Types of plagiarism

All types of plagiarism can roughly be divided into three categories. As long as you avoid those three things you don’t commit plagiarism.

  1. Using someone else’s ideas without attribution
  2. Using someone else’s words without attribution
  3. Citing the source incorrectly

The most common types of plagiarism are:

Type of plagiarismSeverity
Paraphrasing plagiarismSevere
Mosaic plagiarismSerious
Verbatim plagiarismSerious
Global plagiarismSevere
Self-plagiarismModerate
Incorrect citationModerate
Non-existent sourceSevere

Paraphrasing plagiarism

Paraphrasing is the act of rephrasing a text in your own words. Paraphrasing 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 different sources, pull out the key points and then rewrite these points as if they were your own ideas.

Additionally, if you translate text from a source, then you also need to follow the rules for paraphrasing. A translation without a source is still plagiarism, as you’re using someone else’s ideas.

Example of paraphrasing

Original (Operario, 2008)Incorrect (no citation)
“Whereas some men mentioned keeping their sexuality concealed from friendship acquaintances or work colleagues, all participants consistently acknowledged experiences of stigma against homosexuality within traditional Asian Pacific Islander cultures and most adapted their self-expression to fit those parameters. As such, compartmentalization of homosexual identity in the family context was common. However, respondents did not view compartmentalizing their sexual identity from their ethnic identity to be ‘closeting’ themselves. They viewed the action as protecting family members from having to confront the taboo subject of sexuality.”Some men said they concealed their sexuality from acquaintances or colleagues, but all the participants acknowledged experiencing some sort of stigma against homosexuality in their traditional cultures. Most said they adapted their self-expression to fit those parameters. So they compartmentalized their homosexual identity when around family. However, many participants did not view this as ‘closeting’ themselves; rather, they viewed it as a way of protecting family members from having to dealing with taboo subjects.
Original (Operario, 2008)Correct
“Whereas some men mentioned keeping their sexuality concealed from friendship acquaintances or work colleagues, all participants consistently acknowledged experiences of stigma against homosexuality within traditional Asian Pacific Islander cultures and most adapted their self-expression to fit those parameters. As such, compartmentalization of homosexual identity in the family context was common. However, respondents did not view compartmentalizing their sexual identity from their ethnic identity to be ‘closeting’ themselves. They viewed the action as protecting family members from having to confront the taboo subject of sexuality.”Some men said they concealed their sexuality from acquaintances or colleagues, but all the participants acknowledged experiencing some sort of stigma against homosexuality in their traditional cultures. Most said they “adapted their self-expression to fit those parameters.” (Operario, 2008) So they compartmentalized their homosexual identity when around family (Operario, 2008). However, many participants did not view this as ‘closeting’ themselves; rather, they viewed it as a way of “protecting family members from having to dealing with taboo subjects.” (Operario, 2008)

Mosaic plagiarism (patchwork plagiarism)

Patchwork plagiarism (also known as mosaic plagiarism or incremental plagiarism) is similar to paraphrasing. It is when you copy and paste together pieces of different texts to create a new text. This includes rewording pieces of sourced material while keeping the structure of the original texts.

This type of plagiarism requires a little more effort and is more insidious than simply incorrectly paraphrasing a source, but plagiarism checkers like Turnitin can still easily detect this kind of plagiarism.

Example of patchwork plagiarism

Patchwork plagiarism detected by Turnitin

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Verbatim plagiarism (Copy & Paste)

You commit verbatim plagiarism when you directly copy text from a source and paste it in your own document without properly citing the information.

If the majority of the structure and words are the same, then it is verbatim plagiarism, even if you delete or change a couple words here and there.

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

Example of verbatim plagiarism

Direct plagiarism detected by Turnitin

Citing incorrectly

The first step in avoiding plagiarism is citing your sources. However, a citation is not enough; you need to correctly cite all your sources. You can either paraphrase (rephrase a text), quote or summarize the original source.

Make sure to follow the guidelines of your citation style. If you’re not sure which citation style to use, you can read our quick guide to citation styles.

It’s also possible to generate flawless citation using the Scribbr Citation Generator for APA Style and MLA format.

Example of a correct citation (APA Style)
Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) concluded that attitude can best be described as a learned manner of reacting positively or negatively regarding a certain behavior.

Global plagiarism

Global plagiarism means using someone else’s work while passing it off as your own. The words are not yours and are therefore plagiarized. This includes having a friend or family member write your essay for you or paying for an essay.

Plagiarizing yourself (self-plagiarism)

Self-plagiarism can be tricky and is frequently unintentional. There are a couple of different versions of self-plagiarism; the more serious being turning in a paper you already submitted for a grade to another class. Because you have turned this paper in already, it is no longer new and original work.

Self-plagiarism can also occur when you use ideas or phrases from your previous papers or assignments. Like with paraphrasing, using pieces of essays you have already completed is not inherently plagiarism.

As long as you consult your professors to check whether doing so falls within your institution’s policies, citing previous papers you have written is not considered self-plagiarism.

For more information about the ethics of self-plagiarism, read our article on self-plagiarism.

Citing a non-existent source

You’re searching for a source to back up a statement in your paper but are unable to find it. The last thing you should do is make up a non-existent source or include inaccurate information about a source. These are also forms of plagiarism.

By doing so, you mislead readers of your paper by pretending that a theory or statement is supported by a source.

Avoid all types of plagiarism

If you’re unsure whether your paper contains plagiarism or not, you can perform a plagiarism check yourself. However, be aware of which plagiarism checker you use. Some find more plagiarism than others and not all of them are safe to use. Check out our plagiarism checker comparison to find the best plagiarism checker for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you plagiarize?

The consequences of plagiarism vary depending on the severity of the infraction. Some types of plagiarism, such as direct plagiarism, are more serious than others, such as self-plagiarism.

If you’re a student, then you might fail the course, be suspended or expelled, or be obligated to attend a workshop on plagiarism. It depends on whether it’s your first offense or whether you’ve done it before.

As an academic or professional, the consequences are more serious. Aside from the fact that plagiarizing seriously damages your reputation, you might also lose your research funding and/ or your job.

Plagiarizing is a serious offense, and knowing how to avoid plagiarism is therefore important. Read more about the consequences of plagiarism and use a plagiarism checker to detect plagiarism yourself.

What is the best plagiarism checker?

The best plagiarism checkers of 2019 are:

  1. Scribbr Plagiarism Checker
  2. Ephorus
  3. Quetext
  4. Compilatio
  5. BibMe
  6. Plagscan
  7. Plagramme
  8. Grammarly
  9. Smallseotools
  10. Search Engine Reports

Each plagiarism checker in this list has been tested to assess how accurately it can detect similarities and to analyze what kind of databases (e.g. websites, scholarly articles, books) your document is compared with. Check out the test results.

Is paraphrasing considered plagiarism?

Paraphrasing without crediting the original author is considered plagiarism and therefore has serious consequences.

However, if you do credit the original author correctly using an in-text citation or footnote citation and include the full source in the reference list, then you do not commit plagiarism.

In order to avoid plagiarism, you must always cite the source in the correct citation format; otherwise, you are presenting something as your own work, even though it’s not.

The difference between paraphrasing and plagiarism

Can you plagiarize yourself?

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

You can plagiarize yourself by, for instance:

  • Submitting a document you previously submitted for a different course
  • Using a section of 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.

Read more about self-plagiarism

Sources used in the examples:
  • Operario, D., Han, C., & Choi, K. (2008). Dual Identity among Gay Asian Pacific Islander Men. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 10(5), 447-461. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20461026
Is this article helpful?
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.

5 comments

Akunna Priya
March 14, 2019 at 7:34 AM

Quite helpful, thanks

Reply

Musharraf Imam
October 1, 2018 at 4:49 AM

A smart crispy document

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Wensley Mutinhima
October 17, 2018 at 2:30 PM

This document was helpful

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Arjan van Laak
Arjan van Laak (Scribbr-team)
October 17, 2018 at 3:06 PM

Hi,

That's good to hear, thanks!
If you have any additional questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Cheers,
Arjan

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Amon Mutangi
June 8, 2018 at 7:55 PM

Well detailed

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