarism so attractive despite all the negative consequences.
- They are afraid to fail
Fear of failure is one of the most common reasons for procrastination. It kills motivation and makes most learning strategies useless. Many students are just afraid to disappoint their professors or to show their poor skills and knowledge. They see more successful students and are afraid to lose their status. They want to receive better grades so they ask someone else to write a paper for them or just rewrite some works from the internet.
Psychologists studied this issue to see what impact this fear has on students’ behavior. According to the British Journal of Educational Psychology, fear of failure directly impacts methods that we choose. As a result, many students see learning as a way to boost their egos.
Such students are not excited about learning something new. Instead, they want to look better compared to other students, and they are ready to do anything to achieve their goal. People who suffer from fear of failure often experience many problems. They are perfectionists, they are often depressed and unmotivated. They feel angry at themselves and the world, being dependent on the success and feeling hopeless when they fail.
- Lack of interest
This is another common reason why students cheat. While professors don’t think that their subject can be boring, students sometimes just don’t care about the assigned topic and don’t want to waste their time working on it. It’s easier to just plagiarize someone else’s paper and leave more time for something interesting.
Most college students are dependent on their parents, who invest money in their education and expect good results. Constant pressure from their parents and instructors, along with a strong competition in the job market makes the education process exhausting. Furthermore, the most talented and smart students often experience the strongest pressure. They cannot relax and just live their lives without thinking of all these problems so they try any possible methods to succeed. Plagiarism allows them to complete all their assignments on time and even have some time to relax.
Stress is also a reason why many students plagiarize accidentally. Sometimes they are so stressed out that they forget to include proper citations and references or even repeat themselves, including fragments from their previous works.
Some students are just so bold that they don’t believe they can get caught on plagiarism. Usually, such students don’t plagiarize to get a good grade, they do it just because they can. Such arrogant students are nothing new. For example, in 2002, CNN published a survey about cheating students. Most of the respondents said that they are judged based on their grades only and that honest students don’t succeed in college.
Of course, hubris itself isn’t a reason why students cheat, however, it is a reason why they don’t stop plagiarizing papers. They feel safe doing it unless they get caught.
Finally, they do it just for fun. Our brain works that way that when we copy somebody else’s actions, gestures, or mimics, we feel good about it. Students see how others cheat so they do it too, and they are not even afraid of penalty.
Psychologists are familiar with this phenomenon, they call it “social glue.” It is a natural mechanism that helps us build new connections with people and feel happy. When we copy others, our brain produces hormones of happiness: dopamine, serotonin, endorphin, and oxytocin.
- Dopamine is a hormone associated with rewards, for example, high grades.
- Endorphin causes euphoria, it can be triggered by a successfully completed task.
- Oxytocin is associated with trust — it triggers when students don’t get caught on cheating.
- Serotonin is what makes us feel important, for example, when we feel support from peers.
Some students feel excited when they challenge the rules of their college or university. When they don’t get caught on plagiarism, they feel the effect of all these hormones, which makes them want to do it again.
How Institutions Can Fight Plagiarism
Teachers and professors can prevent plagiarism.
- Tell students how important is their own writing style. Tell them that you’re interested in their own opinion more than in what is written in other sources.
- Teach your students analysis and interpretation. They should understand how to work with information to write original papers.
- Don’t overemphasize the importance of high grades. Explain that high grades are meaningless if a student can’t prove his or her knowledge.
- Teach them how to use various citation styles and tell them how important citations are, especially in the academic world.
- Explain the difference between paraphrasing and plagiarism. Teach them to paraphrase sources properly.
- Divide every assignment into several parts and ask your students to submit bibliographies and outlines before they write their final draft. It will save them time and make the working process less overwhelming.
- Encourage students to use stories from their lives in creative assignments and essays so that they will be interested in writing something original.
- Tell them of all the consequences of plagiarism, even if they seem obvious to you.
There are many reasons why students cheat, but none of these reasons make this problem less serious. Students steal somebody else’s content, and many of them don’t see anything wrong with it. Students who don’t get caught on plagiarism are happy to receive high grades and are likely to plagiarize their papers again in the future.
Even though this problem is so serious, it doesn’t mean that plagiarism is impossible to handle. Modern teachers have many tools that allow them to make the education process more efficient. They can use various plagiarism detectors, however, such software won’t fix this problem. The most important thing is to establish trustful relationships with students and encourage them to not be afraid of failure. If students realize that high grades are not the main purpose of their education, the issue of plagiarism won’t be such a big problem no more.