Types of plagiarism

Plagiarism 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
Mosaic plagiarism Combining text and ideas from different sources without citation. 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).

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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

Mosaic plagiarism (patchwork plagiarism)

Mosaic plagiarism (also known as patchwork plagiarism or incremental 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

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.

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.

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 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

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.

11 comments

Preston Williams
September 2, 2020 at 7:24 AM

This was helpful.

Reply

Nana's
August 28, 2020 at 11:56 PM

Thank you very much

Reply

Manar
August 23, 2020 at 8:26 AM

if i wanted to use some of the information mentioned above, how would i cite it in order to avoid plagiarism ?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
September 16, 2020 at 1:18 PM

Hi Manar,

It depends on the citation style you're following, but you should follow the citation format for a web page or online article, which usually include the author's name, article title, website name, and publication date. You can check out our guides to citing websites in APA, MLA, and Chicago, or paste the article URL into the APA Citation Generator or the MLA Citation Generator.

Hope that helps!

Reply

Manar
September 24, 2020 at 6:08 AM

thank so much, yhat really helped

Reply

Vishal Prakash
August 5, 2020 at 12:03 PM

Informative

Reply

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

Reply

Wensley Mutinhima
October 17, 2018 at 2:30 PM

This document was helpful

Reply

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

Reply

Amon Mutangi
June 8, 2018 at 7:55 PM

Well detailed

Reply

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