As a teacher of three college students, I was asked recently about what happens if you plagiarize.
My first response was that if you are sloppy or lazy with your writing, it will happen.
But in fact, while teaching, I have seen some wonderful literature – works of genius in other disciplines – come through me without having to be mentioned.
Some of these were published under their own names and without any reference to the original author.
Sometimes students copy another’s work without realizing it.
Sometimes students share their own ideas with a friend. And other times students share parts of a book (or series of books) with a teacher without having the teacher’s permission.
When this happens, I tell the students to check for any plagiarism. If they find a sentence or paragraph that they feel sounds like the words of the original author, they should mention it to the professor.
What happens if you plagiarize?
First, the teacher will complain. Then, if there is a hearing, you will have to admit responsibility. Then, you may be expelled from the school. If the original author is well-known, he or she will take you to court.
The second consequence is typically worse than being expelled.
You will lose your reputation as an original writer. You will lose your grants and scholarships.
You will probably lose your job. Your name will be linked to that of an illegal copycat, which is illegal even when it does not copy the work of the original author.
If the professor discovers your claim that you wrote the original version, he can demand that you either provide proof that you did not copy the work, or that you take the class without giving credit to the original author.
Most universities and most colleges have a department of academics, whose job it is to prevent plagiarism in the classroom.
If you choose to take a plagiarism checker course, the department of academic integrity will help you determine whether the materials you choose to use are acceptable to use in your courses.
Once you receive your degree, you may become subject to Title IV probing. This means you will be ordered to repay all federal and private loans taken for your education, with some institutions making you provide security for the money.
Some computer software companies offer their own plagiarism checkers.
You need to be careful about these programs, since they may not detect all kinds of plagiarism. In addition, if the program finds something you did not copy, it may not indicate it.
On the other hand, these products can sometimes detect titles, subtitles, and attribution, which are considered acceptable plagiarism if the material is not copied word for word.
If you find yourself in a plagiarism quandary, consult with a qualified professional before deciding on the best course of action.