Merriam-Webster defines the word plagiarize as follows:
to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source.1
Look at that—one sentence into an article on plagiarism and we’re already breaking out the citations. Pretty simple, right?
Maybe you’ve never thought of it like this, but plagiarism is a despicable form of theft.
With current technology it’s easy to get caught; and it can lead to serious consequences, both legally and to your professional reputation. Remember that plagiarism isn’t just copying someone’s words. Even if you use someone else’s ideas in your own words, you still have to give them proper credit.
There is currently a great deal of interest on the topic of imposter syndrome, a serious problem where people don’t think or feel that they are good enough. In an article in Psychology Today, Megan Dalla-Camina writes about the origins of the name and how it came to be identified as a syndrome. 2
Plagiarism is the opposite side of this story. When people plagiarize they are imposters, taking the work of another and passing it off as their own. These people are imposters and no psychological assessment is needed unless administered by a clinical psychologist working for the courts. Last week, I was chatting with an international IP lawyer with global offices and one specifically in Brussels, and we agreed: Stealing intellectual property is just a despicable form of theft.
Here is the metaphor we’ll use:
Imagine someone went to all the work to grow berries and then used them to bake a pie, using their special family recipe. They then placed the pie on a window ledge to cool, only for a thief to enter their property and steal it. That is terrible and clearly an example of theft. But what is worse? Imagine that thief then cut the pie into small slices and sold it to their customers, claiming it as their own—that is Plagiarism.
Plagiarism is the worst kind of theft—committed by a real imposter.
- 2019. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved May 24, 2019, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plagiarize
- D. (2018, September 3). The Reality of Imposter Syndrome. Psychology Today. Retrieved May 28, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/real-women/201809/the-reality-imposter-syndrome