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The Consequences of Plagiarism

Annaliese Baron

Ms. Correa

Writing Eo5

February 27, 2018

Plagiarism is a serious crime that plagues students and adults alike. Plagiarism leads to a

tarnished academic or work reputation. If you do plagiarize, you could pay a fine with a range of

anywhere from $100-$50,000 or more, and up to a year in jail, students can find themselves

expelled, and adults could be fired, and may have to go to court for it.

Many famous people have fallen into plagiarizing their work. This happens not only to

authors and songwriters/performers such as Nicki Minaj or J.k. Rowling, but people who made

famous and inspirational speeches. Two of these people were Barack Obama and Martin Luther

King Jr. MLK did plagiarize part of his doctoral thesis, at least accidently. The incident was

discovered in the early 1990s when his widow donated paper to the Martin Luther King, Jr.

Papers Project. There, it was found that parts of his master’s paper were plagiarized from Paul

Tillich. This incident made no effect on his degree, though it did tarnish a bit of his reputation.

Barack Obama also plagiarized part of the speech he made in Wisconsin during his presidential

campaign in 2008. The incident was brought to attention when his opponent Hillary Clinton

accused him of plagiarizing. Obama admitted to plagiarizing part of his speech from Governor

Deval Patrick, but claimed that they were friends, and shared ideas for the speech, and

Governor Patrick came and defended Obama’s claim.

While celebrities often can get away with plagiarism, it isn’t quite the same case for

students. If a student is caught plagiarizing, there’s multiple steps for a teacher or professor to

take, depending on the severity of the act. It’s quite common in schools for teachers to put

students’ work into a plagiarism scanner, or put each sentence or paragraph into Google to see

if it comes up in other websites. If the teacher finds that a student plagiarized, said teacher can
first fail the project or class, and/or require the student to take a class where they learn proper

citation. The teacher could take a more serious approach, where they expel the student and it

goes on the student’s permanent record. Depending on how strict the college is, first time

offenders could face expulsion. According to Seattle.pi, “-two University of Virginia Global

Studies students were expelled from an off-campus study abroad program for violating the

school’s ‘Honor Code’ related to plagiarizing.”(What Can Happen to a Student Found Guilty of

Plagiarism?) A longer term action than expulsion is the ‘Scarlet Letter’. The Scarlet Letter is

similar to being called a cheater on college transcript. The Scarlet Letter usually remains on a

student’s transcript for seven years. This won’t affect the student’s ability to get a job after

college, but it will make it harder to be accepted into another university or college.

` The percent of people who plagiarize (or at least are caught) differs from place to place.

On’s website, it shows a live plagiarism map of Europe, which is updated daily.

It shows the different countries of Europe, with their different percentages of plagiarism. The

country with the least percentage of plagiarism crimes is Austria, with only 8.4% of the

population found to be guilty of plagiarism. Germany comes in a close second with 8.6%. While

Russia is the largest country in Europe, it’s also the country with the largest percent of

plagiarism of 38.4%. Plagiarism is a real and semi-common occurrence in Russia. This could be

because of the large size of the country added to that, that according to an article written by “It’s an open secret in Russia today that many politicians and businessmen pad

their resumes with fake diplomas, either plagiarizing their dissertations or paying someone to

do it for roughly the cost of a midsize sedan.”(Putin’s Ph.D.: Can a Plagiarism Probe Upend

Russian Politics?). This shows that many people, including the Russian President Putin himself,
have plagiarized or at least lied about their diplomas, or dissertations. The writers at stated that “Similar to Europe, in the United States, there is also a massive

difference in plagiarism statistics across all of the states. The plagiarism rates vary from 6.4% in

the Northeastern state of Vermont to a whopping 24.2% in the Southern state of Louisiana. This

significant difference shows the capacity for plagiarism reduction across the United

States.”(Plagiarism Statistics) While the percentages vary from state to state, the worst cases

are in the Southwest and Southeast. The average percent is 15.9% across the Southeast.

People tend to think of people who plagiarize as being lazy or incompetent, but that

isn’t always the case. Many writers who had great careers lost it all because of plagiarism. An

article at wrote that “Dr. Spence was just the latest in a long line of men

who have had once-promising careers dashed by allegations of rampant plagiarism. Last year,

Jonah Lehrer publicly and famously fell from prominence after it was discovered much of his

journalism career was built upon plagiarism and other ethical misdeeds.”(5 Famous Plagiarists).

Dr. Spence was the Director of Education at the Toronto District School Board, but he resigned

when it was found that he had plagiarized all or most of his work including his doctoral thesis,

and he wasn’t the first one to do this either. So, why would you plagiarize something and risk

your career in the process. Scientists and researchers as well as writers, and people, who are

generally thought to be smart, also plagiarize. But why would smart people plagiarize? While it

could be a matter of ethics, a writer at brought up valid points other than

ethics. The first point brought up is the writing skill. People may not be great writers, or don’t

enjoy writing even if they’re good at another thing. The writer at put it

well “Just because a person is talented and intelligent does not mean that they are a great
writer. It is possible for someone to be a magnificent scientist, educator, researcher, artist,

musician, etc. without being a good writer. We see this a lot in research as scientists who, by all

accounts, do great work but struggle to write up their findings in a way that will be accepted.

So, they often turn to ghostwriters or, even more unfortunate, to plagiarism.”(3 Reasons Smart

People Plagiarize). This isn’t always the case though. While the person may be a talented writer,

they could be pressured to ‘pump out’ as many articles as possible, or the deadline is simply not

enough time to write the article. This happens when people are writing their doctoral thesis

and are pressured to finish within the deadline, which is where the phrase “publish or perish”

came from. One of the ‘backfires’ per say, is hubris. The way hubris ties into this, is, since it’s

unlikely for people to be caught plagiarizing their first time, this then often gives people a false

sense of security. With their sense of security and the belief that they won’t get caught, people

can continue to plagiarize, and developing an unhealthy amount of hubris, or arrogance and


There’s more than just one type of plagiarism. While the definition of plagiarism is

simply “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s

own”(Google), but there’s at least 10 different versions of plagiarism, the most common ones

being the Clone, CTRL-C, Find-Replace, and Mashup. The Clone is copying someone else’s work

word for word, and this is usually the example people think about when they hear the word

‘plagiarism’. The CTRL-C and the Mashup methods are similar, while the control-c contains

significant portions of text from a single source without alteration; the mashup mixes copied

material from multiple sources. Finally, the find and replace method is when someone changes

key words and phrases, but retains the essential content of the source.
In conclusion, if someone is caught plagiarizing, they could lose their job, go to court or

pay a fine. And if a student is caught, they could be suspended, expelled, fail the class, or be

stopped from graduating, or getting their diplomas.


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Creutz, Robert. “Plagiarism Punishment.” iThenticate. N.p., June 23, 2010.

Web. March 12, 2018.

Shuster, Simon. “Putin’s Ph.D.: Can a Plagiarism Probe Upend Russian

Politics?” N.p., Feb. 28, 2013. Web. March 12, 2018.

“Academic Integrity in High School.” N.p., June 7, 2017. Web. March
12, 2018.

“Is it true that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. plagiarized his doctoral thesis?”
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“Plagiarism Statistics in the United States and Europe.”

n.p., n.d. Web. March 12, 2018.
“What Can Happen to a Student Found Guilty of Plagiarism?” Seattlepi.
N.p., n.d. Web. March 12, 2018.

“10 Famous People Accused of Plagiarism.” N.p, n.d. Web.

March 12, 2018.