The main point of plagiarism lies in the misappropriation of someone else’s work, ideas, or expressions and presenting them as one’s own. When such situations occur, it doesn’t only undermine the writer’s credibility, but also is considered disrespectful to the original author, as well as all of the time and resources out into their text. Plagiarism manifests in various forms, with the main ones being: complete, paraphrasing, patchwork, self-plagiarism, source-based, and accidental plagiarisms. Recognizing these variations is the first step toward a culture of integrity and originality in any creative or academic environment.

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7 Common Types of Plagiarism

Before learning more about the specifics, let’s take a quick look at the broad spectrum of plagiarism. From the wholesale theft of a document to the subtle and unintended borrowing of ideas, plagiarism can take many forms. Here, we outline seven common types, each followed by a brief description, and an example, so you can remember the differences easily. Before we dive into the details, keep in mind that using a free plagiarism check online can help you identify and avoid these various forms of plagiarism in your own work.

Complete Plagiarism

Complete plagiarism is the academic equivalent of identity theft. It occurs when an individual submits another’s work as their own, without any alteration. This could range from purchasing an essay online to submitting a paper written by someone else under one’s own name.

Example: Turning in a thesis written by another student or a professional as if it were your own.

Direct Plagiarism

Direct plagiarism involves copying text verbatim from a source without attribution and passing it off as one’s own. It’s a clear-cut case of intellectual theft.

Example: Copy-pasting paragraphs from an online article into your essay without quotation marks or citation.

Paraphrasing Plagiarism

This type of plagiarism occurs when a writer takes ideas or information from a source and rephrases them without proper acknowledgment. It’s a deceptive form of theft that masks the original source under the guise of original writing.

Example: Reading a scientific paper and then summarizing its findings in your work without citing the source.


Self-plagiarism happens when authors reuse their previously published work without citation. This includes republishing the same content in different venues or recycling portions of past works in new projects without proper acknowledgment.

Example: Submitting a paper for a class that includes large portions of a paper you wrote for a different course.

Patchwork Plagiarism

Also known as mosaic plagiarism, patchwork plagiarism meaning involves stitching together pieces of different sources to create a new document. It can be difficult to detect because it combines original writing with plagiarized content.

Example: Integrating sentences and phrases from multiple sources into a single paper without proper attribution.

Source-Based Plagiarism

This subtle form involves misrepresenting the source of information. It might include citing a non-existent source or incorrectly attributing an idea or quotation.

Example: Citing a primary source you haven’t read, based on its mention in a secondary source, without acknowledgment.

Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism occurs due to negligence or misunderstanding of citation and paraphrasing rules. It’s not intentional but still has serious consequences.

Example: Forgetting to cite a source or improperly paraphrasing without giving credit.

Stressed over plagiarism? Check out our Free Plag Checker

Consequences of Plagiarism

The results of plagiarism extend far beyond academic probation or a failed assignment. They can severely impact one’s academic journey and professional career. Here’s a list of potential consequences, each paired with a relevant emoji to underscore the gravity of the situation:

  • 🚫 Academic Probation: A formal warning that further misconduct could result in more severe penalties.
  • Failure of the Assignment: Receiving zero credit for work found to be plagiarized.
  • 📉 Failure of the Course: Compromising one’s academic standing and progress.
  • Suspension: Temporary removal from the academic institution.
  • 🚪 Dismissal: Permanent expulsion from the program or institution.
  • 💔 Reputational Damage: Long-term impact on academic and professional reputation.

Wrap Up

With the insights provided in this guide, writing your paper, whether it is an essay or a course work, becomes less stressful. Knowing the various forms of plagiarism and being able to tell them apart is the first step towards better writing and nearly non-existent chances of plagiarizing accidentally.


What’s the difference between paraphrasing and plagiarizing?

Paraphrasing is repeating or rewriting someone else’s words or ideas, usually changing some of the words or presenting the information in a different sequence to make the message clearer. Paraphrasing isn’t plagiarizing when you credit the idea’s original creator.

What are the common types of plagiarism?

Seven common types of plagiarism include: Complete plagiarism, Direct plagiarism, Paraphrasing plagiarism, Self-plagiarism, Patchwork plagiarism, Source-based plagiarism, Accidental plagiarism.

How is plagiarism detected?

Plagiarism is almost always detected using software. A few popular plagiarism checkers include Turnitin and Grammarly’s plagiarism checker. In the past, plagiarism was more difficult to catch, and being able to catch it often hinged on an instructor’s familiarity with the student’s voice and academic acuity.

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