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Types of Plagiarism

Plagiarism is using someone else’s work – whether writing, speech, image, drawings, graphs, music, etc. – and not giving them credit.

Plagiarism is academic dishonesty. All types of plagiarism are wrong, but there are differences between the types, and they could have different degrees of severity.

In this guide, you’ll learn about six different types of plagiarism. There will be a definition for each type to help you better understand what it is, and there will be an example, if applicable.


Complete plagiarism

Definition:

Complete plagiarism is using work someone else wrote, in its entirety, and submitting it as your own.

It could be:

  • copying something you found online.
  • paying someone to write a paper for you.
  • using an old paper from someone you know, who submitted it for another class years ago.

No matter how you got it, you took a complete paper, changed the name on it to yours, and submitted it.

For many people, when they hear the word “plagiarism”, this is the type they think of.

This is the easiest type of plagiarism for a teacher to catch – either with a plagiarism checker, or because that paper is different than your normal writing.

Teachers get to know their students: they learn how you think and how you write. They learn how you make an argument and how you defend it. They learn your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. All of this makes them great teachers, and it also makes it easy for them to spot a fake.

Degree of severity: severe

This is the most severe type of plagiarism because it involved no effort on your part. The only original thing on this paper is your name.

This type of plagiarism is deliberate and demonstrates a complete lack of intent to present original work.

Example:

ORIGINAL

“Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath”

by Allisa Corfman

COMPLETE PLAGIARISM

These two versions are exactly the same, except for the writer’s name.

“Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath”

by Example Student

Sylvia Plath titles the poem ‘Lady Lazarus’ to let her readers know that there will be references to death. Lazarus, the well-known bible character who was brought back to life after three days in the tomb, will set the tone for the rest of Plath’s poem. Since we know that Lazarus was brought to life again, we might assume that this poem will be one of victory over death, just as the biblical story of Lazarus. We soon learn, however, that Plath intends to identify with the Lazarus decaying in the tomb rather than the Lazarus who had been brought back to life. Sylvia Plath titles the poem ‘Lady Lazarus’ to let her readers know that there will be references to death. Lazarus, the well-known bible character who was brought back to life after three days in the tomb, will set the tone for the rest of Plath’s poem. Since we know that Lazarus was brought to life again, we might assume that this poem will be one of victory over death, just as the biblical story of Lazarus. We soon learn, however, that Plath intends to identify with the Lazarus decaying in the tomb rather than the Lazarus who had been brought back to life.

Direct plagiarism

Definition:

Also called copy-paste plagiarism, direct plagiarism is taking someone else’s exact words and copying them directly, without using quotation marks, and without giving credit to the original writer.

The difference between direct and complete plagiarism is that complete plagiarism involves using an entire essay, while this type is copy-pasting parts of someone else’s work. It could be certain paragraphs, or various sentences.

Here is a tip: If there is a part of a paper that you’re using for research and the information is exactly what you’re looking for to make your point, use it! But put it in quotation marks and cite your source!

Know this: if you decide to use a lot of quotes, especially block quotes (larger chunks of text), that is still a lazy move. Don’t expect an A on that paper.

Degree of severity: serious

So instead of swiping a whole paper, you’re just copy-pasting a few parts. This makes you a tiny bit less lazy. But you’re not doing much work, are you?

This type of plagiarism is also deliberate. Would you honestly say you didn’t know it was wrong to copy-paste someone else’s work and call it your own?

Example:

ORIGINAL

“Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath”

by Allisa Corfman

DIRECT PLAGIARISM

The sections in red font show the pieces from the original that were copy-pasted.

Sylvia Plath is known for her tortured soul. This is what makes her intriguing to readers. Most people have experienced agony at least once. This agony is often so deep, there are no words to express the true anguish present. Plath, however, has a way of putting delicate, beautiful words to a dark, lonely feelings.

The first stanza of Lady Lazarus cannot be properly understood until the entire poem has been read.

At first glance, this doesn’t have much meaning, but after reading the entirety of Lady Lazarus, readers can gather that Plath is referring to suicide. She admits right off the bat that she has tried to die once every decade of her life.

Some people are drawn to tragic figures and suffering, maybe because they experience these same dark feelings. This quality is one reason readers are fascinated by Sylvia Plath.

Sometimes, this agony is often so deep, there are no words to express the true anguish present. Plath, however, has a way of putting delicate, beautiful words to a dark, lonely feelings.

Lady Lazarus is a poem that might make you feel uncomfortable, and you might not realize in the beginning.

However, after reading the entirety of Lady Lazarus, readers can gather that Plath is referring to suicide. She admits right off the bat that she has tried to die once every decade of her life.


Paraphrased plagiarism

Definition:

Paraphrasing means re-writing a piece of text to convey the same meaning, while using different words or sentence structure.

This is the most common type of plagiarism, which is ironic because paraphrasing (especially paraphrasing well) is not an easy skill. Paraphrasing is also a great way to incorporate research into your own paper, as long as you cite your sources.

When you paraphrase, you are doing some of your own work by interpreting someone else’s writing. However, the ideas are not yours. Just repeating what someone else wrote, even if you change the words and the order, does not make the work original. You haven’t put anything of yourself into it. You have basically demonstrated that you know or can look for synonyms, and that you can rearrange sentence structure.

Degree of severity: serious

This type of plagiarism is serious. By simply restating what someone else already wrote, you are not doing the work.

Remember that the purpose of academic writing is to contribute to an ongoing conversation and to advance knowledge. You can only advance knowledge by adding something new, something original. You are not contributing to an academic conversation. You’re simply repeating what someone else already wrote, which lacks originality and thought.

Example:

ORIGINAL

“Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath”

by Allisa Corfman

PARAPHRASED PLAGIARISM

If you compare both versions, you will see that they basically say the same things, but using synonyms and moving around the order of the words.

Plath then begins to explain to readers why she has tried to die so many times. She uses vivid imagery to compare her own suffering to that of the Jewish people.

She compares her skin to a Nazi lampshade. This is significant because of the idea that the Nazi people used the skin of the Jews to make lampshades. Plath uses this horrifying metaphor to compare her own suffering to those in Nazi concentration camps.

She conveys the heaviness of her pain by comparing her right foot to a paperweight. This imagery helps the reader to understand that Plath’s pain was so real that it felt like a physical weight.

As the poem unfolds, Plath shares with readers the reason she has attempted suicide on several occasions. She chose images of Jews from the Holocaust to express her own agony.

First, she uses the image of a Nazi lampshade made from the skin of Jews, to compare to her own skin. In this way, she is connecting her agony to the agony of Jews in concentration camps.

Then, to try to show the weight of her agony in a concrete way, she compares her right foot to a paperweight. This metaphor is intended to make the reader understand that her pain had real, actual weight.


Mosaic plagiarism

Definition:

Like its name, mosaic plagiarism takes lots of little pieces from here and there and puts them together. This type of plagiarism can take some copy-paste sections and paraphrases other sections before putting them together without quotation marks or citations. It might also take some pieces, either direct or paraphrased, from different writers and put them together without citing sources.

This type of plagiarism requires more effort, but without citing sources, it is still academic dishonesty, and it doesn’t present much original work. You, as the writer, are putting all of your effort finding words someone else already used, instead of figuring out what you want to say about your topic.

Remember that to contribute to an ongoing academic conversation, you research what others have said about the topic, and based on that, you come up with your own ideas. That is how you make your contribution.

If you just pluck ideas from here and there and put them together in one paper, you are not adding anything new.

Degree of severity: serious

This type of plagiarism is serious. You might be doing a lot of work in finding sources, in deciding what to copy-paste, in changing some words around, but you are not adding anything original.

You know how some little kids will go through tremendous efforts to avoid doing something? Like when they don’t want to do their homework, and they’ll whine and argue, and pretend to be sick, and hide? It would’ve taken them half the effort to just do the homework.

That’s kind of what this is.

Use some of the information you found from other sources (giving them proper attribution, of course) and use it to figure out what you want to say.

Example:

ORIGINAL

“Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath”

by Allisa Corfman

MOSAIC PLAGIARISM

The sections in red font are copy-pasted directly, and the rest is paraphrased.

In stanzas 5-7 of Lady Lazarus, Plath describes her face as a fine Jew linen. Jew linens were used to wrap the body of Lazarus before they laid him in the tomb. Jew linens were also used to wrap Jesus’ body before he was laid in the tomb.

Plath’s reference to the fine Jew linen reaffirms that she already feels dead. Or rather, she feels nothing just as the dead feel nothing. And this inability to feel is precisely what causes her to suffer. Plath continues to uses imagery of death to reveal her deepest feelings.

In the next lines of the poem, Plath uses a metaphor comparing her face with a fine Jew linen. Jew linens were used to wrap the body of Lazarus before they laid him in the tomb. Jesus was also covered in Jew linens after his death, before his body was placed in the tomb.

By mentioning Jew linen, Plath seems to be stating that she already feels like she died, or maybe that she feels nothing since dead people cannot feel anymore. And this inability to feel is precisely what causes her to suffer. Plath continues to uses imagery of death to convey to the reader what she’s going through.


Self-plagiarism

Definition:

Self-plagiarism is re-submitting something you have already submitted for another assignment, another class, or another academic year.

For professionals, using work they have previously published without attribution is a more serious offense. That’s why it is appropriate for professional academics, writers, or researchers to cite themselves as sources.

For students, self-plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty because, even though you are the writer and you came up with the ideas, you are getting credit twice for the same work.

Self-plagiarism is still plagiarism.

Degree of severity: moderate

Self-plagiarism is a moderately severe type. The dishonesty comes from double-dipping: getting credit for something that you already got credit for.


Accidental plagiarism

Definition:

Accidental plagiarism can mean different things:

  • You wrote a quote wrong
  • You forget a citation
  • You cited a source incorrectly

These types of mistakes are usually unintentional, but are still mistakes and they are still plagiarism.

These types of mistakes are also very common. Students often procrastinate and don’t give themselves enough time to complete an assignment. This leads to rushing to finish at the last minute, when mistakes like these are more likely to happen.

Degree of severity: moderate

Yes, they are accidents and not intentional plagiarism, so the degree of severity is moderate. However, they are still mistakes which lead to using someone else’s work and not giving them proper credit.

Be careful when you do your research, and give yourself enough time to complete an assignment.

Example:

ORIGINAL

“Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath”

by Allisa Corfman

ACCIDENTAL PLAGIARISM

The blue sections indicate a mistake, either in citing the author’s name, or an error in the quote.

It is difficult to tell whether Plath is referring to herself when she “rises from the ashes” as a physically alive woman who has failed yet again at trying to end her life, or as one who has died and will return as an immortal. She may plan to stop attempting suicide and take her revenge on men instead of herself. Or she plans to come back as an immortal after she has died to take her revenge on men. The red hair suggests that could symbolize the mythical creature, phoenix, who can burst into flames and then be reborn from its ashes. Either way, Plath warns men everywhere, that she is no longer a powerless victim under them, but that she is ready to take her revenge. The ending of Lady Lazarus is ambiguous. We are not certain if the line “out of the ash/I rise with my red hair” is meant to convey that Plath’s suicide attempt was not successful, so she came back from the brink or death, or that she feels she did die and her spirit has returned (Coreman). The “red hair” and “ash” from Plath’s poem might also be referring to “the mystical creature, phoenix, who can burst into flames and then be reborn from its ashes” (Corfman). Regardless of what the images actually mean, this is a powerful ending to a poem where Plath seems to find her strength to carry on.

Key takeaways

  • There are many different types of plagiarism, and they have different degrees of severity.
  • They are all considered academic dishonesty and subject to disciplinary action, whether you plagiarized intentionally or accidentally.

Published October 29, 2020.

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