Most Common Types of Plagiarism

Writing essays and conducting research are two inevitable parts of every studying process. As a student, you’ll be assigned numerous tasks like this, and you’ll have to work hard to meet all instructions, format your papers according to the required academic formats, as well as make sure you eliminate all grammar and proofreading issues. But there is another potentially dangerous flaw that could ruin your grade and damage your performance record.

There are numerous types of plagiarism your paper might have. In general, there is just one definition of plagiarism: it is copying the ideas of other people. Still, plagiarism could be divided into two major categories: intentional and unintentional. The former means that you deliberately take parts from papers written by others and try to pass them as your own. With the latter, you might do it by accident, and that’s the most infuriating bit. Even if you applied genuine efforts, it might not be enough to save you from harsh consequences.

Groups of Plagiarism and Their Severity

If you’re just starting your higher education, you might ask yourself, “Is plagiarism illegal?” The answer depends on numerous factors, such as your position, type of work where plag occurred, and others. Students mostly risk getting a failing grade or being expelled. So you could know for sure what types of plagiarism exist, check the lists below. We grouped different plag kinds based on two categories, intentional as well as unintentional/mixed. The last means that it could be both deliberate and accidental, depending on a situation. They’re all listed in the order of their seriousness.

Intentional Plagiarism Severity
Word-for-word (Verbatim) Severe
Reverse Severe
Global Severe
Patchwork (mosaic) Severe

Unintentional/Mixed Plagiarism  Severity
Paraphrasing plagiarism Severe
Incremental Serious
Incidental Moderate
Self-plagiarism Moderate
Incorrect citation Moderate


What Are the Different Types of Plagiarism: Explanation and Examples

Now you know the common categories and their kinds, but how can they be defined? Let’s see some more detailed explanations.

From intentional group:

1) Word-for-word (Verbatim): this is a severe kind of plag where people take more than 5 words from another source in sequence and don’t use quotation marks and/or fail to point out its real author.

2) Reverse: another severe plagiarism type that entails fake referencing, a case where you were unable to find any support of your claim in a source and made it up. The use of fake sources is considered a serious offense since you mislead your audience on purpose for the sake of validating fake data. Another instance could happen when you used a real source but only pretended that it has information you’re presenting.

3) Global: plagiarism type where a person who hasn’t written text presents it as their own. Its seriousness is tremendous because it implies you’ve put few to no efforts into composing your paper. You deliberately stole from 90% to 100% of it and tried to pretend it belongs to you.

4) Patchwork (mosaic): catching this plagiarism type is pretty difficult, but if it occurs, consequences are going to be harsh enough to result in you being expelled, with your academic reputation damaged for a lengthy period of time. That’s how it happens: a person studies several sources, combines ideas from them as pieces of a mosaic, and presents them in one single essay they pass off for theirs. It includes combining consequences, research implications, and other relevant parts.

Example. Let’s imagine there are two published academic sources that are written on topic “The impact of controversial media on real-world violence”.

Source #1 presents this idea: “In order to prove that violent media have no significant effects on people’s mind, ten popular horror movies, twelve songs romanticizing gangsters, and fifteen books by Stephen King have been analyzed.”

Source #2 makes the following conclusion: “The summary of results shows that the media impact on people is not 1:1. In fact, it’s insignificant, and Carter’s case proves it.”

The writer combined both ideas and offered this thesis: “Media do not trigger people’s violence based on 1:1 ratio, which is shown on the example of Carter, ten selected horror films, fifteen King’s books, as well as twelve gangsters-related songs.” In the following paragraphs, writer continues using examples and research provided by other two authors, uniting them and passing them for something they’ve allegedly researched themselves.

From unintentional group:

5) Paraphrasing: in most cases, it’s one of the strictest deliberate types of plagiarism. It happens when you wanted to take an idea from another text while presenting it in your own modified words and failed in it. Rewriting tends to be a good solution as it allows you to rely on credible research yet demonstrate your personal analysis skills by replacing some parts with your info, changing words, switching parts, etc. But at times, students fail because they didn’t apply enough effort. As a result, the text ends up being copied and caught by a plag checker.

Example. Here is an original text:

Research into statistics of children who were brought up by homosexual father and mother shows that in most cases, they are abused less often than those raised by heterosexual couples. It could be explained by the fact that in homosexual families, children are not born accidentally, which makes their appearance a conscious decision.

This is what a student who paraphrased it badly submitted:

Research into those children who were raised by homosexual parents demonstrates that in the majority of cases, they are abused with reduced frequently than their counterparts who are brought up by heterosexual parents. It could be explained with evidence that in the former families, children are not born by accident; they are a deliberate choice.

6) Incremental: happens when you forget to cite an author or give publishing details of a source from which you took any data. You could even present a phrase as a direct quote, putting the required marks around it: on the one hand, it’s clear that you aren’t trying to pretend you were the one who came up with these words, but on the other, the info about the actual writer is still missing. This is viewed as plagiarism of a serious kind.

Example. Author James Warren wrote an article about racism. A student should be writing in APA format, where the author’s name, year, and page number must be provided for direct quotes. But they present the following sentence: “Despite numerous efforts being poured into the restoration of balance, “both racism and reverse racism continue to gain urgency”.

As you see, there are no mentions of author, date, or pages that could help identify the initial author.

7) Incidental: as a considerably moderate plag type, this one doesn’t usually lead to disastrous results, but it’s up to your professor to decide since some refuse to tolerate even 0.1% of plag. This type entails copying small bits of data and editing them to make them look like your own. Many online checkers fail to understand this fact, but professors know what to look out for, so it would be better to avoid it altogether.

8) Self-plagiarism: it might appear confusing to you but yes, you can plagiarize yourself. Students could be writing several papers on a related or similar topic, and instead of spending time on additional extensive research, they could choose to turn to their previous conclusions or justifications. Copying your insights or inserting parts from the previous essays into a new one is plagiarism, even though it isn’t as severe as most remaining types.

9) Incorrect citation: often sorted into a category of incidental plag. Wrong citation format is a common issue that’s usually explained by inattentiveness or ignorance.

Example. If you’re writing in MLA format, you must mention page number along with the name of an author for every fact you’ve taken from somewhere (unless the source doesn’t have pages). It should be like this: (Jenners 34). If you forget to refer to a page number, formatting your sentence this way: (Jenners), it’ll be seen as plagiarism.

How to Avoid All Plagiarism Types?

Use plagiarism checker to prevent your professor from finding plag in your paper. As you saw, there are many different types of plagiarism, but unless you’re trying to plagiarize something deliberately, you can easily eliminate accidental plag kinds. Copy your text, put it into a trustworthy checker, and see the results. An efficient helper will show you all problematic areas. It’ll give you a chance to improve them and receive a great grade.