5 Common Types of Plagiarism Explained with Examples
All types of plagiarism involve using someone else’s words or ideas without proper citation. That can mean copying a whole text, copying just a snippet, or rephrasing an idea.
These are the five most common types of plagiarism:
- Global plagiarism means plagiarising an entire text by someone else.
- Verbatim plagiarism means directly copying someone else’s words.
- Paraphrasing plagiarism means rephrasing someone else’s ideas.
- Patchwork plagiarism means plagiarising parts of different sources and stitching them together into a new work.
- Self-plagiarism means recycling your own previous work.
Plagiarism is a serious form of academic dishonesty. You can also commit plagiarism accidentally if you fail to cite your sources correctly.
Table of contents
Global plagiarism: Plagiarising an entire work
Global plagiarism means taking an entire work by someone else and passing it off as your own.
For example, if you get someone else to write an essay or assignment for you, or if you find a text online and submit it as your own work, you are committing global plagiarism.
Because it involves deliberately and directly lying about the authorship of a work, this is one of the most serious types of plagiarism, and it can have severe consequences.
Verbatim plagiarism: Copying words directly
Verbatim plagiarism, also called direct plagiarism, means copying and pasting text into your own work without attribution.
If the structure and the majority of the words are the same as in the original, then this is verbatim plagiarism, even if you delete or change a couple of words here and there.
Most plagiarism checkers can easily detect verbatim plagiarism.
Example of verbatim plagiarism
Paraphrasing plagiarism: Rephrasing ideas
Paraphrasing means rephrasing a piece of text in your own words. Paraphrasing without citation is the most common type of plagiarism.
Paraphrasing itself is not plagiarism so long as you properly reference your sources. However, paraphrasing becomes plagiarism when you read a source and then rewrite its points as if they were your own ideas.
If you translate a piece of text from another language without citation, this is also a type of paraphrasing plagiarism. Translated text should always be cited, as you’re using someone else’s ideas.
Example of paraphrasing
|Original (Cronon, 1995)||Incorrect (no citation)|
|‘Go back 250 years in American and European history, and you do not find nearly so many people wandering around remote corners of the planet looking for what today we would call “the wilderness experience.” As late as the eighteenth century, the most common usage of the word “wilderness” in the English language referred to landscapes that generally carried adjectives far different from the ones they attract today. To be a wilderness then was to be “deserted,” “savage,” “desolate,” “barren” – in short, a “waste,” the word’s nearest synonym. Its connotations were anything but positive, and the emotion one was most likely to feel in its presence was “bewilderment” or terror.’||Before the 18th century, the word ‘wilderness’ had very different associations from today. Far from being tourist attractions, wilderness areas were considered bleak, barren places that inspired fear and confusion – landscapes to be avoided rather than actively sought out.|
|Original (Cronon, 1995)||Correct|
|‘Go back 250 years in American and European history, and you do not find nearly so many people wandering around remote corners of the planet looking for what today we would call “the wilderness experience.” As late as the eighteenth century, the most common usage of the word “wilderness” in the English language referred to landscapes that generally carried adjectives far different from the ones they attract today. To be a wilderness then was to be “deserted,” “savage,” “desolate,” “barren” – in short, a “waste,” the word’s nearest synonym. Its connotations were anything but positive, and the emotion one was most likely to feel in its presence was “bewilderment” or terror.’||Before the 18th century, the word ‘wilderness’ had very different associations from today. Far from being tourist attractions, wilderness areas were considered bleak, barren places that inspired fear and confusion – landscapes to be avoided rather than actively sought out (Cronon, 1995, p. 70).|
Patchwork plagiarism: Stitching together sources
Patchwork plagiarism, also called mosaic plagiarism, means copying phrases, passages, and ideas from different sources and putting them together to create a new text.
This can include slightly rephrasing passages while keeping many of the same words and much of the same structure as the original, and inserting your own words here and there to stitch the plagiarised text together.
This type of plagiarism requires a little more effort and is more insidious than just copying and pasting from a source, but plagiarism checkers like Turnitin can still easily detect it.
Example of patchwork plagiarism
Self-plagiarism: Plagiarising your own work
Self-plagiarism means reusing work that you’ve previously submitted or published. It’s considered dishonest to present a paper or a piece of data as brand new when you’ve already received credit for the work.
The most serious form of self-plagiarism is to turn in a paper you already submitted for assessment in another class. Unless you have explicit permission to do so, this is always considered self-plagiarism.
Self-plagiarism can also occur when you reuse ideas, phrases, or data from your previous assignments. As with paraphrasing, reworking old ideas and passages is not inherently plagiarism, but you should cite your previous work to make its origins clear.
Avoiding accidental plagiarism
While global plagiarism is always deliberate, many examples of plagiarism are committed by accident. Accidental plagiarism usually involves mistakes in quotation, paraphrasing, and citation.
To avoid verbatim plagiarism, always use quotation marks when you want to use someone else’s words, and make sure the quote is clearly attributed to the correct source.
When paraphrasing, make sure you rewrite the text entirely in your own words. Just switching some synonyms or changing the order of words is not enough to avoid plagiarism.
In addition, make sure to include a citation that makes it completely clear which ideas came from the source and which ideas are your own.
The key to avoiding plagiarism is citing your sources. Every time you use ideas or information from a source, it’s essential to include two things:
- An in-text citation that briefly cites the source.
- A full reference that allows the reader to find the source for themselves.
You need to correctly format your citations according to the rules of the referencing style you’re following. If you don’t include all the necessary information or you put it in the wrong place, you could be committing plagiarism.
You can use the free Scribbr Citation Generator to create correctly formatted citations in APA Style.
Generate accurate APA citations with Scribbr
Use a plagiarism checker
If you’re worried about accidental plagiarism, you can use a plagiarism checker before submitting your paper. Plagiarism checkers work by comparing your document to a database of sources and highlighting any similarities or missing citations.
There are lots of plagiarism checkers to choose from online, with different levels of accuracy and security. Read our comparison of the best plagiarism checkers to help you decide.
Frequently asked questions about plagiarism
- What is global plagiarism?
Global plagiarism means taking an entire work written by someone else and passing it off as your own. This can include getting someone else to write an essay or assignment for you, or submitting a text you found online as your own work.
Global plagiarism is one of the most serious types of plagiarism because it involves deliberately and directly lying about the authorship of a work. It can have severe consequences for students and professionals alike.
- What is verbatim plagiarism?
Verbatim plagiarism means copying text from a source and pasting it directly into your own document without giving proper credit.
If the structure and the majority of the words are the same as in the original source, then you are committing verbatim plagiarism. This is the case even if you delete a few words or replace them with synonyms.
- What is patchwork plagiarism?
Patchwork plagiarism, also called mosaic plagiarism, means copying phrases, passages, or ideas from various existing sources and combining them to create a new text. This includes slightly rephrasing some of the content, while keeping many of the same words and the same structure as the original.
While this type of plagiarism is more insidious than simply copying and pasting directly from a source, plagiarism checkers like Turnitin’s can still easily detect it.
To avoid plagiarism in any form, remember to reference your sources.
- Is paraphrasing considered plagiarism?
However, paraphrasing is not plagiarism if you correctly reference the source. This means including an in-text citation and a full reference, formatted according to your required citation style (e.g. Harvard, Vancouver).
As well as referencing your source, make sure that any paraphrased text is completely rewritten in your own words.
- Can plagiarism be accidental?
Accidental plagiarism is one of the most common types of plagiarism. Perhaps you forgot to cite a source, or paraphrased something a bit too closely. Maybe you can’t remember where you got an idea from and aren’t totally sure if it’s original or not.
These all count as plagiarism, even though you didn’t do it on purpose. When in doubt, make sure you’re referencing your sources. Also consider running your work through a plagiarism checker tool prior to submission. These tools work by using advanced database software to scan for matches between your text and existing texts.
- How is plagiarism detected?
Plagiarism can be detected by your professor or readers if the tone, formatting, or style of your text is different in different parts of your paper, or if they’re familiar with the plagiarised source.
Many universities also use plagiarism detection software like Turnitin’s, which compares your text to a large database of other sources, flagging any similarities that come up.
It can be easier than you think to commit plagiarism by accident. Consider using a plagiarism checker prior to submitting your essay to ensure you haven’t missed any citations.