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What are the Consequences of Plagiarism?

Published by at August 16th, 2021 , Revised On August 24, 2023


There are many different types of plagiarism. While many people may take an approach in the belief that it doesn’t actually harm, plagiarism is a severe issue, and the consequences depend on a varying number of factors.

Deciding to go against plagiarism regulations can have very profound repercussions, with the consequences depending on the level of plagiarism that has been committed and the view of the university as to what a suitable punishment should be.

However, many students may not fully understand the meaning of plagiarism and could even commit the offence without even realising they have done so.

Also Read: What is Plagiarism

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is neither copying nor borrowing somebody else’s intellectual property, and these terms actually demean the severity of plagiarism as an issue.

Instead, plagiarism is actually a fraudulent activity carried out by an individual to pass somebody else’s work off as 100% their own.

Cambridge dictionary defines plagiarism as:

The process of the practice of using another person’s ideas or work and pretending that it is your own:

The techniques for detecting plagiarism are becoming increasingly advanced, and the consequences are harsher.

For example,

  • The university decided to fire a professor for committing plagiarism and falsifying data.
  • Universities do give guidance on avoiding plagiarism, but good practice needs to begin in schools.
  • A spokesman said that students guilty of blatant plagiarism could be stripped of their grades.

What Does the Law Say?

The law defines that words and ideas can be stolen, as long as there is a record of the words or ideas in a file, book, document, etc.

Intellectual property is the property of the individual, and laws protect that with copyright.

Common mistakes made by students who may not even realise they are committing plagiarism

  • Not inserting quotation marks that show this is a quote and not a piece of information created by the writer.
  • Not correctly citing the original writer of the source.
  • Changing sentence structures and words to make writing look original.

It is perfectly acceptable to use somebody else’s work – it is an approach that is viewed as objective and shows off that proper research has been conducted in terms of the paper topic at hand.

However, to use these sources to enhance your own work, you must cite where the sources came from, and you must do so correctly, with in-text citations and a full bibliography at the end of your paper.

Blatant plagiarism whereby the student tends to know that they are using somebody else’s intellectual property

  • Directly copying a piece of work and trying to pass it off as your own
  • Stealing somebody’s idea and saying it is your own

Most cases of genuine plagiarism have malicious intent; there are no shades of grey – those that commit blatant plagiarism can very rarely argue that it was accidental.

Plagiarism in an academic setting is a serious matter.

While it may seem like something that is easily rectifiable and not something that will cause too much trouble, plagiarism is a serious matter. When it is committed in an academic setting such as college or university, the consequences can be dire.

Some varying people can commit plagiarism in different settings, and for each setting, the consequences will be different depending on the person who governs them.

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Plagiarism and Researchers

When working as an academic or researcher, it is your job to offer your own information; you are very much a benchmark and people look to you to gain new knowledge that has come from your own personal research and study.

Firstly, reusing somebody else’s material is a null point; as a researcher, you are there to expand on material that is already out there, not regurgitate old figures, stats and information. However, in some cases, researchers have been known to take lesser-known papers and try to pass them off as their own.

The consequences of plagiarism for researchers and academics can be career ruining, and they include:

  • Cancellation of clinical trials
  • Withdrawal of funding
  • Criminal investigation
  • Fraud investigation
  • Job loss
  • Ruined reputation

Researchers and academics hold a position of trust that is very often respected; however, once plagiarism has been committed, it will be tough to continue with that standing. Those who have committed plagiarism may, in turn, find it difficult to find another job, or other outlets to fund their research and journals.

Plagiarism and Professionals

Committing plagiarism in a professional setting is not tolerated, especially when an established and reputed firm hires that professional.

Businesses will take plagiarism offences very seriously, but consequences depend on what industry you work in and how severe the plagiarism offence has been.

Some consequences of plagiarism in a professional setting include:

  • Verbal warnings
  • Written warnings
  • Dismissal
  • Bonus loss
  • Demotion
  • Negative professional reference when moving into another job
  • Criminal investigation
  • Fraud investigation

Professionals may not consider plagiarism a serious offence and may think that this is more restricted to writers, researchers, and academics. However, if you work in a professional setting, that means you have to bring your ideas to the table. If you choose to use somebody else’s and pass them off as your own, you are also liable to face the consequences of plagiarism.

Also Read: Top 12 Free Plagiarism checkers of 2021

Plagiarism and Students

Quite possibly, the most common setting that plagiarism is committed is universities and colleges. When enrolling in a university or college, the student agrees that all work they turn in will be their own and won’t plagiarise somebody else.

However, with multiple looming deadlines at any one time, some students are often tempted to plagiarise to pass, and it often has dire consequences for them.

Also Read: How to Quote Sources?

Universities do not frown upon using other research as part of final papers. In fact, they actively encourage this and see it as a crucial part of learning about a particular topic; it promotes objectivity and a deeper understanding of different subjects.

To do this effectively, most universities or colleges require students to use the Harvard, APA, and MLA referencing systems, which correctly cite work and quotes from external sources.

When correct referencing is used, there is no issue of plagiarism.

When students disregard this requirement or decide to pass someone else’s work off as their own, there are many consequences that they can face, including:

  • Having your degree revoked.
  • Dismissal from university
  • Having grades lowered or completely disregarded
  • Official warnings
  • Suspension

Whilst all universities have different policies regarding plagiarism, the general sentiment is the same – it is not tolerated.

Why is Plagiarism So Bad?

Plagiarism, whilst it may seem like a harmless way to gain credit in university because you don’t feel like you are directly impacting somebody by simply using information for your papers, is very damaging.

Authors, researchers, and academics spend time, money, and effort creating well-balanced, informative, and up-to-date works for others to benefit from them. When somebody decides to pass these pieces off as their own, it can cause reputation damage to the original author.

Plagiarism also sets a sloppy standard for students, and if they think it is acceptable, they will qualify with a degree and title that won’t have any serious foundation. This, in turn, lowers the caliber of professionals and can potentially be dangerous in industries such as medicine, as the qualified person will not fully understand their job and position.

Also read: What is Self Plagiarism.

When committed in a work or professional capacity and an academic and research capacity, plagiarism damages any prior work that has been released and makes any future work questionable.

The person whose work is plagiarised can become disillusioned and sick of having work stolen. In turn, they can give up, which deprives industries and fellow professionals of potentially great research and work.

Businesses can have their reputation ruined by one member of staff and potentially move forward having to battle against a black mark that has been created by a minority and not a majority; this can reduce profits and potentially shut businesses down, which in turn means people lose jobs and have their livelihood ruined.

Plagiarism is not something that can be apologised for and forgotten about. It creates a wave of repercussions for many people.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

There are many techniques to detect plagiarism, which means that people can also use these techniques to avoid plagiarism in the first place.

You can avoid plagiarism by making sure to;

  • Always cite your work correctly.
  • Use plagiarism software
  • Effectively track all of your sources – whether it be by writing each one down or digitally saving them. Accidental plagiarism can be completely avoided by working efficiently.

Avoiding plagiarism is easy, and for those who don’t have malicious intent, there is absolutely no need to worry about facing any consequences.

Frequently Asked Questions

Consequences of online plagiarism include damaged reputation, academic penalties, legal actions, and loss of credibility. It undermines originality, hampers learning, and violates ethical standards in both educational and professional settings.

About Jamie Walker

Avatar for Jamie WalkerJamie is a content specialist holding a master's degree from Stanford University. His research focuses on the Internet of Things, as well as areas such as politics, medicine, sociology, and other academic writing. Jamie is a member of the content management team at ResearchProspect.