Why does plagiarism kill a thesis?

Plagiarism – that much hated term, is the scourge of publishing. Whether it is traditional fiction in paperback, non-fiction work on literature or psychology, or online blogs, or printed newspapers – the written word albeit in all forms have been witness to widespread plagiarism.

Considered an offense under the Academic Code of Conduct, plagiarism under this Code is defined as “the presentation of the work of another person as one’s own or without proper acknowledgement”

It is not surprising then why plagiarism has now sullied the so long sanctimonious corridors of academic research. Often students have been found to lift entire paragraphs, sometimes an idea or concept or manner of presentation in their works. While ‘inspiration’ is often cited as a cause for such innocuous lifts – closer introspection reveals it is a propensity of the human mind to always imbibe or adopt that which has already set a standard of excellence.

In the hallowed world of doctoral research too – plagiarism has cost a person his position, and put a blot on their name. Such instances are dime a dozen where well-known names have lifted relevant data directly from other established works. And this is exactly how a doctoral thesis gets killed.

The very aim of research is to explore the unknown, and break new frontiers using one’s own intellectual acumen and imagination. While we base our explorations on past knowledge, we forge ahead into unchartered territory through new thinking. When this happens, a thesis is bound to get affected. It is not only disparaging to the student’s identity – at once it also spoils the student-supervisor relationship.

Since plagiarism is today a norm than an anomaly – supervisors are advised to put necessary checks and balances much before the thesis begins – as well as during the process of research when any probable plagiarism is detected. In fact, each finished section is often studied before it is ratified by the supervisor in order to detect any lapses in the content. Also, even before the thesis begins, supervisors thoroughly inform students about the dos and don’ts regarding published content and effects of plagiarism. Several online tools, as well as offline services which analyse content are also utilised to study content.

In a broader sense plagiarism spoils reputation, both of the university and its processes – and since an independent research initiative is all about building mastery over the subject – any form of plagiarism whether through visuals, or written materials is still considered a punishable offense.

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