Universities Punish Plagiarism


Discuss about the Universities Punish Plagiarism.



Various universities tend to be so stringent about plagiarism on account of the following reasons.

Plagiarism amounts to cheating and hence is unfair on the fellow students. It provides a relatively easier manner to complete assignments and score marks. If this is not punished, then others would start doing the same and the rules of the game would be bent forever. Hence, punishing this is justified on the grounds of both utilitarianism and deontology ethics. By punishing plagiarism, the universities tend to serve the greater cause of society since it provides incentive for students not to indulge in plagiarism. Further, this also ensures justice by eliminating any fair advantage and is a duty on the part of the university (Gorges, 2011).

If plagiarism goes unpunished, it is likely that its prevalence would catch up and gradually erode the quality of the papers that are frequently published in various journals of repute. These act as repository of knowledge and it is in society’s greater interest to provide incentive to contribute to new knowledge (Anderson, 1998).

Plagiarism is punished by universities since it is unfair to the researcher whose work has been plagiarised. This amounts of stealing of intellectual capital and for justice and fairness to prevail, it is imperative that universities must take stringent actions (Edgar, 2003). The action of university can also be justified using deontological ethics since if the university tends to be lenient with plagiarism, then others would also emulate the same and gradually this would lead to higher acceptability of plagiarism and hence divert any incentive for any researcher to engage in any fresh or non-plagiarised research work (Granitz & Loewy, 2007).

Plagiarism causes the university degree to devaluate as adherence to plagiarism lowers the standards. This would give rise to tragedy of the commons problem as some students who indulge in plagiarism if left without punishment would indulge again in the same behaviour and eventually would cause disrepute to the university or the academic program (Gorges, 2011). As a result, the other students who have upheld academic integrity would also duffer and this would be unfair to them. Thus, to prevent such situation, universities tend to be very stringent regarding plagiarism and tend to provide punishment to the students who engage in the same.

Plagiarism needs to be punishment by the universities so as to reinforce amongst them the contours of morality and how to distinguish moral and immoral actions. This goes a long way in providing guidance to the students for their future and hence is beneficial for the larger society since it puts the emphasis on acting in an ethical manner which is pivotal in the midst of declining moral standards in the society. Hence, punishing to an extent also contributes to the moral fabric of the society in its own ways (West, Ravenscroft & Schrader, 2004).

Penalties of plagiarism; condone or condemn?

There is question with regards to acceptable penalties that must be extended to cases of plagiarism. While there are some which suggested that it is not a very serious offence especially if pursued in universities at graduate level and hence should be merely condoned but on the other hand, others suggest the plagiarism needs to condemned at all levels as it is menace which needs to be kept within limits at all levels of education and research irrespective of the implications of plagiarism. Most universities tilt towards condemning of plagiarism as condoning it could lead to a menace (Plagiarism Today, 2011)It is noteworthy that condoning plagiarism would lead to its increased incidence and not only will it hamper originality from prosperity, it would be injustice with the original writer not to be given the credit. This kind of behaviour would not get sanction from the ideals of justice, fairness, virtue ethics, utilitarianism or deontological ethics. Condoning plagiarism has severe costs but it does not serve any purpose in the society.


Evaluating the situation from a deontological ethics position, if the right thing to do is to condone plagiarism, imagine a situation where every university and organisation condones plagiarism, then in such world the academic research would come to a standstill which is clearly not a desirable situation (Anderson, 1998). Further, from a justice point of view, the approach of condoning plagiarism is unfair to the personal who has originally written the content. It is but fair and virtuous to give credit to the author from whose work a particular information or knowledge has been taken by the student or researcher (Edgar, 2003). Condoning plagiarism at the initial stages may result in conditioning the student in a manner which does not take into consideration academic theft as an offence or a particular immoral activity, It is imperative that such situation needs to be avoided which can be achieving by condemning plagiarism as an offence at all levels. However, on a case to case basis certain degree of flexibility with regards to allowance may be given (O’Rurke, 2007).


From the above discussion, it is imperative that plagiarism is a multi- pronged phenomenon which has profound ethical and legal implications. It has a close relations with the effectiveness of education and learning outcomes. The intervention of universities in checking plagiarism is justified on a plethora of grounds by substantiating the various theories of ethics. Firstly, not punishing the act of plagiarism would be outrightly unfair to the author whose work has been stolen without giving the due credit. Secondly, it would eventually lower the level of education and academic research as if every individual has incentive to indulge in plagiarism, then new research would become scarce. Thirdly, punishing plagiarism is a way to provide incentives for students not to indulge in such activities as indulgence would be punished. Fourthly, if plagiarism is not punished then the value of the degree, research or program would be deteriorated in academic circle and this would ruin the career of even those who do not indulge in such unethical practices. As a result, it is imperative not to condone plagiarism but it should be condemned at all level using all available means so as to keep its incidence within acceptable limits.


Anderson, J 1998, Plagiarism, Copyright Violation, and Other Thefts of Intellectual Property, McFarland Publishers, Jefferson


Edgar, SL 2003, Morality and Machines, 2nd ed., Jones and Bartlett Publishers, New York


Gorges, B 2011, Why punish plagiarists?, Teleogistic, Available online from https://teleogistic.net/2009/11/11/why-punish-plagiarists/ (Accessed on August 30, 2016)


Granitz, N & Loewy, D 2007, ‘Applying Ethical Theories: Interpreting and Responding to Student Plagiarism’, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 72, No.3. pp.293-306


O’Rurke, M 2007, The Copycat Syndrome,  Slate Website, Available online from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_highbrow/2007/01/the_copycat_syndrome.html (Accessed on August 30, 2016)


Plagiarism Today 2011, What Should the Punishment for Plagiarism Be?, Plagiarism Today, Available online from https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2011/05/17/what-should-the-punishment-for-plagiarism-be/ (Accessed on August 30, 2016)


West T, Ravenscroft S & Schrader C 2004, ‘Cheating and Moral Judgment in the College Classroom: A Natural Experiment’, Journal of Business Ethics Vol. 54, No. 2, pp. 173–183.

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