Overview of Terms: The Common Types of Plagiarism
“To plagiarize” comes from the Latin word “plagiare” which
means, “to kidnap.” There are many ways to “kidnap” or
steal ideas, both intentional and unintentional. As a member of
an academic community that takes the sharing of ideas and information
very seriously, it is important to avoid even the suspicion of
plagiarism. To that end, it is your responsibility to learn how
to cite your sources. It is also important to remember that understanding
your materials is paramount to writing a good paper, and that plagiarizing
reveals a lack of confidence in your own understanding. If you
are ever tempted to kidnap someone else’s words or ideas – think
again – and go to your professor for help.
There are different types and degrees of plagiarism. We've defined
the most common types below and have provided links to examples.
Direct plagiarism is the word-for-word transcription
of a section of someone else’s work without attribution.
The deliberate plagiarism of someone else's work is unethical,
dishonest, and grounds for disciplinary actions, including expulsion.
Self-plagiarism occurs when a student submits his or her own
previous work, or mixes parts of previous works, without permission
all professors involved. For example, it would be unacceptable
to incorporate part of a term paper you wrote in high school
into a paper assigned in a college course. Self-plagiarism
also applies to submitting the same piece of work for assignments
in different classes without previous permission from both professors.
Mosaic Plagiarism occurs when a student borrows
phrases from a source without using quotation marks, or finds synonyms
author’s language while keeping to the same general structure
and meaning of the original. Sometimes called “patch writing,” this
kind of paraphrasing, whether intentional or not, is academically
dishonest and punishable – even if you footnote your source!
Accidental plagiarism occurs when a person neglects to cite
their sources, or misquotes their sources, or unintentionally
a source by using similar words, groups of words, and/or sentence
structure without attribution. (See
example for mosaic plagiarism.)
Students should learn how to cite their sources and to take careful
and accurate notes when doing research. (See the Note-Taking section on the Academic Honesty page.) Cases of accidental plagiarism
are taken seriously and they can be brought before a school’s