Types of plagiarism

Plagiarism is generally defined as taking someone else’s work and passing it off as one’s own. Plagiarism does not just happen with written works; rather, other types of works such as films, music, and even ideas can be plagiarized. But in the academic setting, plagiarism is submitting written work and making it seem that it is one’s original work. Plagiarism comes in many forms, and knowing what these types of plagiarism are can help you avoid committing it in the first place.

Direct plagiarism

Direct plagiarism is one of the most common types of plagiarism.  It involves directly copying another person’s work without changing anything. This copied work, in turn, is presented as one’s own without acknowledging the author/source or enclosing it in quotation marks. An example of direct plagiarism is copying sentences or paragraphs from your sources and pasting it on your paper without citing the sources or enclosing them in quotation marks. Another example is downloading a paper from the internet and submitting it as your homework.

Paraphrasing without crediting

Another type of plagiarism is paraphrasing someone else’s work without giving credit to the source. This involves taking another’s work and writing it in your own words without acknowledging where the ideas come from. An example of paraphrasing without crediting is rewriting your classmate’s entire paper so that it appears different but the content is the same.

Mosaic plagiarism

Mosaic plagiarism is related to paraphrasing without crediting. The difference is that in mosaic plagiarism the paraphrasing is only partial. Mosaic plagiarism usually involves partial revision such as replacing certain words with synonyms, adding or deleting a few words here and there, and taking short phrases from the source and lumping them together. The result is that the paper still has the same ideas and structure as the source without giving credit. This type of plagiarism is also known as patchwriting since the work eventually becomes a patchwork of original and plagiarized material.


Self-plagiarism is another type of plagiarism, and this generally refers to submitting work you’ve submitted before in the past. For instance, submitting a paper on global warming that you wrote the previous year for a course in environmental science and then submitting that paper again this year for a course in climatology can be considered as self-plagiarism. Simply combining previous works to create a new one can also be considered as self-plagiarism.

Accidental plagiarism

Sometimes, plagiarism can be committed even if it is not intended. Such is the case with accidental plagiarism, which usually happens when you forget to cite your sources. During a writing frenzy, you may opt to write everything down and just put citations later. But this can result in accidental plagiarism if ideas that you borrowed from your sources are not attributed to their sources.


Misattribution is a type of plagiarism which involves the attribution of a piece of information to the wrong source. For example, your paper presents statistical data regarding the topic and indicates that the information comes from a journal article by Author X, despite the fact that the information actually comes from an article by Author Y. This can be considered as plagiarism because the source is incorrect and the correct source is not given due credit. Writing essays, research papers, reaction papers, and dissertations among other academic requirements is such a tough challenge that many students are often tempted to take shortcuts. However, as difficult as the process may be, plagiarism should be avoided at all cost, and it begins with knowing what plagiarism is and what the different types of plagiarism are.

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