Identifying Plagiarism

What Counts as Plagiarism?

Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional. It often occurs because the process of citation can be confusing, technology makes copy + paste so easy, and knowing exactly what to cite is not always easy! You can avoid unintentional plagiarism by learning how to cite material and keeping track of sources in your notes. Give yourself plenty of time to process sources so you don’t plagiarize by mistake. Here are some examples of plagiarism:

  • Submitting a paper written by someone else.
  • Using words and phrases from the source text and patching them together in new sentences.
  • Failing to acknowledge the sources of words or information.
  • Not providing quotation marks around a direct quotation. This leads to the false assumption that the words are your own.
  • Borrowing the idea or opinion of someone else without giving the person credit
  • Restating or paraphrasing a passage without citing the original author
  • Borrowing facts or statistics that are not common knowledge without proper acknowledgement
Six different examples of plagiarism. 404 Error: inaccurate citations or citations to non-existent sources; clone: submitting another's work; copy and paste: copies portions from other texts; mash-up: mixes copied material from multiple sources; recycle: borrows from your previous work; find and replace: changing key words or phrases only.

The plagiarism spectrum. There are many different ways to plagiarize. It is your responsibility to know what constitutes plagiarism so you can avoid it in your assignments.

Obvious Plagiarism

Less Obvious Plagiarism

  • Turning in someone else’s paper as your own.
  • Reusing a paper previously turned in for one class and then submitting the same paper or portions of it for subsequent classes without permission of the instructor (self-plagiarism).
  • Cutting and pasting entire sections from other authors’ works into your own paper.
  • Using another author’s exact words but not putting quotation marks around the quote and citing the work.
  • Failing to differentiate between common knowledge and something that needs to be cited.
  • Failing to include complete and correct citations.
  • Sticking too closely to another author’s words by only changing a few words around when paraphrasing.
  • Using another author’s exact words but not putting quotation marks around the quote even if you cite the work.
4 more plagiarism examples. Aggregator: includes proper citation to sources but almost no original work; retweet: proper citation, but relies too closely on the original wording; hybrid: combines perfectly cited sources and copied passages in the same paper; remix: paraphrases from multiple sources made to fit together.

More ways to plagiarize.

Why Should You Care?

Being honest and maintaining integrity in your academic work is a sign of character and professionalism. In addition to maximizing your own learning and taking ownership of your academic success, not plagiarizing is important because:

  • Your professors assign research projects to help you learn. You cheat yourself when you substitute someone else’s work for your own.
  • You don’t like it when someone else takes credit for your ideas, so don’t do it to someone else.
  • Plagiarizing comes with consequences. Depending on the offense and the institution, you may be asked to rewrite plagiarized work, receive a failing grade on the assignment, fail the entire course, or be suspended from the university.
  • Professors use search engines, databases, and specialized software to check suspicious work, so you will eventually get caught.

Is it Plagiarism?

1. Last semester you wrote an essay on Emily Dickinson for Professor Belin’s “American Literature 101” course. This semester you are taking a course called “Interrogating Gender in American Culture,” and Professor Arecco has assigned a paper topic that references Dickinson’s life and work. It would be very easy for you to re-tool whole sections of your first essay to satisfy the requirements of the second. It is acceptable practice to re-submit this paper – without checking with either professor — because you are writing a paper for a different professor and a different course.

  1. This is plagiarism
  2. This is not plagiarism


2. Plagiarism is not limited to taking something from a book; it also includes stealing ideas from a movie, a professor’s lecture, or from an interview on a radio news program.

  1. True, this is plagiarism
  2. False, this is not plagiarism


3. You have cut and pasted a lot of information from articles you found on web sites and databases into a Word file on your computer. While writing your essay, you find yourself patching together pieces from different sources, and you have occasionally lost track of which ideas were your own and which were from various articles and websites. You consider going back to the original sources but the prospect is daunting. In any case, you figure that if your professor queries your sources, you can say that you didn’t intentionally plagiarize, and this will result in a lesser punishment.

  1. Agree
  2. Disagree


4. Your professor has recommended a particular text as a secondary source for an assigned essay on Kant’s ideas about war and peace. You find a quotation that seems to speak directly to Kant’s idea of perpetual peace and you plug it in your essay, but it doesn’t quite relate to what goes before and you don’t know how to discuss it. You realize that you don’t really understand what the quotation means, or how you might discuss it within the larger context of your essay. You think of approaching your professor to ask for help, but decide that she will think less of you for not grasping the import of this text. Instead you find a website that discusses this very idea, and you summarize its explanation in your paper without citing it. Is this plagiarism?

  1. Yes
  2. No


5. I have found something posted on the Internet that I am going to include in a paper that I am writing. It is covered by a “Creative Commons” copyright. Since it is, can I consider it “common knowledge” and not cite it in my paper or included it in my references?

  1. Agree
  2. Disagree


6. You are writing a biology report and you have included information that you read in your biology textbook. You aren’t sure if this information can be considered common knowledge, or whether you need to cite it. You

  1. Decide not cite the information. Information in the textbook is common knowledge for the biology class.
  2. Determine to cite your text book in the instances where you quoted from it directly; otherwise the summarized ideas in this text are considered common knowledge.
  3. Cite all the information you’ve gleaned from the textbook, whether quoted verbatim or summarized.


7. Is this use of information from a website plagiarism?

Passage from a website titled with an example of a student paper in which the student duplicated the content. with the exception of moving the position of one phrase.
  1. Yes, it is plagiarism. The writer of the paper just rearranged some of the words from the website and does not acknowledge the source.
  2. No, it is not plagiarism. The paragraph written in the research paper is different than the website so the author didn’t need to cite the original.


8. Is this plagiarism?

Passage from a source text with an example of a student paper in which they have paraphrased the content, included a citation in parenthesis, and also included a citation in the works cited list.
  1. Yes, it is plagiarism. The student did not use quotation marks.
  2. No, it is not plagiarism. The student gave credit to the source in the text of the paper and in the list of references