No body wants to be labelled as a cheat. That is something given for granted. In the academic world, the worst sin is none other than being caught as a plagiarist. Getting stigmatized by your peers and society at large is the consequences of being caught.
In the days before the internet era and before the rise of the mighty search engines like Yahoo and later Google, the risk of getting caught if you lift sections of work from others assignment or even published work was remote. This is especially so if you are just writing a term paper or an essay that get filed (and later thrashed). But today, with the rise of the internet and more and more literature, thesis, even essays are published or made available online by authors, the life of the plagiarist is getting riskier by the minute.
I have submitted an article for my column in The Heat which deals with a few examples from my own experience as a research scientist and a college lecturer which I hope the editor will accept for publication.
The availability of many plagiarism detection services with access to huge databases, fast and effective search engines means that to cheat on one’s academic work now is a very risky affairs. Even those who had plagiarized and it seems that their bad deeds were not detected when the work was submitted and accepted, the freedom of information principle and the eventual inclusion of the plagiarists’ work in one or more databases will lay bare the fraud committed sooner or later.
On August 7, 2014, it was reported that prominent US senator John Welsh was forced to quit his re-election campaign due to the exposure of his being a plagiarist. Welsh’s 2007 act of plagiarism for his master’s degree assignment was only exposed recently. The plagiarism committed and uncovered was clearly detected and published in fine details in which the detection software not only picked up “blow-by-blow” the act of plagiarism committed by Welsh, it even pointed to which paragraphs, sections and entire page that were copied and from whom the relevant content was lifted. It was reported that Welsh’s alma mater may be rescinding his master’s degree. Hence being stigmatized by the academic community is just the beginning of Welsh’s woes, now losing his political career is far more damaging.
Once you are labelled as a cheat, in today’s digital world it means that you are forever digitally branded as a cheat. That is the peril of plagiarism. So those who have cheated in order to gain their academic degrees should rightly be worried sick now. This is because someone, somewhere and some time in the future will uncover your bad deeds. It is just a matter of time that you will be caught. There is no escape!