8 Most Common Types of Plagiarism And How To Avoid Them

Plagiarism can sound scary and daunting. From verbatim to paraphrasing plagiarism, the unauthorised borrowing of someone’s work can take many forms. Surprisingly, even reusing your own previous works can be considered self-plagiarism, especially if citations are missing. 

Understanding and avoiding this plagiarism is more crucial than ever. From severe academic disciplinary actions to tarnished professional reputations, the consequences of plagiarism are profound.

The 8 most common types of plagiarism are:

  • Direct
  • Accidental
  • Mosaic
  • Source-Based
  • Verbatim
  • Patchwork
  • Paraphrasing
  • Self 

In this guide, explore the different types of plagiarism and arm yourself with the knowledge to steer clear of them. Whether you’re drafting a term paper or diving deep into research, ensuring your work’s authenticity is paramount. 

8 Most Common Types of Plagiarism And How To Avoid Them

What is plagiarism, and why should it be avoided?

In academic and professional spheres, understanding plagiarism is crucial. Simply put, plagiarism is the act of using someone else’s work without proper attribution.

The Walden University Student Handbook describes it as the “use of intellectual material produced by another person without acknowledging its source.” When producing research work, you should aim to avoid plagiarism for these reasons:

  1. Upholding Academic and Professional Integrity: Plagiarism compromises the integrity of academic and professional work. When individuals present someone else’s ideas, research, or expressions as their own, they’re not only deceiving their readers or audience but also diminishing the value of genuine efforts and original work. 
  2. Ensuring Personal Growth and Learning: The process of researching, understanding, analysing, and then expressing ideas in one’s own words is integral to learning. Plagiarism sidesteps this process.
    By plagiarising, individuals rob themselves of the opportunity to think critically, hone their writing skills, and fully understand the subject matter. 
  3. Avoiding Severe Consequences: Academic and professional institutions take plagiarism seriously, and the consequences of plagiarising can be severe.
    This can range from failing grades on assignments or courses, expulsion from academic institutions, damage to professional reputation, to potential legal ramifications in cases when there is copyright infringement.

8 Most Common Types of Plagiarism

There are various types of plagiarism, some more common than others.

Type of PlagiarismDescription
Direct PlagiarismCopying another’s work word-for-word without attribution.
Accidental PlagiarismUnintentional plagiarism during research and writing.
Mosaic PlagiarismAssembling text from multiple sources without citing them.
Source-Based PlagiarismCiting false references to give credibility.
Verbatim PlagiarismCopying information directly without citation.
Patchwork PlagiarismCombining pieces from different sources, often without proper citation.
Paraphrasing PlagiarismRestating someone else’s content using your words without citation.
Self-PlagiarismRecycling one’s own previous work without citation.

Direct Plagiarism

Direct plagiarism is a common type of plagiarism where an individual copies another’s work word-for-word without offering any attribution or citation.

It’s as if one were to ‘copy and paste’ someone else’s work and submit it as their own, a stark breach of academic and professional integrity.

Consider an example here: A definition of communication by Napoleon is copied verbatim by a student. This student fails to put the copied content within quotation marks or cite Napoleon as the source. Such direct lift is an unmistakable form of plagiarism, and most overt one too.

Direct plagiarism contrasts from other types of plagiarism, where the content might be stitched together from multiple sources or slightly paraphrased, yet still lacking proper citation.

Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism is an unintentional form of plagiarism that can manifest during the research and writing process. Unlike direct plagiarism, accidental plagiarism might occur when a researcher unintentionally fails to cite sources or paraphrases improperly.

Manuscripts submitted to journals are usually checked for similarity with published sources. Journals employ sophisticated plagiarism checkers, such as Authenticate and Turnitin, to detect any unintentional overlaps.

While some might think there’s a specific percentage threshold of similarity that’s acceptable, the reality is every manuscript is examined thoroughly, regardless of the similarity percentage, to determine if plagiarism occurs.

To avoid this common type of plagiarism:

  • Paraphrase effectively: Writers should express another’s ideas in their own words and still provide citation. It’s also vital to use a range of sources and not continually cite from the same article.
  • Use quotation marks appropriately: This is key when quoting word-for-word
  • Ensuring good citation techniques: Use a combination of diligent note-taking, ensuring you cite your sources correctly, and occasional use of online plagiarism tools is recommended.

Mosaic Plagiarism

In the vast landscape of different types of plagiarism, mosaic plagiarism stands out as a particularly crafty kind. It is a form of patchwork plagiarism occurs when a writer submits work that assembles multiple text segments from various sources, neglecting to cite them. 

Essentially, it’s a patchwork of content, pulled from different places, forming a deceptive mosaic of authenticity.

This type of plagiarism can be deceptively difficult to spot without plagiarism checker tools. You generally need to use tools such as Turnitin to detect Mosaic plagiarism.

Run the text through the software, and it should highlight the copied content, pinpointing exact sources of the borrowed information.

To avoid mosaic plagiarism, always:

  • Paraphrase and cite the sources
  • Use quotation marks for word-for-word borrowed content
  • Write in your unique voice to prevent unintentional copying.
  • Always use a plagiarism checker to double check your work.

Source-Based Plagiarism

In the realm of common types of plagiarism, there’s one kind that especially stands out for its deceptive nature: source-based plagiarism. This type of plagiarism occurs when false references are cited to give credibility to a piece of writing.

For instance, imagine a student tasked with writing an essay referencing a particular book. Instead of adhering to the provided source, this student cobbles together an essay from multiple unrelated sources and then falsely attributes these points to the recommended book.

The trick might involve intricate drafting, but sophisticated plagiarism checker tools can identify such deceit.

A particular consequence of this form of plagiarism is academic penalties, which can range from grade reductions to even course failure. Moreover, it stunts a writer’s growth, curbing creativity and leading to poor quality content.

To avoid falling into the trap of source-based plagiarism:

  • Value original researches and writers. This means to cite the sources accordingly.
  • Cite consistently. Cite authentic sources to preserve the integrity of the work.
  • Use citation generators. This ensures proper attribution, and prevents citation mistakes.

Verbatim Plagiarism

Verbatim plagiarism, often referred to as direct or word-for-word plagiarism, is a common type of plagiarism where one copies information directly from a source and pastes it into their work without proper citation.

This form of plagiarism occurs intentionally when information is taken verbatim, be it text, images, music, or even videos, without acknowledging the original source.

For example, a student might copy a section from a research paper they found online and submit it as part of their term paper without using quotation marks or providing a citation. Such an act can be detected using plagiarism checker tools like Turnitin.

In a recent exercise, a document with an abstract copied from a published article without citation was run through Turnitin. Unsurprisingly, the tool highlighted the copied content, pinpointing it as verbatim plagiarism.

To avoid this, it’s essential to either:

  • Paraphrase information, ensuring the original meaning remains intact
  • Use quotation marks when borrowing specific phrases or sentences, always followed by the appropriate attribution.

It’s crucial not just to copy and paste. Always cite sources properly to give credit where it’s due. Remember, unintentionally falling into the trap of verbatim plagiarism due to oversight or haste can lead to significant disciplinary consequences.

Patchwork Plagiarism

Amidst the myriad of different types of plagiarism, patchwork plagiarism stands out, often going unnoticed. But what exactly does it involve?

Imagine an academic diligently working on a research paper. Instead of genuinely understanding and rewriting information, they patch together pieces from different sources, creating a mosaic of someone else’s words.

This act, although subtler than verbatim plagiarism, is still considered plagiarism. You may also consider this similar to Mosaic plagiarism.

A classic example arises when one borrows phrases from a source without adequate attribution, creating a blend of copied content and slightly altered phrases. At times, even when an initial source is cited, the absence of proper citations throughout can lead to patchwork plagiarism.

An online plagiarism checker often reveals these instances of plagiarism.

While plagiarism checker tools are handy, understanding and respecting original work is fundamental.

How to avoid patchwork plagiarism? The answer lies in genuine understanding and authentic expression. Paraphrasing plagiarism and even self-plagiarism can be avoided by consistently citing sources and embracing originality.

Paraphrasing Plagiarism

Paraphrasing plagiarism is one of the different types of plagiarism that often flies under the radar. At its core, it revolves around restating someone else’s words, ideas, or content using your own words and sentence structure.

paraphrasing plagiarism

While many understand the merits of paraphrasing over direct quotations, they might overlook the importance of citing the original source. This oversight can inadvertently lead to plagiarism.

Consider this example: An original text speaks about the insights of British philosopher Thomas Hobbes. A student then paraphrases this information in their research paper, rewording the content to display understanding.

If they neglect to cite the original source, even if the words differ, it’s considered plagiarism. This is because plagiarism involves not just copying words, but also passing off someone else’s ideas as one’s own.

Paraphrasing accurately is an essential skill in academia and many professions. Yet, without proper attribution, it can quickly fall into the realm of plagiarism.

Using online plagiarism checker tools can help in identifying such instances. Always remember, whether you’re presenting someone else’s words or ideas, proper citations are crucial to avoid unintentional plagiarism and its serious consequences.


In the vast ocean of different types of plagiarism, one kind of plagiarism often remains overlooked: self-plagiarism. Distinct from verbatim or complete plagiarism, self-plagiarism occurs when a writer recycles their own previous work, be it phrases, sentences, or entire papers, without appropriate citation.

It’s a nuanced form of plagiarism, one that may seem counterintuitive. After all, how can one plagiarize oneself?

A student might, for instance, consider reusing an essay or a term paper from a previous course for a current assignment. Though the work originated with the student, without proper attribution or faculty approval, this act of recycling becomes self-plagiarism.

Especially in structured learning environments like in university, where students are urged to bring fresh perspectives to each assignment and cite their sources diligently, reusing past content can have serious consequences.

But, it’s not just about avoiding disciplinary actions. The emphasis on writing new content for each assignment, even when writing a research paper on a previously tackled topic, is to foster critical engagement and understanding.

Tools like online plagiarism checkers can catch instances of self-plagiarism, but the real goal is to continue building and applying new knowledge. After all, isn’t that the essence of true learning?

Can You End Up Plagiarizing Your Own Work?

When we speak of plagiarism, most envision the act of using someone else’s work without giving credit. But did you know that there exists a kind of plagiarism where the work in question is actually one’s own?

Enter the realm of “self plagiarism” or “text recycling”.

A surprising and lesser-known facet in the different types of plagiarism, self plagiarism occurs when a writer, for instance, reuses significant parts of their previously published work in a new piece without proper attribution.

Consider a scenario where a student, while writing a research paper, borrows phrases or chunks from their previously submitted term paper without citing it. They are presenting someone else’s words, but this time, those words are their own.

Self-plagiarism can take various forms:

  • Republishing entire previous works
  • Paraphrasing extensive portions without referencing
  • Slicing larger studies into smaller pieces for fresh publications.

This type of plagiarism occurs often inadvertently. But be warned: the consequences of plagiarism, even unintentional plagiarism, can be severe. Institutions may regard it as unprofessional, dishonest, and unethical.

If you’re caught in the crosshairs of an online plagiarism checker, your reputation can suffer greatly.

So, the next time you’re presenting or submitting work, remember to cite your sources, even if they’re your own. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

What Are The Consequences Of Plagiarism?

Plagiarism, a serious offense across all educational settings, carries hefty consequences for offenders. In fact, there are many real-life scenarios, from public figures:

  • Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg: A German politician
  • Stephen Ambrose: A respected historian behind the book Band of Brothers
  • Maureen Dowd: New York Times columnist
  • Michael Bolton: Musician and entertainer

The threat doesn’t just loom over public figures. With the aid of plagiarism software, professors in universities are adept at spotting plagiarised content. 

A student may receive an automatic zero for the act of plagiarism or, in extreme cases, be dismissed from the institution. Some institutions maintain a permanent mark of academic dishonesty on the student’s record, making future academic pursuits challenging.

It’s important to differentiate between the different types of plagiarism. There are paraphrasing plagiarism where the general structure and meaning of the original are retained, to complete plagiarism where someone else’s work is passed off entirely as one’s own.

Whether it’s unintentional plagiarism or considered self-plagiarism, where a student submits their prior work, the consequences remain severe.

Ensuring you’re presenting authentic content and appropriately citing sources can safeguard your academic and professional integrity. Always remember to use plagiarism checker tools to avoid these pitfalls.

How To Avoid Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is considered a serious offense in both academic and professional realms. But how can you avoid it when you’re writing a research paper or presenting someone else’s ideas?

It’s not always about intentionally passing off someone else’s work; sometimes, unintentional plagiarism occurs due to negligence. Here are three key steps to steer clear:

  1. Keep Track of Your Sources: As the saying goes, “we’re only human,” and sometimes we forget where an idea originated. Hence, maintaining a list of citations as you research is crucial. This not only ensures all sources are credited but also lets you revisit them if needed, ensuring no unintentional plagiarism occurs when a student borrows phrases or ideas.
  2. Quote and Paraphrase: If presenting someone else’s words or ideas, it’s essential to either quote or paraphrase. Quoting involves using the exact words, enclosed in quotation marks, while paraphrasing involves rewording the information while keeping to the same general structure and meaning of the original. Both require proper citations, whether it’s an in-text citation or a footnote.
  3. Use a Plagiarism Checker: Before submitting, run your work through a reliable online plagiarism checker. Many universities use tools like Turnitin. Platforms like Scribbr offer similar checks, but be wary of free plagiarism software as some might store your content.

By following these steps, the risk of both verbatim and paraphrasing plagiarism is substantially reduced, ensuring the integrity of your work.

What Are Some Of The Best Online Plagiarism Checker?

In the world of academia, avoiding plagiarism is a top priority, and the battle against it has given rise to a range of online plagiarism checkers. These digital guardians help students and writers maintain their academic and professional integrity. Let’s dive into some of the best options available.

Grammarly: Known for its comprehensive writing assistance, Grammarly also offers a robust plagiarism checker. It instantly scans your document for copied content and provides a detailed Plagiarism Report, pointing out areas that need revision. The best part? Grammarly offers a free version with essential features, including plagiarism detection.

Turnitin: A favorite among professors, Turnitin is often integrated into university assignment tools. It checks for citation mistakes and improper copying. Your assignment portal might even have a Draft Section for testing your paper’s originality. While a score above 20-25% may raise concerns, aiming for below 10% is a safe bet.

Unicheck: Trusted by over 550 institutions and a million users worldwide, Unicheck uses an algorithm to detect common types of plagiarism within seconds. It highlights duplicated sections without altering your paper’s formatting. The catch is you’ll need to pay, depending on the number of pages you want to check.

PlagTracker: A convenient online option, PlagTracker uses a sophisticated algorithm to detect different forms of plagiarism. You get a report with links to the sources and connections to any plagiarized material. It’s free for basic use, with a $15 premium version for larger files.

Wrapping Up: Avoiding Different Kinds Of Plagiarism

Navigating the intricate world of plagiarism is essential in both academic and professional writing. From direct copying to the subtle dangers of paraphrasing plagiarism and self-plagiarism, the risks are many. The consequences? They can be severe, from reduced grades to damaged reputations.

Using online plagiarism checker tools and understanding the different kinds of plagiarism can help, but the golden rule remains: always cite your sources. Whether it’s a research paper or a simple article, valuing originality and giving credit ensures the integrity of your work. In essence, write authentically, cite diligently, and stay informed.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.