Plagiarism

8 Plagiarism Examples to Learn From

Learn about eight of the most common types of plagiarism (including examples) from direct plagiarism to self-plagiarism, and source-based plagiarism.

When you think of plagiarism, you might think of copying and pasting someone else’s words and claiming them as your own. Yet, plagiarism casts a much wider net — from outright verbatim copying to more subtle appearances.

The consequences of plagiarism are anything but subtle. Depending on the severity, they range from academic expulsion to legal proceedings. 

We’ll take a closer look at the types of plagiarism as well as examples of each one. You may be surprised to learn about some forms of plagiarism because of how innocent and innocuous they seem. The reality is that no matter their complexity, all variations of plagiarism carry significant ethical considerations, risks, and repercussions. Let’s take a closer look.

TL;DR 

There are many different types of plagiarism that carry substantial consequences from harming credibility to expulsion from educational institutions.

The eight primary forms of plagiarism include:

  • Direct plagiarism: copy-and-paste or verbatim plagiarism.
  • Self-plagiarism: reusing sections of your own publications without credit.
  • Mosaic plagiarism: using phrases from several sources without attribution.
  • Accidental plagiarism: forgetting to include source citations.
  • Global plagiarism: falsely representing an entire work as your own.
  • Incremental plagiarism: using small sections from multiple works.
  • Source-based plagiarism: fabricating a source, or instances of AI incorrectly making up sources.
  • Translation plagiarism: translating a work without crediting the original author.

1. Direct Plagiarism 

Direct plagiarism is also called copy-and-paste plagiarism or verbatim plagiarism. It happens when someone copies an author or source’s text word for word without crediting or attributing the author. This is one of the more insidious forms of plagiarism because there’s a clear intent to present someone else’s work as one’s own. 

Example of Direct Plagiarism

Let’s assume an expert on electric vehicles made the following statement: 

“In recent years, electric vehicles (EVs) have surged in popularity as a sustainable alternative to traditional gasoline-powered cars. These vehicles are powered by electric motors, which use energy stored in rechargeable batteries. One of the more significant advantages of electric vehicles is their contribution to reducing carbon emissions, a major factor in climate change.” 

Direct plagiarism would involve someone copying that expert’s text word for word and presenting it as if it were their own analysis and insights on electric vehicles. 

2. Self-Plagiarism 

Can you plagiarize yourself? As it turns out, yes you can

Example of Self-Plagiarism

Let’s say that in 2020, you submitted a research paper on the impact of digital marketing on consumer behavior. You wrote, “The integration of social media platforms into marketing strategies has greatly influenced consumer purchasing decisions. This, in turn, led to an increased emphasis on digital advertising to help drive sales.”

Then, in 2024, you were invited to present new trends in digital marketing. You might state, “My research has shown that the integration of social media platforms into marketing strategies has greatly influenced consumer purchasing decisions. This, in turn, has led to an increased emphasis on digital advertising to help drive sales.” 

In short, you’ve reused considerable parts of your own previously published work without proper acknowledgment that the material was previously published. 

You’re presenting the content as new and original research, even though you pulled it from earlier work. The audience, therefore, believes it’s new when it isn’t. This can backfire and cause issues in terms of your credibility and integrity in the industry. 

How to Avoid Self-Plagiarism

There are several ways to remedy this.

  • Clearly acknowledge your work. Start by referencing the prior publication (through citations or footnotes) to demonstrate that the material has been used before. 
  • Seek permission from the publisher. If you reuse several portions of your own published work, particularly if it was professionally published (in a journal or by a publisher that has copyright policies), you’ll need to seek permission from the publisher.
  • Integrate your previous work in new and innovative ways. You can also sidestep the burden of asking permission by paraphrasing your content and integrating it into the new work in a way that adds new value and expands on your ideas. This avoids self-plagiarism while allowing you to present your research or findings in a new way to the audience. 

3. Mosaic Plagiarism

Mosaic plagiarism is also known as patchwork plagiarism or ‘patchwriting.’ It happens when a writer takes phrases from different sources (or the same source) and makes them a part of their own work without properly citing the original author. The resulting work is woven into theirs in such a way as to disguise the plagiarized text. 

This type of plagiarism is more difficult for plagiarism checkers to detect because it involves such subtle alterations. Writers who engage in mosaic plagiarism will slightly rephrase sentences, use synonyms, and alter the sentence structure to keep the same meaning but use different words. 

Example of Mosaic Plagiarism

For example, let’s say that the plagiarizing author pulls from two different sources about saving for retirement. The first author writes, “Starting early with your retirement savings can significantly increase the potential for a larger financial nest egg, thanks to the power of compound interest.” 

The second writes, “Many experts recommend diversifying your retirement portfolio across various asset classes to help mitigate risk and optimize returns.” 

An example of mosaic plagiarism using these two sources would read, “Initiating your retirement fund at a young age could considerably boost the size of your savings due to the compounding effect of interest. It’s often advised to spread investments for retirement across different types of assets, reducing potential risks while improving the chance of better gains.” 

In this example, the mosaic plagiarized text heavily borrows from the concepts presented by the original two sources. It adds synonyms and slightly rewords sentences, so it’s harder to detect. 

4. Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism happens when the author forgets to cite sources or does so incorrectly. This happens due to a lack of understanding of citation rules or an oversight. Although there’s no specific intent to deceive or pass the work off as their own, it can nevertheless have serious consequences. 

Example of Accidental Plagiarism

Let’s imagine a student is writing a term paper about the historical and cultural significance of tea in China.

As they’re writing, they come across an interesting tidbit about the introduction of tea in Britain and how this has impacted British tea culture. However, the student can’t remember if the insight came from their thoughts or something they read.

The original source might read, “The introduction of tea in Britain in the early 17th century had a profound impact on British social customs, eventually making tea an integral part of British culture.” 

The student’s text might read, “Tea was introduced to Britain in the early 17th century. It significantly influenced social customs and today is deeply woven into the fabric of British culture.” 

The student has failed to cite the source of the information on the cultural impact of tea in British culture. This is considered accidental plagiarism. That’s why it’s so important to keep sources and notes organized.

Notes are a convenient reference, so you’ll know what ideas and insights come from where and can cite works appropriately. Free tools like Zotero or Mendeley integrate with word processing programs. They can be used to help keep sources streamlined and organized efficiently. 

5. Global Plagiarism

Global plagiarism is similar to verbatim plagiarism but rather than take a few sentences here and there, the perpetrator takes the entire work

Example of Global Plagiarism

For instance, a student has to write an essay on the impact of euthanasia on families of terminal cancer patients. Rather than actually doing the research on their own to see what information is out there, they find an essay written by another student that was shared online. 

The student downloads the entire essay and submits it under their name without changing any of it. Global plagiarism of this kind is also common with essay-sharing or writing services where students pay others to do their work for them. 

Using such a service undermines academic integrity and prevents the student from learning critical thinking and writing skills. Using these types of services can have serious consequences — from a failing grade to suspension or expulsion. 

Today, institutions frequently use plagiarism checkers to identify student works that are made with paid essay writing or essay-sharing services.

6. Incremental Plagiarism

Incremental plagiarism is particularly deceptive in the context of plagiarism examples. It involves collecting different sources in such small amounts that they are difficult to detect. Imagine a large accumulation of snippets of text.

Example of Incremental Plagiarism

Imagine that a university student is working on a paper about the psychological effects of social media. 

The first source says, “A recent study shows that excessive social media use leads to increased feelings of anxiety and loneliness in teenagers.” 

The second source says, “Experts argue that by constantly presenting idealized lives, social media contributes to users’ own dissatisfaction with themselves.” 

The student might write, “Studies have shown that teenagers who frequently use social media have higher levels of loneliness and anxiety. It has been argued by professionals that idealized portrayals of life on social media fosters dissatisfaction among users with their own lives.” 

The student incrementally plagiarizes by taking small pieces of content from different sources and slightly rewording them to weave them into their paper without citing the original authors. This misrepresents what part of the work is the student’s original contribution and undermines the integrity of their work. 

7. Source-based Plagiarism

Source-based plagiarism involves misrepresenting the source of information in a given work. In the age of AI, it’s entirely possible that platforms like Google Gemini and ChatGPT, will make up sources that don’t exist, and don’t hold up to proper fact-checking. This can give the paper an air of authority and credibility, which, on closer examination, is false and misleading. 

Example of Source-based Plagiarism

For example, a student is writing about the benefits of the cabbage soup diet. They claim that it significantly reduces the risk of heart disease. To help back up their claim, they cite a publication in a purported reputable medical journal. For instance: 

“According to a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, individuals who adhere to the cabbage soup diet had a 50% lower risk of heart disease compared to those following a standard American diet.” 

It sounds convincing until you learn that the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology isn’t a real medical journal and is completely fabricated, as is the study itself. 

This type of plagiarism can also have significant repercussions, especially if the information is taken as fact and people’s health is harmed as a result of following fabricated information.

8. Translation Plagiarism 

Translating a text from one language to another without crediting the author is translation plagiarism. Like incremental and mosaic plagiarism, translation plagiarism can be difficult to detect because there are few plagiarism checkers that offer comprehensive checks in languages other than English.

Example of Translation Plagiarism

Let’s imagine that someone was involved in a detailed study on new trends in wine production. The original English might look something like this: 

“Recent trends in wine production indicate a shift toward sustainable farming practices, aiming to reduce environmental impact and improve the livelihood of farmers.” 

Now let’s imagine that this statement was translated and presented at a conference in eastern Spain (a heavy wine-producing area) in the Catalan language. The offender might simply take that text and translate it as, “Les tendències en la producció de vi indiquen un canvi cap a pràctiques d’agricultura sostenible amb l’objectiu de reduir l’impacte ambiental i millorar els mitjans de vida dels agricultors.” 

When the translation is done without attribution to the original source, it suggests that the translated content is the translator’s original analysis or observation. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, plagiarism isn’t simply about copying directly from a source. It involves a very broad set of circumstances, from direct or copy-and-paste plagiarism to a translator translating text to another language and then passing it off as their work.

Learning about the different plagiarism examples is essential to providing clarity about what plagiarism is

The good news is that Originality.ai has a robust plagiarism checker built into its comprehensive AI writing detection. You can choose to check a word for plagiarism and AI writing, or each one, respectively, giving you the flexibility to make sure the work you’re reviewing is of the highest possible quality and integrity.

Sherice Jacob

Plagiarism Expert Sherice Jacob brings over 20 years of experience to digital marketing as a copywriter and content creator. With a finger on the pulse of AI and its developments, she works extensively with Originality.ai to help businesses and publishers get the best returns from their Content.

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