Plagiarism: Is There a Difference?

By Zach Srnis 

Plagiarism is when someone attempts to pass someone else’s idea as their own. It is seen as academic dishonesty and can result in a severe penalty for the plagiarizer.

Jennifer Pintar, professor and chair of human performance and exercise science at Youngstown State University, said that there is some confusion amongst students about plagiarism.

“It is not just in the qualitative sense, which you see in writing, but also appears in math and science,” Pinter said. “Anything where it is someone else’s conclusion, it needs to be cited.”

There are different levels of plagiarism, but there can be varying levels of severity, according to Pintar.

“Each case is unique and the degree of severity is really about the outcome,” Pintar said. “The outcome matters because the body that determines punishment, which is made up of seven students and seven faculties, determines the reason behind the plagiarism.”

Pintar said plagiarism could have been a case of uncertainty based on the assignment that was given, the student forgetting to cite, or they genuinely tried to pass the work off as their own.

When students attend college, their objective is to obtain a degree based on knowledge, not on dishonesty.

“When a student gets a degree form YSU, we are giving them out stamp of approval,” Pintar said. “We want to prevent them from bad habits that could lead to serious charges in the real world.”

Angela Messenger, coordinator of the Writing Center at YSU, said that there are different types of concerns that she sees in regards to plagiarism.

“I’ve seen students using inappropriate (e.g. non-academic) sources, cherry-picking sources, misinterpreting source material, over-using block quotes, not adequately setting up or assessing quotes, inaccurately paraphrasing, etc..,” Messenger said.

Citing not only gives credit to the original author, it also shows readers how to follow or extend the research, which helps situate the writer among the existing researchers, Messenger said.

On the subject of paraphrasing, Messenger said that when attempting to paraphrase something, a writer should digest the material, and make sure that he or she fully understands the author’s intent before attempting to relay the information to another.

Messenger said that she’d like students to remember that they are still responsible for their work, even though online applications and websites attempt to reduce the workload for certain tasks.

“Online tools that can aid a student in developing a bibliography, [are] often not savvy enough to implement all of the appropriate guidelines,” Messenger said. “As writers, we should make sure that we are using the most current versions of APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.”

Julia Gergits, chair of the English Department at YSU, said that students run into a problem when copying and pasting.

“These days, it’s extremely easy to copy and paste directly from sources,” Gergits said, “The problem is that students are copying and pasting without including the source and quotation marks.”

After something is embedded in their copy, students forget where it came from and move on their way, said Gergits.

“It’s pretty easy to spot changes in style, tone, and content, so they often get caught,” Gergits said. “It may not be malicious at all.”

Student that are seeking help with writing are encouraged to talk with their professor or visit the Writing Center. Appointments for the Writing Center can be made on their website and by contacting wcenter@ysu.edu.

One thought on “Plagiarism: Is There a Difference?

  1. 14 people on the committee??? Are you sure? I think it’s 7 members consisting of faculty and students.

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