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Why is Plagiarism Bad: Reasons and Consequences

Written by Bonnie Adair
Posted: July 9, 2024
Last update date: July 19, 2024
4 min read

Plagiarism in academic writing is a tough area to navigate, but why is plagiarism bad and what are the consequences?

Why is Plagiarism Bad

Plagiarism is when you claim credit for someone else’s work and it’s all too simple to get caught. Plagiarism comes with its own set of ethical and legal issues, making it a risky practice. Academic establishments will not tolerate plagiarism. Guidelines on it and warnings against it are normally clearly identified in student handbooks or code of ethics and lecturers will regularly warn against it.

Six Reasons Why Plagiarism is Wrong

  1. Unoriginal: Originality is generally the most demanded aspect of any work and copied work has no value. Although, you are welcome to present the work, views, and opinions of others (if the sources are acknowledged), your work, views, and opinions are normally required too. Plus, any feedback you receive will not be of use to your development as it is not based on your work.
  2. Theft: Is plagiarism illegal? Plagiarism is a form of intellectual property theft and can be deemed illegal in certain circumstances. Although, it may not seem as bad as physically stealing from someone, in the eyes of the law it amounts to the same crime. However, academic plagiarism is not illegal but plagiarism by a student may be a violation of copyright laws, specifically copyright infringement.
  3. High risk of being caught: In the past it was much easier to plagiarize but with modern technology today, academic institutions can easily and thoroughly check work for plagiarized content (via a plagiarism checker which generates a plagiarism score). Although educational professionals may convince a student that the plagiarism percentage allowed is zero, the greatest amount of plagiarism that academic institutions commonly deem acceptable in submissions is around 15%.
  4. Destroys academic integrity: Qualifications earned through plagiarism are unfair and fraudulent which degrades the value of qualifications, undermines the effort of other students, and can be seen as fraud. Being honest, ethical, and thorough in your academic work is what academic integrity entails. To maintain academic integrity, you should avoid misleading your readers about any aspect of your work.
  5. Destroys trust and reputation: parents, guardians, teachers, and even peers may be disappointed in your behavior and not trust you in the future. You may find yourself being more closely monitored and questioned as regards your subsequent pieces of work and perhaps also during tests and examinations.
  6. Unethical act: Why is plagiarism wrong ethically? Plagiarised material is cheating and disrespectful. We all know it is morally not right. It may cause you stress being worried about getting caught, you may feel guilt, and even if you are successful in passing someone else’s work off as your own, you will not have succeeded in developing your skills or knowledge. If you consider it from the original writer’s point of view and ask yourself “Why is plagiarism bad?”, you will realise that no one (understandably) wants someone else benefitting from their hard work.


There are varying consequences of plagiarism dependent on many factors of individual cases. For instance, submitting a complete paper written by someone else will have the most significant penalties, whereas citation errors made by accident are deemed less serious. Some possible consequences are:

  • Pressure to produce work of the same standard: If you manage to pass someone else’s work off as yours, then your educational instructor will be expecting a similar standard in future which you will not be able to do without risking plagiarizing again.
  • Ruined Reputation: Your reputation at college may be tarnished and you will not be trusted. You may find extra thorough checks being made on your future submissions.
  • Embarrassment: Getting caught plagiarizing can be embarrassing and cause you unnecessary stress.
  • Zero grade: If caught plagiarizing, most educational establishments will only give a grade of zero. Still thinking why is plagiarism bad?
  • Lose course place or qualification: It is possible for educational establishments to suspend or take you off the course completely. They can also refuse to issue a qualification due to plagiarizing. In some cases, they can revoke a qualification after it has been issued, but this is rare.
  • Lawsuits: stealing another person’s words or ideas can lead to court proceedings as current legislation clearly defines copyright law.
  • Financial penalties: You may be fined and ordered to pay compensation to the original writer.
  • Loss of employment: If your career relates to writing e.g., you are a journalist, you may lose your job, and your employer may make your plagiarism public knowledge which can make it difficult to obtain new employment.

How to Avoid the Consequences of Plagiarism!

  1. Include accurate citations: Make sure you understand how to cite correctly and according to the style specified by your educational institution. Work can be cited in Harvard, APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, or another style, with different versions available, such as APA 6th and MLA 8th.
  2. Colour code: Use a distinct color to highlight copied text. If you copy and paste material into a document to paraphrase or refer to later, use a distinct color (e.g., red) to highlight the text until you have put it in your own words and cited it. This will serve as a reminder that the content is duplicated. It’s easy to forget and include other people’s words into your work, especially when creating a huge piece.
  3. Proofread: Read your entire document from beginning to end to ensure that you have included in-text citations and a reference list entry for every piece of information you obtained from another source, as well as that any direct quotes are enclosed in speech marks.
  4. Use an online tool: A student may plagiarize intentionally or unintentionally. Students can be accused of plagiarism for incorrectly citing sources or failing to paraphrase effectively so, try using a free online plagiarism checker tool before submitting any work. This can provide you with an estimate plagiarism score and identity the duplicate content for you to edit.

So, why is plagiarism bad? Plagiarism comes with many ethical considerations and consequences. The chances of getting caught are high and it is easy enough to get in trouble for unintentionally plagiarizing small amounts of information by mis-citing sources or not paraphrasing the information effectively enough, let alone intentionally copying large amounts of information and claiming it as your own: avoid this at all costs! It is much better to develop your skills and obtain a true grade (even if it is low), than risk your reputation, your place on your course, and the qualification you are working towards.

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