Why is plagiarism a problem?

The fact that plagiarism is difficult to screen for is a problem in itself, but only if there is consensus as to plagiarism being wrong to start with. So why is plagiarism wrong?

Legal problem
In a report to the Swedish Association of University Teachers', SULF, congress in November 2002, Claes Sandgren, Professor of Civil Law, presented various copyright issues within universities and colleges. He stated that, "Internet is both a legal problem and a control problem. Cheating and plagiarism are not more tolerable just because work is stolen from the Internet rather than from a book or magazine. However, the ability to screen has become more difficult, and it is has become easier for those wishing to cheat to steal from each other" (Universitetsläraren magazine, 17/2002).

Plagiarism is consequently a legal problem. It can be illegal in certain circumstances to plagiarise copyrighted material without the consent of the copyright owner.

Academic integrity (credibility)
Academia is built on the tradition of a concept of intellectual honesty - academic integrity. The trust that our world has in education and research is founded on this concept. However, the occurrence of plagiarism risks the breakdown of this trust and subsequently constitutes a basic threat to academic integrity.

Knowledge
The fact that cheating occurs is a direct threat to the quality of education and research. An academic degree should mirror the knowledge and skills of the person being examined; qualities that cannot be acquired through cheating.

Fairness
The fact that plagiarism occurs contributes to the creation of unfair conditions between students. This comes to a head, for example, in competition for internships or employment following completion of the students' education.

Working environment
It is an unpleasant task for a teacher to confront a student with suspicions of plagiarism. This is particularly the case if the teacher does not have access to the original source material. Conversely it means, of course, that the student finds the situation difficult to cope with if he/she is wrongly suspected of plagiarism.

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