Being Accused of Plagiarism

by Dr. Alan June 22, 2020

It haunts me to this day.

In high school, I disliked peer review sessions because most of my classmates handed my work back to me without any useful comments. As a result, I reviewed my assignments over and over again by myself.

In all my years of doing peer review, I have not had a single person tell me I plagiarized something. This is because I never copied anyone’s work and tried to pass it off as my own. I cite my sources using the citation style requested by my teachers. I embed my citations in the essay itself as well as creating a works cited list attached at the end.

In my first year of university, I took a creative nonfiction course. The professor made us do a peer review of our final essays. She randomly assigned us into smaller groups, telling us to look over each other’s papers and provide constructive feedback. Furthermore, she allowed the class to include both prose and poetry in our papers if we wanted.


Spend time, Cultivating ideas and expressing them rather than copying


As a reader and writer of poems, I wanted to create my own.

In the draft of my essay, I began by introducing my topic in regards to slavery and depression. At the end, I included a poem that I wrote myself.

We started by passing our essays around.

My group had three people in it, including myself.

An Asian woman sat on my left. Let’s call her Li. On my right was a Caucasian man. Let’s call him Jon.

We formed a circle and faced each other. Our group decided to start with mine first.

Once they finished, Jon narrowed his eyes. He repeatedly told me to cite my poem. Jon thought I stole the words from somewhere else.

I tried to explain to him I wrote the piece myself. But he continued to believe I plagiarized the poem from a professional poet. Li came to my defence by telling him the poem was my original work.

To this day, I do not think he believed either of us.

I will never forget the feeling of having a peer accuse me of plagiarism.

I felt sick to my stomach.

After all, I fell in love with reading as a child. I started writing because stories written by others inspired me to create my own. Therefore, I have all the respect in the world for writers, so I would never plagiarize, especially not intentionally.

As a writer, I would hate to find out someone else copied my work and claimed it as their own.

Even now, I am careful when I conduct research. I know students struggle with citing sources, but I make every effort to make sure I give credit where it is due.

I will be the first to admit I am not perfect. But I do not ever want to be labelled as a thief. I cannot stand the idea of stealing intellectual property.

Growing up, I wanted to be an IP lawyer. I did not care so much about making a lot of money. However, I did care about people’s ideas. While ideas are not tangible, they still belong to the individual who came up with them. As a result, society has a responsibility to protect intellectual property.


Plagiarism a Nightmare


The older I get, the more I believe no one should steal anything from anyone regardless of what the thing in question is. Moreover, nobody who commits plagiarism deserves to get away with the act without facing the appropriate consequences.

University has taught me that you can work extremely hard on an essay, but if you plagiarize, all your hard work goes down the drain. Every semester, all my professors remind the class about academic integrity. Even though many upper class students snooze through this part of the lecture because they have heard the same spiel often enough, I try not to. I think back to the time Jon accused me of stealing. Then I imagine all those who do steal.

I know for a fact I am not the best writer in the world. I do not even consider myself a great writer. But I pride myself on working hard. English is not my first language. I grew up in a Cantonese speaking household. I got my first exposure of English once I started school. Thus, I worked hard to learn how to read and write. Once I got the basics down, I made myself improve my writing by practicing often.

Although I can look back and laugh at the fact someone in my class thought a professional poet wrote my poem, I still hate being accused of plagiarism.

I want to work for the things I have. I want to spend time cultivating my ideas and expressing them rather than copying what someone else has said, even if others can say it better than I ever can.

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