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The case for plagiarism

Back in school, my friends and I had no access to the internet. This was due to our parents' steadfast belief that the internet was the root of all evil in this world. Satan isn't some horned, red dude—he's actually in our computers. This iron rule forced us to write all of our assignments on our own. We did our research in the school library, like the good kids that we were. Days were spent reading encyclopaedias, and nights writing 1,000 words on A4 papers by hand.

Once we discovered the internet, though, life became much easier. I don't think I know anyone who's written even one completely original term paper in their four years of university. If nothing else, they copied from Wikipedia. However, due to some recent incidents considering plagiarism, I have decided to dig deeper into this heinous act. Why do we do it?

Most of us undergraduate students spend the better part of our days scrolling through our news feeds, ironically reacting to nihilistic memes. We're usually given more than enough time to write term papers or make presentations. How do we utilise those two weeks we get before the submission of a 3,000-word report? That's right, we post whiny statuses about how terrible life is, and how unfair it is that we're actually having to work hard in order to get a respectable grade.

That is the number one reason plagiarism is so useful. It's really very handy for us lazy kids to just copy things. I mean, chances are, the person we're copying from has copied from someone else themselves. Originality has no value in this world. Might as well take the easy way out.

Now let us consider a student who genuinely wants to write an original paper. He wants to conduct the necessary research, test his hypothesis and come up with a definitive conclusion. If only it was that easy. In the three years that I have spent in the apparently best school of the country, I have received next to zero opportunities to conduct any meaningful research. Most teachers prefer setting assignments that are extremely uninteresting, and easily available on the internet, instead of original topics relevant to the Bangladeshi context. Why wouldn't students copy from these highly convenient sources?

Even if someone chooses to ignore the internet and carry out the research anyway, who will provide them with the necessary resources? Research requires a lot of logistical support. I once tried to do a survey on the earnings of tong dokans in and around my university, and it turned out to be an absolute disaster, mostly because we were unclear about what exactly our teacher asked for. Students are not expert researchers; they need guidance every step of the way.

Let us suppose, in a perfect world, people end up writing 3,000 completely original, never-seen-before words after finishing the research. But here, the teachers never read those papers. No one ever reads those papers, except that one junior who will ask you for the finished assignment a year later, so that s/he can copy it. Maybe, if the teachers read and gave regular feedback on the papers their students work on, they would have some incentive to not plagiarise.

Trust me, I would put more effort into my term papers than I do into maintaining my Instagram feed if there was any chance of me receiving some recognition for it. Foreign universities publish their students' research work in journals if they're good enough. Here, it'll end up in random print shops. A teacher once told me that she doesn't feel like writing local business case studies because she knows that her paper will show up in Nilkhet the day after it's published, ready for use by anyone and everyone.

Let me end this rant with a true story: a professor assigned 200-page term papers. The deadline? A week. Knowing that he would never read the 200 or so papers, every single student collected the assignments done by the previous batch, and submitted them, almost entirely word-for-word. I hear they even had an Excel sheet to keep track of who was stealing whose assignment.

Plagiarism is really quite addictive. You get away with it once, and you keep wanting to do it. Unless our teachers manage to reward us for originality and the effort it requires, there's no getting rid of our old friends: ctrl+c, ctrl+v.

Source : https://www.thedailystar.net/star-weekend/musings/the-case-plagiarism-1511557

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