7 common types of plagiarism

The practise of representing someone else's work as your own is known as plagiarism.

It actually has a lot more subtlety than that, and you might be astonished to find how many distinct types of plagiarism there are. That is simply the most basic description.

Your school probably has a plagiarism policy if you're a student. Additionally, individual professors may have their own procedures for handling incidents of plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious infraction that may result in you losing points for the copied work, being placed on academic probation, or even being suspended or kicked out of your programme or institution. The best method to prevent getting charged with (or unintentionally committing) plagiarism is to comprehend what it is and how to properly attribute every author whose work is used.

Types of Plagiarism

Complete plagiarism

This overt type of plagiarism occurs when a writer submits someone else’s work in their own name. Paying somebody to write a paper for you, then handing that paper in with your name on it, is an act of complete plagiarism—as is stealing or “borrowing” someone’s work and submitting it as your own.

An example of complete plagiarism is submitting a research paper for English class that your older sister wrote and submitted when she took the class five years ago.

Direct plagiarism

Direct plagiarism is similar to complete plagiarism in that it, too, is the overt passing-off of another writer’s words as your own. The difference between the two is how much of the paper is plagiarized. With complete plagiarism, it’s the entire paper. With direct plagiarism, specific sections or paragraphs are included without crediting (or even acknowledging) the author.

An example of direct plagiarism is dropping a line or two from your source directly into your work without quoting or citing the source.

Paraphrasing plagiarism

Paraphrasing plagiarism is what happens when a writer reuses another’s work and changes a few words or phrases. It’s a common type of plagiarism, and many students don’t even realize it’s a form of plagiarism. But if you’re presenting someone else’s original idea in your writing without crediting them, even if you’re presenting it in your own words, it’s plagiarism.


You might be surprised to find out that you can plagiarize yourself.

How? After all, your original thoughts are your own to use as you please . . . right?

Yes, but with a caveat. Let’s say you wrote an essay about the pros and cons of changing your city’s zoning laws two years ago, and now you’re writing a research paper about how adopting certain zoning laws has impacted other cities in the past decade. Reusing content from your essay in your research paper would be an act of self-plagiarism. You can absolutely use the same sources and if you cite them properly, you don’t have to worry about being accused of plagiarism.

Self-plagiarism can be an issue if you write professionally. When you’re commissioned to write for a client, the client owns that work. Reusing your own words for subsequent clients is plagiarizing your own work and can damage your professional reputation (as well as make your clients look bad).

Patchwork plagiarism

Also known as mosaic plagiarism, patchwork plagiarism refers to instances where plagiarized work is interwoven with the writer’s original work. This kind of plagiarism can be subtle and easy to miss, and it may happen in conjunction with direct plagiarism.

An example of patchwork plagiarism is taking a clause from a source and embedding it in a sentence of your own.

Source-based plagiarism

Source-based plagiarism can be a tricky one to understand. With this kind of plagiarism, the writer might cite their sources correctly but present the sources in a misleading way.

For example, the writer might reference a secondary source in their work but only credit the primary source from which that secondary source is derived. Other examples include citing an incorrect source and even making up sources.

Accidental plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism is perhaps the most common type of plagiarism because it happens when the writer doesn’t realize they are plagiarizing another’s work. Accidental plagiarism includes the following:

Forgetting to cite your sources in your work

Not citing your sources correctly

Failing to put quotes around cited material

Even accidental plagiarism is subject to consequences, such as failing your assignment.


Asking the original author for permission to reprint their work and, if they agree, being sure to acknowledge them can help you prevent plagiarism when it comes to online content like blog posts and infographics. You can also download our app from the playstore or visit our website.