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Plagiarism

Plagiarism

It's 11 pm. That history paper you've known about for weeks is due at midnight, but you're just sitting down to start it. You read the instructions and know there is no way you'll come up with an A-grade paper in time. But wait! Didn't your brother write the same paper last year? He had a different teacher, so surely your teacher won't notice. You change the name on his paper, submit it, and breathe a sigh of relief. The next day your teacher calls you into their office. Your paper reads nothing like your other writing, so she accuses you of complete plagiarism. You panic. What is complete plagiarism? What are the consequences?

Plagiarism, Stealing Example, StudySmarterFig. 1. Our actions have consequences.

Plagiarism Definition

Students hear about plagiarism all of the time. People often talk about the importance of not plagiarizing, but what is it? Understanding the precise definition of plagiarism and the different types of plagiarism is critical to maintaining academic integrity and producing quality, credible work.

Plagiarism is the act of stealing another's work and pretending it is one's own.

The origin of the word plagiarism is the Latin word "plagiarius," which means "kidnapper."

Types of Plagiarism

Using someone else's information and passing it off as one's own can look different depending on the context of the situation. Thus, there are many different types of plagiarism.

Accidental Plaigirism

Accidentally plagiarism occurs when writers do not realize that they plagiarized another's work. This can happen by forgetting to cite a source, incorrectly citing a source, or not indicating with quotation marks what information you took.

Paraphrasing Plagiarism

Paraphrasing plagiarism is another form of plagiarism that often occurs accidentally. Paraphrasing plagiarism occurs when a writer uses another writer's work and changes a few words. In order to avoid plagiarism, you need to cite paraphrased ideas.

Complete Plagiarism

Complete plagiarism occurs when people submit another's complete work and pretend it is their own. This is called "complete" plagiarism because the entire work is plagiarized.

Direct Plagiarism

Direct plagiarism occurs when you copy part of someone's work, not all of it.

Source-based Plaigirism

Source-Based plagiarism occurs when writers cite their sources in an incomplete manner. For instance, if a writer cites a quote with a fake source or only cites one source when he used two, he is committing source-based plagiarism.

Self-Plagiarism

Self-plagiarism occurs when writers plagiarize their own work. Although the writer is not stealing another person's ideas, re-using one's own work can cause problems regarding scholarly and professional writing. For example, if an academic is trying to get a paper published, they claim that their paper has new ideas for their field. But if they are re-using old writing, the ideas are not new. Self-plagiarism is also a problem if a writer is paid to write, like for a client or a company. In this case, writers have to use new ideas and not previously published information because they do not own the result of their work.

Patchwork/Mosaic Plagiarism

Patchwork or mosaic plagiarism occurs when writers plagiarize information throughout their work. This is kind of like a patchwork quilt. Some of the assignment is the author's original work, and some of it is taken directly from another source.

Examples of Plagiarism

There are many examples of plagiarism, especially unintentional plagiarism. It is common for writers to plagiarize without even intending to. Sometimes writers forget to cite the source of an idea or do not realize that they have to put in a reference for paraphrased information. In such cases, an author still technically commits the act of plagiarism.

Here's an example.

Imagine a student is writing a paper for English class the night before it is due. He has no idea where to start, but he read an example paper online about the topic. He starts to write the same ideas from that paper in his own words. Since he is not copying and pasting directly from that paper, he assumes he does not have to cite the source. His teacher grades the paper, runs it through a plagiarism checker, and finds that the ideas match the online source. Since the student did not reference the source in his paper to give credit to the author, he is charged with accidental plagiarism.

There are also many examples of intentional plagiarism. It is common for students to be in a rush before an assignment is due and use an assignment that another student completed or a paper that they found online. This type of plagiarism tends to result in the worst consequences.

Here's what that might look like.

Imagine a student forgot that she has a history paper due at the end of the week. She is very busy every day and knows she will not have time to do it. Suddenly she remembers her older sister took the same history class with a different teacher last year. She offers to pay her sister $20 to write the paper. Her sister emails her the final draft right before the deadline, so she quickly adds her name at the top and sends it to her teacher. The next day her teacher is reading the paper and notices that the writing sounds different than the student's normal work. She calls the student into her office and charges her with complete plagiarism.

Not fun.

Plagiarism Tools

Not tools for plagiarizing! These are tools to help prevent it.

Plagiarism, Checklist Example, StudySmarterFig. 2. Avoid plagiarism by checking your work.

With so many types of plagiarism, writers must take all necessary precautions to check their papers for proper citations. Luckily, many tools are available on the internet to check a paper for plagiarism. These plagiarism tools scan the internet to check if a text matches something else online. Teachers also use tools to ensure that their students' work is completely original. The following is a list of plagiarism tools that can help ensure credible work:

Tools to Check for Plagiarism

Many websites scan text for plagiarism. These can be useful for writers to ensure that they did not accidentally plagiarize. For example, a plagiarism checker allows students to upload their writing and check if it matches any other sources online. Searching for "plagiarism checker" online will bring up several tools that can help writers ensure that they do not plagiarize.

Tools for Citing Sources

There are also many tools online that help writers cite their sources accurately and completely. For example, some websites create and compile citations for writers—writers just need to input the title, author, publication date, and other necessary information according to various style guides such as MLA, APA, AP, and Chicago. The websites then format each citation correctly, and the writer can copy and paste the completed citation into their own writing.

Consequences of Plagiarism

Plagiarism can have many consequences depending on the context it was done in. Students in high school or college who plagiarize may face the following consequences:

  • Failing the assignment the plagiarized work was for

  • Failing the class the plagiarized work was for

  • Suspension from school

  • Expulsion from school

  • Damaged academic credibility

Plagiarizing can hurt a writer's reputation. In cases of accidental plagiarism, it may be a bit easier to recover from the incident. However, it is best to double-check one's work to ensure plagiarism is avoided. To do this, follow citation guidelines and mention all sources.

Avoiding Plagiarism

There are also ways to avoid plagiarism without any tools. When faced with an assignment, students should use their own skills and ideas to complete it. Students should schedule enough time to complete their work, so they are not faced with completing something in a short amount of time. If an assignment is difficult, going to a professor or a peer for help can be useful, as they may help clarify the assignment and help students develop original ideas. Trying one's best on an assignment is always better than stealing another person's work. This is dishonest, harmful to one's academic credibility, and will result in a failing grade or more severe consequences.

Writers can also avoid plagiarism by summarizing information in their own words. Using their own words to describe ideas ensures that writers are not stealing the writing from others. Writers can use the strategies below to ensure their writing is original:

  • Use synonyms

  • Use a different sentence structure

  • Expand on the idea with personal analysis

  • Describe the information in a more concise manner

For example, consider the following excerpt from F. Scott Fitzgerald's book The Great Gatsby (1925). In this section, the narrator, Nick, describes his house and says:

My own house was an eyesore, but it was a small eyesore, and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the water, a partial view of my neighbor's lawn, and the consoling proximity of millionaires — all for eighty dollars a month. (ch 1)

Writers should use different words and sentence structures to develop a more concise description of the setting to summarize what Nick's house is like in their own words. For instance, such a summary might look like this:

Nick lives in a small house that stands out among the big mansions in the neighborhood. The rent is cheap but it has a view that people pay millions for.

Plagiarism - Key Takeaways

  • Plagiarism is the act of stealing another's work and pretending it is one's own.
  • There are many types of plagiarism, including accidental plagiarism, paraphrasing plagiarism, complete plagiarism, direct plagiarism, source-based plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and patchwork plagiarism.
  • Writers can avoid plagiarism by citing their sources and running their work through a plagiarism checker.
  • Plagiarism has severe consequences, including damaged credibility, failure, suspension, and expulsion.

Frequently Asked Questions about Plagiarism

The types of plagiarism are accidental plagiarism, paraphrasing plagiarism, complete plagiarism, direct plagiarism, source-based plagiarism, and self-plagiarism. 

Using an online plagiarism checker, citing all sources, and using original ideas in writing are all ways to avoid plagiarism. 

You can check for plagiarism by using a plagiarism checker and citing all sources and ideas.

Paraphrasing may be plagiarism if a writer uses another writer’s work and just changes a few words. In order to avoid plagiarism, paraphrased ideas still have to be properly cited.

Writers can avoid plagiarism by citing their sources and running their work through a plagiarism checker.

Final Plagiarism Quiz

Question

What is the definition of plagiarism?

Show answer

Answer

Plagiarism is the act of stealing another’s work and pretending it is one’s own.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is a way to avoid plagiarism?

Show answer

Answer

All of the above

Show question

Question

Citations prevent plagiarism.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Some circles of academia allow plagiarism.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

You cannot plagiarize an argument.

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Answer

False  

Show question

Question

You cannot plagiarize a topic.

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Answer

True

Show question

Question

Plagiarism can be unintentional.

Show answer

Answer

True  

Show question

Question

Stating a known fact can be plagiarism.

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Answer

False

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Question

Stating research can be plagiarism.

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Answer

True

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Question

Using research for your own research can be plagiarism.

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Answer

True, if you don't cite the research.

Show question

Question

There are only a few tools to capture plagiarism.

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Answer

False

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Question

Many schools and institutions have a zero-tolerance policy toward plagiarism.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Plagiarism does not happen in journalism or the business world.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

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