Do Students Actually Learn More Through Plagiarism?

Ok, let’s be very clear, the act of ‘purloining and publication’ of another person’s work and passing it off as your own is wrong and has no place in education, or anywhere else for that matter. The discussion that this question is aiming to raise is whether or not there are some educational benefits in plagiarism. Does the process of plagiarism actually equip those involved with information and learning that they would otherwise be without?

The first step in plagiarism is actually identical to the step that you might take if you are trying to create a solution for a project legitimately; researching the topic. If you have been tasked with finding a solution to a problem then, whether you are plagiarising or not, you will need to find accurate resources to use. This will require reading through materials and matching these to the requirements of the set task.

There are some key ‘learning gains’ within this process and they will provide a student with a wider body of knowledge on any given subject matter. Even those involved in looking at materials for the purpose of plagiarism will have to decide on the relevance of materials and be able to dismiss anything that is irrelevant. Depending on the details of the task that has been set this process can be very complex. Finding materials that are an exact match to the set topic and have a relevance to all aspects of the task will give a student a very clear understanding of the core requirements of this task.

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For a plagiarist the next level in the process is quality assessment. There is no point in taking risks at this level of duplicity without optimum gain. If you are going to pass someone else’s work off as your own you might as well go for top marks. Assessing the work to be used is a higher order skill and will provide learning on several levels.

The assessment process will give the student a clear understanding of the assessment criteria for a task. This is a very useful ability to have and will equip the student with the ability to read grade descriptors and match work to these requirements. In some cases this can be even more difficult than the process of the production of materials. Another learning gain at this stage is that the student will have to read high quality solutions and this process in itself will equip them with additional knowledge and understanding on the given topic.

The next step in plagiarism is more sophisticated and again has many similarities to the process of creating legitimate submission materials. This is the process of disguise. The greatest deterrent in the war against plagiarism is copyscape, the online plagiarism detection service used by all educational bodies to ensure the authenticity of work.

In order to evade detection plagiarists need to adjust their submissions by altering each sentence in a piece of work to insure that they are fundamentally different without changing the overall meaning or context of the answers. This is a painstaking process and will equip the plagiarist with in-depth understanding of every aspect of the text that they are submitting.

There are many learning gains to be obtained through plagiarism and in some cases they can help a student to learn more about a topic than through the legitimate production of materials.

This post was penned on behalf of OCVC.

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