Plagiarism is a serious academic issue for high schools and colleges. It also carries significant implications for students who choose to engage in this practice of copying or using the written work of another without proper citation. An August 2011 "Time" article surmised that plagiarism was at an all-time high, with over half of college presidents indicating the epidemic had become worse in the past decade. The survey puts part of the blame on increased Internet use.

Personal Limitations

Even if you don't get caught copying work, you experience some of the implications of plagiarizing. First, you defeat the purpose of the assignment, paper or project, which is normally to cause you to review important material or to use creative and critical thinking skills to write. While a degree is handy, part of the point of classroom papers in high school and college is to help you formulate thoughts, outline them and communicate them effectively in written form. Part of the research process is also to learn to properly use information and cite sources.

Damaged School Relationships

Plagiarizing can damage relationships with classmates and teachers. Incidents involving group plagiarism or sharing of work can lead to blaming and collective feelings of shame and disappointment. You may also find friends and acquaintances avoid you because of concerns over guilt by association. Teachers who catch you plagiarizing once also have a hard time believing you won't do it again. Thus, they may become more like police officers checking your work for originality than engaging in healthy teacher-student relationships.

School Discipline

Serious cases of plagiarism extend beyond personal shame and damaged relationships and enter the realm of school disciplinary processes. High schools and colleges outline cheating and plagiarism codes, behaviors and discipline in their student manuals or codes of conduct. Instructors normally have first shot at deciding how to react. On a small assignment, you may get by with an informal warning and a zero. On larger papers or projects, you could face discipline ranging from a formal warning to a few days' or a semester-long suspension. In major instances where final papers or significant projects are plagiarized, you might fail the class or even be expelled from the school. Schools also commonly place notes on your transcript for any reported plagiarism incident.

If students think about the legal implications of plagiarism even beyond school discipline, they might think twice. Plagiarizing an author's work, especially for personal gain or profit -- such as for a grade -- is commonly known as copyright infringement. According to, criminal cases are normally misdemeanors with punishments ranging from fines of $100 to $50,000 and up, to a year in jail. If a student sells his work for $2,500 or more, his crime becomes a felony, punishable by up to $250,000 in fines and 10 years in prison.

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