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What is Plagiarism? – A Comprehensive Guide

Published by at August 16th, 2021 , Revised On August 24, 2023

You strive hard to stand apart from the rest of the world, frame your thoughts, and extract your ideas, research, and hard work on the paper.

What if you wake up with a message that someone has stolen your creative ideas and knowledge? You would feel like you have gone bankrupt and as if you have lost everything you earned. You might have heard about plagiarism, but do you really know what Plagiarism is?

What Does Plagiarism Mean?

There are many definitions of plagiarism floating around these days, but in simple words, plagiarism is stealing someone’s content, ideas and information, knowledge, and hard work without their permission. It will not be wrong to say that it is a type of cheating.

Do you remember your teacher’s advice before attempting your exam paper? You always learn to take any assessments honestly without cheating. Many students use plagiarism for various reasons but how would you feel if you have been robbed of your ideas? How would you feel if someone steals something precious from you?

Definition of Plagiarism in Oxford Dictionary

Plagiarism is the practice of using other’s work and ideas without their consent and representing it as your own. It includes all published and unpublished content in the form of text, manuscript, or electronic media. Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional.

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Plagiarism Vs. Paraphrasing

There is a difference between stealing and borrowing something. When you copy someone’s work without referencing the source; it is called plagiarism. On the other hand, when you rephrase someone’s work, whether it be text, images, tables, or ideas, and cite it properly crediting the primary source, it is called paraphrasing.

What is Often Plagiarised?

You may get only written text into your mind whenever you hear about the term plagiarism. However, many types of properties are often plagiarised, including text materials, visuals, and ideas.

Text materials: It takes a lot of effort and time to write a piece of knowledge. Many students copy the information from books, essaysdissertations, journals, websites, articles, and other sources and use it as their assignment without referencing the sources.

Visuals: It includes copying others’ images, graphs, charts, and visual objects to enhance the assignment without crediting the source.

IdeasSomeone’s ideas, thoughts, formulas, or perception is copied without crediting the source.

Copyright: It includes the use of the entire work of someone against copyright restrictions.

Digital media: The videos or audios are stolen and used as personal production. It is a common phenomenon in the entertainment industry.

Common Reasons for Plagiarism

Sometimes unawareness about plagiarism leads to plagiarising without knowing the credibility or copyright criteria.

Plagiarism is a result of the following reasons:

Lack of dedication and honesty

Many students don’t consider the importance of honesty and fail to realize their responsibility, and might feel more comfortable copying others’ work instead of putting in effort.

Lack of Time

To meet the deadline for submission and to accomplish a lengthy work within a specific timeframe, many students prefer the “copy-paste, and it’s done” trick.

Poor Skills

It happens when someone fails to paraphrase content properly or reference the source accurately.

Intentional and Unintentional Plagiarism

Intentional Plagiarism happens when you copy someone’s work intentionally and present it as your own. Unintentional plagiarism occurs when you are unaware of plagiarism or the existence of similar ideas or content in another source.

Types of Plagiarism

There are many types of plagiarism, but the following are the most common forms of plagiarism. All these four types of plagiarism are common among students. These are unacceptable and punishable acts, whether committed intentionally or unintentionally.

Clone Plagiarism:

It is a type of plagiarism in which someone copies others’ exact work without rephrasing or editing it and without crediting the source.


It is the most common type of Plagiarism, and you might have also committed this mistake consciously or unconsciously. If someone uses his/her previous work and copy it into the new assignment, it is called self-plagiarism.

For instance: Imagine you have completed a task in the first year of graduation on a specific topic, and you are using the same work in the third year for a similar assignment. Self-plagiarism is also classified as cheating because you are plagiarising material you have already taken credits for.

Mashup Plagiarism:

When someone copies the key points or phrases from multiple sources without citing the source, the plagiarised content resembles the source except for slightly paraphrased content. This kind of action comes under mashup plagiarism.

Accidental  Plagiarism:

Accidental Plagiarism happens when someone neglects to cite the source or cite it poorly or uses similar sentence structure, words, or paraphrase it knowingly or unknowingly without crediting the source.

What are the Consequences of Plagiarism?

It is essential to talk about plagiarism’s consequences to having a clear picture of its negative impact on your education and academic career.

  • If you are a student, plagiarism may result in expulsion from the Institution. If you are employed, it might cause your termination from the job.
  • It makes your work useless no matter how much time and energy you spent on it.
  • You may also land yourself in the legal procedures where you can be charged penalties.
  • Plagiarism, whether committed by the students or the staff, spoils the institution’s reputation and affects the credibility of the degrees and courses offered by the institution.
  • If a person completes a course and acquires a degree through plagiarism and starts working somewhere, it may affect the organisation’s economy due to the worker’s lack of skills.
  • In some severe cases like copyright infringement, plagiarism may result in criminal offence. It happens when someone uses the published original content without the consent of its owner. It is common in Journalism, publishing, and the media industry.

How Much Plagiarism is Acceptable?

This question may sound like how much crime is acceptable? Your professor may answer you ‘zero %.’ If you ask in what cases plagiarism is accepted? Still, the answer of your professor would be “It is unacceptable.”

It is essential to collect data during your research process, but that doesn’t mean you can deliberately copy-paste the data as it is.

There is no particular percentage of acceptable plagiarism, and various organisations and institutions have set their own percentage limits and specific ‘plagiarism checking tools.’

Generally, plagiarism of written content is acceptable below 15%, and 25% is considered the highest acceptable percentage of plagiarism.

How to Avoid Plagiarism?

Know about Plagiarism:

In many cases, plagiarism is the result of unawareness or lack of detailed knowledge of its consequences. It would help if you learned about the types of plagiarism and their effects to avoid it in your work.

Knowledge of Citation

It is essential to understand how to cite the academic source and use reference methods to avoid mistakes. You need to be capable of understanding what kind of information requires citation.


Whenever you collect the information, you need to rephrase it, conveying the same message in your words. Paraphrasing doesn’t mean a mere addition of synonyms.

The whole sentence structure and content would need rephrasing. You need to have an excellent command of the language to paraphrase accurately.

Quote the Text

You can quote a specific piece of text from sources highlighting it in your text following by in-text citation to indicate that you are crediting the source and using their ideas as evidence for your research.

Famous sayings, proverbs, and quotes of writers, scientists poets, etc. are quoted, usually following the author’s name and source.


You can summarize the entire text by extracting the key points, but you need to credit the source to avoid plagiarism.

Plagiarism Checking Tools

Technology has made it easier to detect plagiarism. The offence of plagiarism has increased due to the advance digital tools, including rewriting tools.

There are many tools to check plagiarism ranging from basic to advanced levels depending on the budget and plagiarism detection requirements.

A Word of Caution

All these rules are applicable only to literary content. Always try to understand the context of the information you have collected. Avoid paraphrasing it entirely as it is, try to express your ideas and refer to the source as evidence of your research instead of copying it entirely.

What does not need acknowledgment?

  • You can use your thoughts, ideas, discussion, arguments, graphs, tables, diagrams without crediting any source. Anything which you create yourself based on your research is your idea.
  • Common knowledge: example: Earth is revolving around the sun.
  • Facts or information available in your textbooks, reference books, dictionaries, or encyclopedia can be used without citing the source.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is it still plagiarism if I forget to cite the source but completed the assignment honestly without copying from anywhere?

Yes, It’s still considered unintentional plagiarism. It is common among students to forget to add quotation marks or do not provide a reference list. You can avoid it by proofreading and editing your document before submitting it.

  1. Is it necessary to cite the sources even if I managed to paraphrase the entire content accurately without resembling the source?

Yes, you need to acknowledge the source even if you rephrase the entire content. It acts as evidence of your research, but those ideas essentially belong to the original author.

  1. How much of the original text do I need to paraphrase to avoid plagiarism?
  • There is no specific number of words or sentences that you need to change. It depends on your knowledge of the subject and understanding of the content.
  • You need to make sure that you do not imitate someone’s work and write it honestly by understanding the full meaning.
  • You don’t need to rephrase the entire content. You can take the required information from the source and construct your discussion to support the collected ideas.
  1. What if I forget where I got the information for my assignment?

There is no excuse, as it will still be considered plagiarism. It would help if you were careful and responsible enough to avoid this situation. You can maintain proper notes of the essential points and reference lists, including the author’s names and URL.

  1. What if I collected information from any discussion or a lecture?

You still need to credit the person or source if you are using their ideas. Ex: If your friend exchanges some knowledge with you on a topic and if that information is new for you, you need to credit your friend as a source of information.

  1. Can I get my assignment done by someone else?

It’s not appropriate to get your work done by others. No matter how knowledgeable a person you select, you are responsible for the consequences. What if you get plagiarized paper, and you get caught for committing plagiarism? What would you learn if someone does your work? However, you can always buy a service that provides model essays to improve your knowledge on the topic and learn the art of academic essay writing.

  1. I don’t have proper knowledge of the subject, and I can’t develop creative ideas. Can I rephrase the available content?

No one is perfect, and practice makes you better. Everyone has unique perceptions and ideas, which are generally enough to put forth in your discussion or argument.

You can paraphrase the required information, but don’t rely on it entirely; otherwise, you will suppress your own ideas and won’t learn anything from them.

Bottom Line

Plagiarism is no less than a crime if you realize it in a real sense. You have got your ideas and a unique style of presenting them.

It would help if you always tried to be original instead of adopting plagiarism ways, which are likely to harm your credibility as a student.

It takes years to build trust and reputation, but it takes a second to destroy it, and it is an irreversible disaster.

If you are aware of plagiarism, spread awareness among your friends and colleagues to save them from committing plagiarism. It helps in building a trustworthy environment where your work is considered as authentic.

Plagiarism does not bring success and respect, nor does it help an individual or an organisation’s progress.

Frequently Asked Questions

Consequences of online plagiarism include damaged reputation, academic penalties, legal actions, and loss of credibility. It undermines originality, hampers learning, and violates ethical standards in both educational and professional settings.

About Jamie Walker

Avatar for Jamie WalkerJamie is a content specialist holding a master's degree from Stanford University. His research focuses on the Internet of Things, as well as areas such as politics, medicine, sociology, and other academic writing. Jamie is a member of the content management team at ResearchProspect.