Accidental Plagiarism and Related Stories

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Accidental Plagiarism and Related Stories

Accidental Plagiarism and Related Stories

The Puzzling Nature of Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism is an inadvertent misconduct, which involves inappropriate reinterpretation or misquotation of the original source. It typically occurs in academic writing, as students do not always adhere to the rules regarding proper referencing. The unintentional plagiarism may also occur in fiction writing. It happens when your expressed ideas resemble previously written ones by other authors within the similar literary genre. There are still “opinion battles” in relation to plagiarism types. The recurring question is, “Do we have to assess plagiarized linguistics or plagiarized context?” It is tricky to regard a certain storyline as plagiarism when it is written using different words but may reflect a recognizable setting or sequence of events. Earlier, plagiarizing entailed copying word-for-word. Yes, it’s the harshest form of plagiarism, but it’s not the only type we can raise awareness about. In this article, my main focus is on accidental plagiarism, as well as the particular circumstances in which it may emerge. The phenomenon of cryptomnesia will definitely blow your mind. You’ll realize how essential it is to remember your previous experience, especially in relation to gaining knowledge.

Accidental Plagiarism and How to Avoid It

My sister has recently asked me, “Is it even possible to avoid plagiarism? You carry a paradox within yourself – I remember your article where you pondered on the enchanted Matrix of recurring events and circumstances we are all involved in. According to your idea, we subconsciously plagiarize each other because this is our human nature – the moment we are born, we learn to copy others and reflect the specific elements of our surroundings. Even when I’m talking to you about it, I’m not expressing my own thoughts. Hence, why should we bother about plagiarism? Isn’t it easier to start sharing, not judging others for sounding similar?”

I must say that such reflections made me think even more deeply. Should we have a special system of common thoughts that don’t need referencing? Let’s imagine it as some kind of intellectual treasury from which you can take the essential knowledge and use it for your purposes. Maybe, you will be allowed to fill it with your own views and new investigations, leaving them for other individuals who would make use of your generosity in return. These thoughts only lead to an unlikely possible utopian model of society. So why is it so difficult to share our expertise with others? The thing is that human nature is self-centered. Banally, we simply need the rewards for our achievements. As it is impossible and impractical to create the utopia of common knowledge, we cannot reward only some individuals or groups of people. We have to strive to reward all the significant achievements. Thankfully, we have the system of interconnections and appreciation of the knowledge gained and somehow embodied by others. According to its rules of fairness, you are allowed to use the professional accomplishments of people in your own works, but you are not permitted to appropriate these achievements. To be on the safe side, giving credit to the original authors must be your rule of thumb.

Can You Accidentally Plagiarize?

Every self-respectful writer must know the golden rule of authenticity: never publish the work that hasn’t been edited, proofread, and, what is more important – scanned through an advanced plagiarism detector. So how to check if you accidentally plagiarized? Let’s also imagine that your editor didn’t notice it. It is more likely that a state-of-the-art detector, such as PlagiarismSearch will indicate the unauthentic parts, highlighting the percentage of plagiarism as well as leading to the exact sources with the undesired coincidence. However, you must be always true before yourself. You plagiarize accidentally if you fail to provide references according to certain standards. On the contrary, if you knowingly paraphrase the whole paragraph of someone’s separate investigation, using all the possible synonyms, changing the style of writing, the detector will not see plagiarized parts as it requires some “higher” artificial intelligence to discern it. In this case, you plagiarize deliberately, trying to masterfully conceal the misdeed. Paradoxically, not a machine but a human who knows the exact ideas and results of the original written work can distinguish plagiarism. And who are so hawk-eyed and erudite? Predominantly, scholars and qualified writers themselves, or university professors.

I have a friend Alex, who is a university freshman. Somehow it happened that at high school he didn’t use to write essays that require special references. They mostly wrote personalized narrations, individual opinions, involved in storytelling, so citing sources wasn’t even a demand. It can be said that his first writing composition assignment turned his world upside down. He has got acquainted with a malicious academic monster called plagiarism, and yes, it was the accidental type.

Is Accidental Plagiarism Academic Misconduct?

Before I continue telling the story about my friend’s instance of indeliberate appropriation of someone else’s ideas, I would assert that accidental plagiarism is academic misconduct in its core. You study in order to become a professional in the future. Of course, every expert has had a teacher or an influencer, but you cannot achieve the proficient level unless you learn to process an abundance of information, analyze research papers and other works by scholars and other representatives of the intellectual elite. Proper referencing often saves the situation. In case with my friend, the accidental plagiarism lied in paraphrasing without citing the works he used. He failed to indicate all the authors in his essay because he mistakenly perceived that direct quotations had to be presented with the researchers’ names in brackets while the paraphrased sentences could remain without citing. The problem was that the paraphrased ideas only seemed to be original. In reality, they alluded to the particular achievements that could not embody the efforts of a first-year student. So, there was a paradox: he checked his essay through plagiarism detector and the results were authentic. However, his professor knew the topic of the research and the exact ideas of the unindicated scholar. The ideas were thoroughly paraphrased using synonyms, but the essence and the sequence of their exposition were basically the same.

My young friend was taken aback when he was accused of plagiarism the next day. When writing his paper, he did not realize the wrongness of this kind of paraphrasing. After his instructor elucidated the reasons that led to the academic misconduct, Alex comprehended all the gravity of the situation. However, initially, it was difficult to prove that the plagiarism was committed unknowingly. Luckily, he only received a warning. Alex was allowed to rewrite the suspicious parts. From that moment on, he has turned into the expert of references. Sometimes, I laugh at him kindly, saying, “Each time you have a writing composition task, you start seeing the demon of uncited sources in your nightmares.” He only laughs back and says, “Nah, the Muse of diligently cited works is always there for me.”

Miroslava Meyrink
Freelance Writer.
Elegant soul that finds beauty in everyday things.
Also, a bookworm specializing in gothic literature.
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