Types of plagiarism (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 5 most common types of plagiarism:

  • Global plagiarism means plagiarizing 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 plagiarizing 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.

Global plagiarism: Plagiarizing 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 it is verbatim plagiarism, even if you delete or change a couple of words here and there.

If you want to use an author’s exact words, you need to quote the original source by putting the copied text in quotation marks and including an in-text citation.

Most plagiarism checkers can easily detect verbatim plagiarism.

Example of verbatim plagiarism

Direct plagiarism detected by Turnitin

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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 cite 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 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 than it does 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 than it does 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 structure as the original, and inserting your own words here and there to stitch the plagiarized 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

Patchwork plagiarism detected by Turnitin

Self-plagiarism: Plagiarizing 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 gotten credit for the work.

The most serious form of self-plagiarism is to turn in a paper you already submitted for a grade to another class. Unless you have explicit permission to do so, this is always considered self-plagiarism.

Self-plagiarism can also occur when you use 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 the origins clear.

Avoiding accidental plagiarism

While global plagiarism is always deliberate, most types of plagiarism can also be committed by accident. Accidental plagiarism usually involves mistakes in quotation, paraphrasing, and citation.

Quote correctly

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.

Paraphrase correctly

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.

Cite correctly

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 citation style you are 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 or MLA style.

Use a plagiarism checker

If you’re worried about accidental plagiarism, you can use a plagiarism checker before you submit your paper. The software compares your document to a database of sources and highlights 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.

If you want to use an author’s exact words, you need to quote the original source by putting the copied text in quotation marks and including an in-text citation.

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 cite your sources.

Is paraphrasing considered plagiarism?

Paraphrasing without crediting the original author is a form of plagiarism, because you’re presenting someone else’s ideas as if they were your own.

However, paraphrasing is not plagiarism if you correctly cite the source. This means including an in-text citation and a full reference, formatted according to your required citation style.

As well as citing, make sure that any paraphrased text is completely rewritten in your own words.

Can you plagiarize your own work?

Although it sounds contradictory, you can indeed plagiarize your own work. This is called self-plagiarism. Self-plagiarism goes against the expectations of the reader that the paper you submitted is new and original.

You can plagiarize yourself by, for instance:

  • Submitting a document you previously submitted for a different course
  • Using ideas or data from a previous paper without correctly citing yourself as the source

Although self-plagiarism is often unintentional, it can have serious consequences. Be sure to cite your previous work or discuss the decision to use your old paper with your professor.

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 citing your sources. Also consider running your work through a plagiarism checker tool prior to submission.  

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 plagiarized 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 paper to ensure you haven’t missed any citations.

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Raimo Streefkerk

Raimo is an expert in explaining plagiarism and citing sources. He has been writing helpful articles since 2017 and is continuously improving Scribbr's Citation Generators.