Consequences of plagiarism

There are several types of plagiarism, and if you are caught committing any of them, you will face serious consequences. The exact consequences often depend on both your university and the severity of the infraction.

Some consequences of committing plagiarism are:

  • Having to attend a workshop on plagiarism
  • Failing your course
  • Facing disciplinary action
  • Suspension or expulsion from your university

Therefore, it’s important to understand plagiarism and its most common forms so that you can avoid a black mark on your academic or professional record.

Consequences of plagiarism for students

As a student, you are expected to produce original work that demonstrates your understanding of the course material. Learning from other peoples’ research is an essential part of this, and it’s crucial that you cite your sources of information.

First-time plagiarism

If you unintentionally plagiarize, and you have no previous infractions, then most universities will lower your grade or fail you for the course. You might also be required to attend a workshop on plagiarism and how to prevent it. Some universities might place you on disciplinary probation. The consequences depend on your university’s academic code of conduct.

Disciplinary action or possible suspension

If you commit intentional plagiarism, for example, by copying and pasting text or paraphrasing without a source, you will probably fail the assignment, fail the course, be subject to disciplinary action and potentially be suspended.

If your university finds that you have directly plagiarized, you will likely be expelled from your program and university. Directly plagiarizing a source is the most severe form of plagiarism, and universities take it very seriously.

Some universities will even revoke your degree long after you’ve graduated if they discover that you plagiarized in your thesis or dissertation.

What universities have to say about plagiarism:

What are the penalties for violating the code?
Academic Integrity Code violations are treated very seriously. The misperceived short-term gain from these acts is not worth the long-term consequences of the penalty.

Sanctions for code violations include loss of credit for the assignment, a failing grade for the course, a permanent notation on the transcript, and dismissal from the university. Second offenses will result in suspension or dismissal from the university.” – American University

“A student who is found guilty of academic misconduct is subject to any of the following sanctions:

  • Expulsion from the School.
  • Suspension from the School for a specified period of time.
  • Denial of credit for the course in which the misconduct took place, or grade, or honors, or denial of a degree; imposition of a failing grade in a course; revocation and withdrawal of credit, grade, honors or a degree previously credited, awarded or conferred.
  • Disciplinary probation. Disciplinary probation may involve counseling with faculty or staff; restrictions of student privileges; prohibition in participation on School or University activities or events; prohibitions against holding office in or participation in student or School organizations and activities.
  • Instruction to faculty to give a zero grade on the assignment in question.
  • Instruction to faculty to provide a written summary of the charge to the SPH Registrar in a sealed envelope. This envelope will be placed in the student’s academic file. Should another incident of academic dishonesty occur with the same student, the first envelope will be opened and the information within considered with the new information. In this instance, documentation from both incidents will remain open and in the student’s file.
  • Letter of warning, to be placed in the student’s file.” – Boston University

“Achievement and proficiency in subject matter include your realization that neither is to be achieved by cheating. An instructor has the right to give you an F on a single assignment produced by cheating without determining whether you have a passing knowledge of the relevant factual material.

That is an appropriate academic evaluation for a failure to understand or abide by the basic rules of academic study and inquiry. An instructor has the right to assign a final grade of F for the course if you plagiarized a paper for a portion of the course, even if you have successfully and, presumably, honestly passed the remaining portion of the course.

It must be understood that any student who knowingly aids in plagiarism or other cheating, e.g., allowing another student to copy a paper or examination question, is as guilty as the cheating student.” -– UC Berkeley

Consequences of plagiarism for academics and researchers

In academia and research-based professions, plagiarism is particularly grave. According to the Journal of the Advanced Practitioner in Oncology,

A journal can require its authors to notify his or her home institution of a plagiarism charge or publication infraction (Benos et al., 2005). If federal funding was a part of the publication, an inquiry is required by statute; clinical trials could be held until the outcome is determined. (Viale, 2012)

In other words, plagiarism can severely damage your reputation. Additionally, plagiarizing may lead to the loss of research funding and possibly your position.

Ruined reputation

Plagiarism can ruin the reputation of researchers. In one example, Chinese researchers attempted to publish a plagiarized article to the Journal of Korean Medical Science (JKMS). When they were caught, the researchers were banned from submitting to the journal for five years (Hong, 2017).

If you’re an academic or researcher who has committed plagiarism, you will have trouble finding another position. Additionally, you will have difficulties finding journals that will publish your work or investors who are willing to fund your research.

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Consequences of plagiarism for professionals

If you’re a professional, plagiarism is a serious offense. Many companies will fire you or ask for your resignation. If you’re found plagiarizing, it could potentially end your career, ruin your reputation and reduce your job prospects. The consequences for professionals depend on the form of plagiarism, your industry and your company.

Example of plagiarism by a U.S. Senator

In 2014, U.S. Senator John Walsh was forced to withdraw from an election when it was discovered that he plagiarized his final paper while earning his master’s degree at the United States Army War College (Martin, 2014).

Eventually, after following its established procedures for investigating academic misconduct, the War College rescinded Walsh’s master’s degree. The procedure included running Walsh’s paper through a plagiarism detection software (Martin, 2014).

Serious repercussions of plagiarism

If you plagiarize at work, you will most likely lose any possibility of a raise, promotion or even a positive recommendation. While public figures and writers often bear the most serious repercussions of plagiarism, this does not mean that other professionals do not have to face strict consequences at work.

Read real stories about prominent individuals who were caught plagiarizing: Stephen Ambrose, Joe Biden, Monica Crowley, Jane GoodallFareed ZakariaJonah Lehrer, and Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

In addition to the consequences outlined above, plagiarizers can face serious legal consequences, whether they are students or working professionals.

Copyright infringement

The biggest issue is copyright infringement. If you plagiarize, the author of the original text might have legal grounds to sue you. If the author wins, you will have to pay monetary restitutions. This is in addition to any legal fees you may incur during the process.

3 tips for avoiding plagiarism

Avoiding plagiarism might feel overwhelming, but here are three rules you can follow to ensure you avoid this academic misstep:

  1. Cite your sources.
  2. Keep track of your sources. This includes saving them online or directly to your computer.
  3. Use a plagiarism checker, even if you’re confident that you haven’t plagiarized.


Both universities and businesses take plagiarism seriously. Committing plagiarism carries a huge risk to your reputation and your future opportunities, so take proper care to prevent it in your work.

For students, plagiarizing could derail your entire career path. Many universities will put the infraction on your permanent record, which will follow you into graduate school and beyond.

For professionals, having the reputation of a plagiarist could end your career, especially if your job is related to writing, publication or public service. Plus, you may face serious legal repercussions and incur high expenses related to legal fees.

Plagiarism checkers for students

The Scribbr Plagiarism Checker detects similarities between your paper and a comprehensive database of web and publication content. Within 10 minutes, you can make sure you have not (accidentally) plagiarized.

We also compared the best plagiarism checkers for research papers. For each plagiarism checker you can find the plagiarism percentage it detected in our test documents and read a more in-depth review about the pros and cons.

Scribbr plagiarism checkerPlagiarism checker comparison


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Lorenza Shabe

Lorenza is an academic writing expert. She has a Master's in English Literature and Creative Writing and a background in Political Science. She works tirelessly on improving Scribbr's Knowledge Base content.

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