The Hidden Risks of Plagiarism in Academia

Academic integrity is still a pressing issue for most institutions. Despite strong policies against plagiarism, students don’t seem to realize the risks of plagiarism in academia. More than that, 86% of them claim they cheat in college. Plus, 54% believe that cheating is okay or even necessary to stay competitive.

But that’s not all:

With so many reputable plagiarism checkers on the market, students continue violating academic integrity. Some purchase essays and other written works from paper mills or peers to get ready, written-from-scratch assignments. And others go even further! They’ve learned to cheat plagiarism scanning technologies with different manipulations: paraphrasing, word rearrangement, synonymization, invisible letters between words, etc.

What makes students cheat so evidently and boldly?

The reasons why students plagiarize are different (pressure, fear of failure, and hubris are just a few). But the problem is that all those reasons are sturdy enough for students to turn a blind eye to plagiarism consequences. They are ready to risk grades, reputation, and even expulsion!

Is there anything education institutions can do to change that, besides promoting academic integrity and talking about plagiarism with students?

  1. Share and discuss the hidden risk of plagiarism in academia.
  2. Use new-generation plagiarism checkers for universities to minimize cheating cases and their unobvious consequences for both a student and an institution.
  3. Educate students about critical thinking, proper academic research, and citations, as well as monitor and discuss their progress, offering support.

What are the Hidden Risks of Plagiarism in Academia?

While some consequences and risks of plagiarism in academia are evident for students, others aren’t as clear as it seems. With the latter in mind, the academic world can deal with their dystopian effect over time.

1) Weak Educational Community

The academic debate and opinion rely on new ideas and arguments to their advantage. By copying other people’s arguments, plagiarists fail to suggest their views on theoretical issues. They lose their perspectives and understanding of discussed topics, and they become unable to choose their own argumentative topics for their works.

What does it mean for the community?

It means no further contribution to the academic discourse. Plagiarists don’t get any need or desire to examine and develop their academic thinking in response to others’ contributions. As a result, unoriginal positions prevent the educational community from broadening.

2) The Human Spirit and Mind Deterioration

This consequence of plagiarism sounds too global and distant, but it will have a place to be in the long run.

Given that inspiration from others’ works and knowledge motivates people to create, plagiarism prevents this process in the harshest possible way.

If not inspired but only ready to use the existing knowledge pretending it is the achievement of their own, plagiarists slow down the progress of the human mind, wisdom, and potential. Sooner or later, it will lead to moral distortion and human spirit deterioration.

3) The Death of Creativity

Plagiarism has a potentially adverse effect on authors. Imagine you’ve created something and worked hard on it, but then it’s been plagiarized bluntly. Wouldn’t it discourage you, a talented author, so that you might decide to stop creating new masterpieces?

Speaking long-term, this could be a significant loss for humankind.

Plagiarism is about the suppression of “idea.” It encloses the boundaries of imagination and strips the zeal towards innovation. As a result, original thinkers shut out and stay in the minority, while cheaters get the lethargic contentment. All this may end with discarding the desire for perfection in favor of monotony and mediocrity.

That’s what happens in academia too. Some students see plagiarism as an easy way to success, discouraging their peers from rising to the challenge of creating original work.

4) Missing Skills

Plagiarists don’t value their thoughts and ideas, missing the opportunity to learn how to express and present them to the world. They fail to develop critical and creative thinking, communication, argumentativeness, and other skills they’ll need in life and career.

Why is this consequence of plagiarism hidden?

Human nature is that we don’t always see what we gain while we’re learning it.

Thus, most students don’t see any practical benefit from writing a paper about, say, ancient Greece and its religion. Indeed, who needs this info in later life? But what they’ll need is the skills on research, taking notes, choosing arguments and proofs, critical evaluation of counterarguments, interpretation, and many others they’d get if they worked on that assignment themselves.

Those who plagiarize will never learn these skills, and life duties may be challenging without them. 

5) Reputation Loss

The hidden risk of plagiarism for students who practice it is their reputation loss that will move beyond the class. Teachers of many subjects use plagiarism checkers for schools, and they will undoubtedly mention the works of plagiarists in staff rooms or at meetings.

It stands to reason that others will judge such students accordingly, doubting in their honesty toward other disciplines. Add to this the negative reputation of such students among peers: They risk to bear this burden through different aspects of their lives besides academia.

6) Issues with Health

This risk of plagiarism is among the most unobvious ones. After years since graduation, when dishonest students have already forgotten about what they did, they may be surprised to notice their immune system is weak.

Why does it happen?

In school, college, or university, plagiarists usually go through two feelings:

  • The stress of the guilt: It happens in case of accidental plagiarism or when a student understands it’s wrong to plagiarise but can’t see any alternative option because of pressure (time, parents, lack of knowledge, etc.)
  • The fear of getting caught: Even when a student plagiarizes intentionally, he or she understands the obvious consequences anyway (low grades, fines, or even expulsion).

Stresses and fear influence our physical condition, destroying it over time. Thus, stress leads to sleep problems, muscle tension and pain, headache, stomach upset, and chest pain. The potential effects of fear include immune and endocrine systems dysfunctions, eating disorders, and nervous system alterations.

Unnoticed in youth, these health issues may reach plagiarists later and make them guess what could be a cause.

7) Economic Crime

Plagiarism is a form of theft. A book manuscript taken from one author and sold as the work of another is a monetary theft. So we shouldn’t think that plagiarism is about academic dishonesty and integrity violation only: Students who actively practiced it in college with impunity are more likely to communicate the same behavior in adult life, influencing the economy.

Those plagiarizing in college have no commercial awareness, critical thinking, or problem-solving skills. Such ignorance and pretermission of duty, gained when cheating to attain the degree, may cost millions to organizations that hire such employees. The costs of employee onboarding, training, and inevitable turnover (as far as cheaters won’t have the skills necessary to succeed) are often underestimated.

Final Thoughts

There are many risks of plagiarism in academia, all of which can result in severe consequences and have negative effects on students’ life in college and their future careers. They risk reputation, influence the overall educational community, weakening its role in the world’s discourse, and downplay the importance of arguments and creative ideas for general education development.

In short, the consequences of plagiarism go far beyond the individual student caught red-handed. Once noticed and taken into account, they’ll help the academic world find the solution to the problem. In the meantime, a reputable plagiarism checker will come in handy.

This article is by Lesley Vos, a professional web writer and blogger at, a platform that helps students and authors with writing solutions.

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