The only way to prevent plagiarism is through education. A student, especially a new student, must be thoroughly educated on the subject of plagiarism. It is a serious offense, whether in school, or in a career. While in school, it can be the cause of a zero on an assignment, or a failed grade in a course. Worst case scenario, it can get you expelled from school. Once you’re in the workforce your job may require you to write paper or articles. There can be serious consequences without a thorough understanding of plagiarism.
Plagiarism is defined by dictionary.com as the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work. The specific formats (MLA, APA, etc) can be a little confusing but basically you cannot present another person’s work as your own without giving credit where credit is due.
Plagiarism can happen from lack of organization. Take the case of Doris Kearns Goodwin. Ms. Goodwin is (was) a noted author and historian. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1995. She was completely disgraced and resigned from the Pulitzer board when it became public that she had plagiarized another author’s work. Ms. Goodwin claimed it was simply a lack of organized note taking when she failed to cite her source. Whether she was telling the truth or not really doesn’t matter. The damage was done, and a respectable career is over.
Teachers need to stress the importance of plagiarism at all times. Students need to understand what plagiarism consists of. I know I was surprised to learn that you can plagiarize yourself! If you use information from a paper you had previously published, you must cite your own work!
To an extent, it is human nature to try to get away with something. Have you ever known a child that never tried to pull a fast one? The students who plagiarize deliberately will get caught. More than likely it will be sooner rather than later, with all the plagiarism detection software that is available. There isn’t an adequate way to prevent a deliberate cheater. Those students are lacking an ethical education that can’t be taught in a semester.
For the students who plagiarize entirely by accident, education is the only way. Perhaps, plagiarism should be a course in high school. If you do not pass with an A, you’ll take it over and over again, until you know everything there is to know about plagiarism.