WriteCheck Blog

Ask WriteCheck: Why Do People Plagiarize?

In this month's Ask WriteCheck column, a student asks why people plagiarize even when they know it is bad.

Dear WriteCheck,

Why do people say that plagiarism is bad and then people go ahead and do it? How do you even control plagiarism?


Hi Soheyla,

Thank you for your inquiry!  Plagiarism happens for a number of reasons—it may be the case that someone is trying to steal another's ideas or words or it may be the case that a writer simply forgot to provide appropriate acknowledgement for a source that he or she used.  What matters with plagiarism is intent.

Regarding your questions about how to control and identify plagiarism, because so much research is conducted online (finding online resources), it's not difficult to do a quick search of a work that might be suspicious to see if it has text that has been copied from a source online.  The best approach to controlling plagiarism is in building awareness.  Sometimes there are cultural differences that make plagiarism seem almost acceptable.  We've also found that for students, plagiarism often occurs when they don't manage their time well and feel pressured to write papers at the last minute.  Outside of the academic context, if someone hopes to publish something online that contains plagiarized materials, they should be wary of doing so.  Jonah Lehrer and Fareed Zakaria were quickly found to have plagiarized because their work was widely available online, and users could readily see—and check—what they wrote.

Hope this helps!


Published on by kennethb.