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Persaud might have been under such duress as to plagiarize because the school and his professors placed an insurmountable amount pressure on him. Plagiarism, Persaud probably thought, was the only way to succeed and accomplish his dreams. Yet until the rules of the game change, players are obliged to obey them or else risk their personal and professional integrity.
Preventing plagiarism depends on four main factors. First, students should resist plagiarizing at all costs. This means that students need to be honest with their friends, their family members, their professors, and their deans. When under extreme pressure or in an academic predicament; when they feel like they might fail a course unless they steal someone else's ideas, students need to come clean. Students who are honest about their situations are more likely to earn their professors' respect than those who cheat. Friends and family members are likely to support the student by placing their own pressure on the professor to ease up on the work load. Alternatively, friends, family members, and tutors can assist the struggling student with their coursework so that plagiarism is no longer necessary. Regardless of how the student chooses to tackle their academic pressures, cheating should never be an option. Instead, students need to empower themselves by taking pride in whatever they do even if it means handing in work written in broken English.
Second, professors should become more tolerant of their students and understanding of the pressures they are under. A professor who senses that a large portion of their students might be plagiarizing should question their teaching methods. Asking the class as a whole whether the work load is too heavy is a helpful way to gauge student stress. Professors should always take their students' opinions seriously and not teach using authoritarian methods. if, however, a professor determines that only one or two bad seeds are spoiling a field of otherwise stellar students, then a different approach should be taken. The professor can speak to the students on a one-on-one basis without using an accusatory tone and without embarrassing them. Instead of pointing fingers, professors should first find out why the student might be plagiarizing. Stress, boredom, and not knowing English well are three possible reasons.
Offering the student an alternative way to prove their merit in the class is a reasonable method to prevent plagiarism and still ensure student retention of knowledge. Especially in college, students take courses for their own personal development. If the professor learns that the student does not care about the class, he or she should react in a calm manner and not take offense. Many students fulfill their academic requirements begrudgingly and the professor would do well to recall his or her own experiences to become more empathetic. Failing students because of suspected or proven plagiarism should be done sparingly and only in extreme circumstances.
Third, much of what is labeled plagiarism is inadvertent such as improper use of citations or subconscious grabbing of other people's ideas. Professors should be sympathetic to students who might not be aware of their transgressions and help them devise better study habits. A key way of preventing plagiarism in academic settings is teaching young students how to properly cite sources, how to draw ideas from what they read without stealing them, and how to distinguish between what needs to be cited and what does not. Penalizing students for plagiarizing when they have not been taught properly is simply not fair. Teaching students young, such as in middle school, might be important. Suddenly thrusting the rules of academic integrity onto college students is a sure way to overwhelm them. College students should have already learned how to avoid plagiarism by the time they matriculate.
Fourth, preventing plagiarism on a professional level requires more stringent methods because professionals are held to higher standards than students. Psychiatrists who plagiarized in graduate school like Pernaud might act with the utmost integrity in their current professional lives and should not necessarily be penalized severely for their past acts. Suspending Pernaud likely damaged his reputation and possibly his future career in media. if, however, Pernaud was caught plagiarizing someone else's ideas in a journal article he wrote now then suspension would be warranted.
A preventative approach to plagiarism is preferable to a punitive one. Students and professionals both react better to empowerment and encouragement than to blanket accusations. Ruining a person's reputation or hurting someone's chances for success is no way to nip the problem of plagiarism in the bud. While Turnitin.com and other anti-plagiarism tools may be necessary to diagnose the problem, professors need to do more to ensure that their students act with moral integrity. Infusing ethics into the classroom begins with listening to student needs. If students are feeling so much pressure that they feel willing to purchase a pre-written term paper, copy and paste text from the Internet, or borrow another scientist's ideas for their PhD paper, then perhaps the structure of the educational system is flawed.
Educational integrity is not the students' problem only. Schools are social institutions that reflect the character of the society. Educational administrators should stay abreast of the issues related to academic integrity. Expelling students is an easy solution to the problem of plagiarism: in many ways an easy way out just like plagiarism is itself. Instead of devising clever ways of catching and punishing students, educators might want to understand the root causes of the problem. Stress and dissatisfaction with classes are problems that can be dealt with by altering teaching methods and changing graduation requirements. Educators might need to rethink the purpose of schools. If schools exist to enrich students then students should not be forced to do work that does not inspire them. If schools hope to create a student body more enlightened than the previous one, then they should act in ways that encourage creativity and critical thinking. Essays and articles published in peer-reviewed journals are only some of the by-products of academia.
Plagiarism is a serious problem. No student should cheat their way through school. The act of plagiarizing is wholly immoral and unethical. Any person -- student or professional -- who deliberately and defiantly steals another person's ideas deserves reprimand. Plagiarism runs contrary to academic and professional integrity.
Yet learning how to cite sources properly or using Turnitin.com will not solve the problem of plagiarism on a larger scale. The root causes of cheating include dissatisfaction with the academic system as a whole and possibly of the whole structure of society. Because many students enter college ill-prepared, they should not be blamed for unethical behavior related to plagiarism. Students who attend American public schools are often jaded by the time they reach college. They notice that students from wealthy family backgrounds tend to have better access to a greater number of resources than students from poorer backgrounds. Students know that because their parents cannot afford tutors they might have lower SAT scores than those whose parents can afford tutors. Furthermore, students see clearly how politicians and corporate executives get away with unethical behavior and still retain their positions of power in society. Until structural inequities vanish, plagiarism and other forms of cheating are likely to remain unfortunate realities.
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