Types of plagiarism (incl. examples)

Plagiarism is a type of academic dishonesty. It means using someone else’s words or ideas without proper attribution. The most common types of plagiarism are:

Type of plagiarism Definition Severity
Global plagiarism Presenting an entire text by someone else as your own work. Severe
Paraphrasing plagiarism Rephrasing someone else’s ideas without citation. Serious
Verbatim plagiarism Directly copying a passage of text without citation. Serious
Patchwork plagiarism Combining text and ideas from different sources without citation. Serious
Incremental plagiarism Inserting content from other works into your assignment without properly citing the original source. Serious
Self-plagiarism Reusing passages and ideas from your own previously submitted work. Moderate
Incorrect citation Failing to give all the necessary information in your source citation. Moderate

Global plagiarism

Global plagiarism means taking an entire work by someone else and passing it off as your own. 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 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.

Paraphrasing plagiarism

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 key points as if they were your own ideas.

Additionally, if you translate a piece of text from another language, you need correctly cite the original source. A translation without a source is still plagiarism, 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).

What is your plagiarism score?

Compare your paper with over 60 billion web pages and 30 million publications.

  • Best plagiarism checker of 2020
  • Plagiarism report & percentage
  • Largest plagiarism database

Scribbr Plagiarism Checker

Verbatim plagiarism (copy & paste)

You commit verbatim plagiarism when you directly copy text from a source and paste it into your own document 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.

Example of verbatim plagiarism

Direct plagiarism detected by Turnitin

Patchwork plagiarism (mosaic plagiarism)

Patchwork plagiarism (also known as mosaic plagiarism) means copying phrases, passages and ideas from different sources and putting them together to create a new text. This includes slightly rephrasing passages while keeping many of the same words and structure as the original.

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

Incremental plagiarism

Incremental plagiarism means inserting quotes, passages, or excerpts from other works into your assignment without properly citing the original source.

Even if the vast majority of the text is yours, including any content that isn’t without citing it is plagiarism.

Plagiarizing your own work (self-plagiarism)

Self-plagiarism means reusing work that you’ve previously submitted. Even though it’s your own work, 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.

There are a couple of different versions of self-plagiarism. The more serious 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.

Your institution might have specific policies on self-plagiarism (for example, about whether it’s acceptable to incorporate parts of previous papers into your thesis or dissertation). Consult with your instructors if you’re unsure.

Citing incorrectly

The key to avoiding plagiarism is citing your sources. 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. Most styles require in-text citations plus a reference list or bibliography at the end of your paper, where you give full details of every source you cited.

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.

You can use the free Scribbr Citation Generator to create correctly-formatted APA style citations or MLA style citations.

Avoid all types of plagiarism

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

What happens if you plagiarize?

The consequences of plagiarism vary depending on the type of plagiarism and the context in which it occurs. For example, submitting a whole paper by someone else will have the most severe consequences, while accidental citation errors are considered less serious.

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, plagiarizing seriously damages your reputation. You might also lose your research funding and/or your job, and you could even face legal consequences for copyright infringement.

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.

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.

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.  

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.