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What is Plagiarism – Definition and explanation

what is plagiarism
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In the age of information where countless resources are at our fingertips, understanding what is plagiarism and why is more important than ever. Dr. Friederike Jurth delves into the concept, its types, and the consequences that come with it, helping writers navigate the intricate landscape of academic integrity.

What is Plagiarism – Definition

At its core, plagiarism is the act of presenting someone else’s work, be it their words, ideas, or research, as one’s own without appropriate acknowledgment. With the ease of access to information online, the lines can sometimes blur between original content and borrowed ideas. But regardless of how one encounters the information, the key is in how one uses it. While it’s absolutely acceptable to draw inspiration from others or to cite their work in support of one’s arguments, it’s of paramount importance to do so transparently.

The Heavy Price of Plagiarism

The repercussions of plagiarism aren’t just academic; they can be profoundly personal as well. Being found guilty of plagiarism can tarnish a student’s reputation, diminish trust among peers and professors, and even hinder future academic and professional opportunities. Within academia, consequences might include failing the assignment, mandatory participation in ethics training, or more severe repercussions like suspension or expulsion. However, the blow to one’s self-esteem and the stain on one’s integrity might take even longer to mend.

The Five Types of Plagiarism: A Closer Look

Recognizing the various forms of plagiarism can help in avoiding them. Here’s an in-depth look at the five primary types Dr. Jurth highlighted:

  1. Verbatim Plagiarism: Directly copying from a source without giving credit is a clear violation. Even if the copied portion is just a sentence or two, without quotes and a citation, it’definition-of-plagiarisms considered stolen.
  2. Mosaic or Patchwork Plagiarism: By piecing together content from various sources, a writer might believe they are crafting something original. However, the foundation of the work is borrowed, and without citing each source, it’s deceptive and dishonest.
  3. Paraphrasing Plagiarism: Simply changing the words or sentence structure doesn’t make an idea uniquely yours. Even if you believe you’ve significantly altered the original, the root thought still belongs to someone else and needs acknowledgment.
  4. Global Plagiarism: This complete theft, where one takes an entire piece and claims it as their own, is shockingly common with the rise of online paper mills. But, with modern plagiarism-detection software, it’s also increasingly likely to be caught.
  5. Self Plagiarism: A surprising concept to some, using one’s own prior work without proper citation can also be considered dishonest. It’s because the expectation in academia is for unique contributions to each assignment.

Plagiarism Prevention

Knowing what plagiarism is remains half the battle; the next step is actively avoiding it. Here are some tips:

  • Consistent Note-Taking: While researching, always note down your sources. This way, when you refer back to your notes, you’ll know which ideas are yours and which are borrowed.
  • Use Plagiarism Detection Tools: Before submitting any piece, run it through plagiarism detection software. It can highlight any areas that might be problematic.
  • Understand Paraphrasing: Truly understand what it means to paraphrase. It’s not just about changing a few words but genuinely processing the information and writing it in your unique voice.
  • Seek Feedback: Sometimes, a fresh pair of eyes can catch unintentional oversights. Sharing your work with peers or mentors can provide added assurance.

Frequent Ask Questions


1. What is the definition of plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of using someone else’s work, words, or ideas without proper acknowledgment and presenting them as one’s own. This includes copying text from books, articles, websites, or any other source without giving proper credit to the original author.

2. What are the 4 common types of plagiarism?

The four common types of plagiarism are:
Verbatim (Direct) Plagiarism: This is when someone directly copies text from a source without using quotation marks or providing appropriate citation.
Mosaic (Patchwork) Plagiarism: This involves blending copied content from various sources, sometimes with minor word changes, presenting it as original.
Paraphrasing Plagiarism: This is when someone rewords or paraphrases another’s content but doesn’t credit the source.
Self Plagiarism: This occurs when someone resubmits or recycles their own previously submitted work without proper citation or permission.

3. What is plagiarism and how do you avoid it?

Plagiarism is the act of presenting another’s work, words, or ideas as if they were one’s own without proper acknowledgment. To avoid plagiarism:

  • Always provide appropriate citations when using someone else’s words, ideas, or research.
  • Use quotation marks when directly quoting from a source.
  • Understand the difference between paraphrasing and copying. When paraphrasing, ensure the idea is genuinely understood and rewritten in your own words, and always cite the source.
  • Use plagiarism-detection tools to check your work before submission.
  • Familiarize yourself with the citation style required (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago) and adhere to its rules.

4. Does plagiarism mean stealing?

Yes, in a sense, plagiarism is a form of intellectual theft. When one plagiarizes, they are taking someone else’s ideas, words, or work and claiming them as their own, without giving due credit. While it may not be “stealing” in the traditional sense of physically taking something, it is considered theft of intellectual property.

5. Is plagiarism always illegal?

Plagiarism is not always illegal, but it is always unethical. Whether or not it’s illegal depends on the context and jurisdiction. In academic and professional settings, plagiarism can result in severe penalties, including failing grades or even expulsion. In the realm of publishing and creative work, plagiarism can infringe on copyright laws, which can lead to legal consequences. However, not all cases of plagiarism are subject to legal action.

6. What happens if you get plagiarism?

The consequences of plagiarism vary based on the context and severity:

  • In Academic Settings: Students might receive a failing grade on the assignment or the course, be placed on academic probation, or even face expulsion. Their academic reputation may also be tarnished.
  • In Professional Settings: Employees or professionals found plagiarizing might face job termination, loss of professional credibility, or even legal action if copyright infringement is involved.
  • In Publishing: Authors caught plagiarizing may face public humiliation, retraction of their work, legal consequences, and damage to their reputation.

It’s essential to understand the policies and consequences related to plagiarism in whichever setting you’re working.

Wrap up the essence

Plagiarism, whether intentional or accidental, has significant ramifications. By understanding its forms and actively working to prevent it, students and writers can uphold their integrity and contribute genuinely original thoughts and ideas to the academic community. After all, every individual has a unique perspective, and by drawing inspiration while giving due credit, we enrich the tapestry of knowledge.

About the author:

Picture of Dr. Friederike Jurth
Dr. Friederike Jurth

Possibly you already heard of me through different media channels. My name is Dr. Friederike Jurth, and I hold a certificate from Harvard in Higher Education Teaching. Since 2010, I have given lectures on Methodology, Empirical Research, Anthropology, and Transcultural (Music) Studies in collaboration with universities in the United States, Germany, Spain, and Brazil. In 2010, I began a 7-year-long fieldwork project in Rio de Janeiro and have since presented my research at conferences worldwide, including in Japan, the United States, Australia, Brazil, Thailand, Switzerland, and many other countries. Additionally, I have worked as a lecturer and researcher with Germany’s renowned UNESCO Chair.

After completing my doctoral dissertation with summa cum laude, I aimed to unite, condense, and share the steps, ways, and details of my unique methodological and structural approach that I developed during my Ph.D. and that ultimately helped me achieve this result. By concentrating and putting them together into an elaborate academic conception, MyThesis Academy was born. Motivated by the sole aim and objective to help my students through all steps and stages of their thesis journey, MyThesis Academy enables them to achieve their best possible results in the shortest time, independent of their specific area of research.

In addition to my extensive teaching and research experience, I am part of the authors of the Cambridge Companion to Music in Brazil 2024, published by Cambridge University Press & Assessment, where I contribute as a Cambridge Author. This work is a co-operative project conducted remotely from Cambridge, England, United Kingdom.

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