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Protecting the Rights of College Students Accused of Plagiarism

All colleges and universities take academic honesty seriously and most schools enforce a no-tolerance policy against plagiarism. Plagiarism refers to taking the work, words, or ideas of another party and presenting them as your own. College codes of conduct categorize many different acts as “plagiarism”—including self-plagiarism.

If you were accused of any type of plagiarism, your academic and professional future is at stake. Protect your rights against wrongful allegations or overly harsh punishment by calling Duffy Law. The highly experienced Conduct Code attorneys at Duffy Law defend the rights of students accused of plagiarism, so call our office today if you would like to discuss your situation.

What Constitutes Plagiarism

Plagiarism can involve intentionally stealing words from others or even unintentionally forgetting to properly cite someone else’s words. If a student does not provide proper credit for the original source, the following may all constitute forms of plagiarism:

  • Direct quotes
  • Paraphrasing a quote
  • Summarizing ideas
  • Misrepresenting research or data
  • Forgery of research or data
  • Using another person’s complete work

In addition to the above, plagiarism accusations may arise if you simply make a mistake on a citation. Even if you intended to properly give credit for the work, a wrong citation could result in serious plagiarism repercussions.

Another form of plagiarism is called self-plagiarism, and it involves taking ideas that you have previously used in academic works or papers and presenting them again for another assignment without properly citing the information. Many students may believe that using their own ideas again is perfectly acceptable since they are not copying anyone else’s work. However, all students should realize that many colleges prohibit this as part of their anti-plagiarism provisions. Even if students check with professors first, they still may later find themselves accused of self-plagiarism.

Plagiarism and the Internet

While universities have always considered plagiarism academic misconduct, it has become a bigger and more common issue in recent years because of the ubiquity of the internet. The internet first gives students access to a wealth of information they otherwise might never have found through book research. A quick Google search will reveal hundreds of websites that may address a paper or research topic, giving students more sources to choose from—and more opportunities to make mistakes regarding citations.

In addition, the internet has given professors the tools to check papers for plagiarism in a few seconds. Plagiarism checkers scan the depths of the internet and point out any instances in which content is not unique. This could consist of entire paragraphs, sentences, or even strings of words, and the plagiarism checker will show the source website for that information. This makes it all too simple for professors to find any possible indications of plagiarism and make accusations.

Even if you believe your work is original, there is a chance that a sentence or phrase is too similar to other content on the internet without you even knowing. All students should put their own papers through an online plagiarism checker before turning them in to ensure they did not unintentionally commit plagiarism.

Consequences for Plagiarism

A plagiarism accusation can result in drastic consequences for any student. The consequences that you may face will depend on your school’s academic honesty policies as well as the nature of the accusations against you. Some sanctions can include:

  • An F on the assignment
  • An F for the class
  • Administrative withdrawal from the class
  • Suspension from school
  • Expulsion from school

Any of the above can hurt your future and make it difficult to transfer to a different college, obtain scholarships, get accepted to graduate programs, apply for professional licenses, and more. An F can destroy a GPA in one fell swoop, and a student may never be able to get that GPA back to where it once was.

While an administrative withdrawal does not necessarily hurt your GPA, you can bet that anyone reviewing your transcript as part of an application will question you about it. Some grad programs or licensure boards will not accept applicants with records of dishonesty.

A suspension or expulsion from school can leave you with unnecessary debt or even with a mountain of student loans, no degree, and few prospects for continuing your education. It is an understatement to say that plagiarism consequences can be serious.

What to Do if You’ve Been Accused

If a professor accuses you of plagiarism, you have the right to defend against these accusations and protect your academic record from negative marks. You may have a formal disciplinary hearing at which you can testify to your intentions and any honest mistakes that school officials have construed as plagiarism. These hearings can produce a lot of stress, however, with fewer rules and procedures than criminal hearings. Always discuss your situation with an experienced college student defense law firm that can help you craft your defense.

In some cases, a professor may try to offer a deal involving lesser consequences if the student will admit to and apologize for the plagiarism. However, a professor does not always have the discretion to make decisions regarding consequences of plagiarism. If you write an apology or admittance letter, the school may later use it against you at a formal hearing. Always check with an experienced lawyer before you agree to anything.

Contact Our Student Defense Attorneys to Discuss Your Rights Today

The highly knowledgeable Conduct Code attorneys at Duffy Law have represented many students accused of academic dishonesty or other codes of conduct violations. We know how seriously a mark on your record can hurt your future and will help you fight against allegations whenever possible. There is too much at stake for college students to not take plagiarism allegations seriously and protect their records by seeking legal counsel. If you are accused of plagiarism, please call an experienced defense lawyer at (203) 946-2000 or contact us online to set up a consultation.

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