The best offense is a good defense—and that idea applies to writing as much as it does to sports.  In writing, you need to be able to defend yourself against accusations of plagiarism.  That means being smart about how you write, how you cite, and how you maintain integrity in research.  In this article, we’ll give you some basics to help you improve your game so that you can become an academic all-star without fear of falling.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of using someone else’s work or ideas without proper acknowledgment.  A plagiarist represents somebody else’s work as his own original effort.  Plagiarism is a big no-no in academics, but it can get you into big trouble in any context that involves copying text, copywrite infringement, borrowing concepts, or failing to cite sources appropriately even when paraphrasing text.

You might get far by plagiarizing your way to the top—but you’ll eventually get found out in the end (see Harvard’s former president Claudine Gay, for example).

  • Plagiarism is considered a breach of ethics and a serious academic offense.
  • Penalties are not to be taken lightly but can range from loss of credibility (if the offense is mild) to more severe institutional consequences (like loss of admission).
  • Not all plagiarism detection tools are created equal. Find one that really works—and we’ll show you how below!

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Prevalence in Academic Settings

In academics, plagiarism is an issue that everyone hears about all the time.  Students, teachers, researchers, administrators—they all have to be mindful of what it is and how it can hurt reputations and chances in life.  Yet, in spite of all the warnings, it still happens.

So why is that?  Simple.  The accessibility of digital resources and the pressure to perform well can sometimes lead people to plagiarize, even without fully understanding how they are doing it or the implications of their actions.  Even something as flubbing citation styles could potentially get one in trouble for plagiarism—so this needs to be taken very seriously.

Educators and institutions are constantly on the lookout for plagiarism in assignments, research papers, theses, and dissertations.  Almost all of them have some kind of stringent checks in place and maintain educational campaigns about the importance academic integrity.

Importance of Addressing Plagiarism

Addressing plagiarism is important for the sake of maintaining academic integrity and supporting real intellectual growth.  The first place to start is with knowledge of the ethical and procedural aspects of scholarly work.  This is what forms the foundation of research and professional conduct.  And this is how educational institutions cultivate a culture of honesty and respect for intellectual property, both of which are crucial for academic and professional success.

Types of Plagiarism

Direct Plagiarism

Direct plagiarism is when a person copies text word-for-word from a source without using quotation marks or properly citing the source. This type of plagiarism constitutes a deliberate act of intellectual theft and is the most easily detected when a work is run through plagiarism detection tools.


Self-plagiarism involves reusing one’s own previously published work without properly citing the previously used work. This could include submitting the same paper for different classes or integrating part of your earlier work into new research without acknowledgment. Although there are questions about redundancy and originality of scholarly contributions, self-plagiarism is generally frowned upon.

Mosaic Plagiarism (Patchwriting)

Mosaic plagiarism, or patchwriting, involves piecing together ideas or phrases from various sources and blending them with your own writing without proper citations. This type of plagiarism can sometimes be unintentional—especially when one is in a rush.  But you need to be aware of it and take precautions.

Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism occurs when a person neglects to cite their sources correctly or fails to paraphrase adequately without having the intent to deceive. Although accidental, this form of plagiarism can still result in academic penalties—like failure on a paper or for an entire course.  Avoiding it means taking the time to do things the right way.  Still, it can happen even to the best of us.

  • For example, the South Park creators did it when they spoofed the movie Inception in episode 205 by ripping off a College Humor YouTube sketch. They were in such a rush they did not realize they were literally lifting lines nearly verbatim from the sketch they had just watched.

Examples of Plagiarism

Direct Plagiarism Examples

  1. A student copies several paragraphs from a digital book without making any changes or giving citations, and presents the material in a term paper as if it were his own.
  2. An author “borrows” portions of text from different public websites and includes them in his report without giving any clear attribution and thus allowing the reader to have the impression that the “borrowed” portions are indeed the author’s own words.

Self-Plagiarism Examples

  1. A university professor uses large segments of his previously published papers to write a new article, without citing the earlier works.  Now there are multiple publications with identical content.
  2. A graduate student recycles part of his master’s thesis for a doctoral dissertation proposal and does not disclose that the material has come from a prior work.

Mosaic Plagiarism (Patchwriting) Examples

  1. A journalist takes excerpts from several news articles, slightly modifies the language, and integrates them into a new article, making it difficult to trace the original sources without proper citations.
  2. An academic takes parts of text from multiple student theses, makes minimal rewording, and incorporates them into a new research paper, creating an appearance of originality while primarily using others’ works.

Accidental Plagiarism Examples

  1. A blogger refers to several statistics and facts gathered from an industry report but fails to mention or link to the original source, and thus inadvertently presents them as his own research and independently verified figures.
  2. A student uses technical terms and definitions from a textbook in his essay without realizing these need to be cited, mistakenly assuming that they are common knowledge.


examples of plagiarism

Plagiarism and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Rise of AI in Academia

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into all aspects of life has not escaped the notice of academics.  AI tools are everywhere and they can now be used in research, writing, and even the grading of assignments. These tools can analyze large datasets, suggest relevant literature, make improvements to text, and help in structuring and proofreading academic papers.  Sounds great, right?  But it’s not all roses.  There are some real problems with AI in this respect.

For starters, AI undoubtedly acts as a powerful resource for learning and research, but it also can facilitate plagiarism.  That’s because AI is really just scanning what’s already out there for consumption, lifting from it, rewording it a bit at times (but not always), and sending it on to the user.  Students who rely on AI, using its outputs as their own, are not actually doing themselves any favors.

  1. First, they are hindering their own learning process and encouraging dependency.
  2. Second, they are inevitably taking the words of someone else and using them as their own.
  3. And since AI isn’t great about citing its own sources, a user of AI is already on the road to plagiarism and just waiting to get called out.

Detection Challenges

Plagiarism detection software traditionally scans for direct matches and paraphrased content from documented sources. However, the advent of AI-generated content poses new challenges. Advanced AI models can rephrase ideas and generate seemingly new content that may not directly match existing sources although it still lacks original thought from the user. This initially created a blind spot for conventional plagiarism detection tools. However, new advancements such as those featured in our free plagiarism checker have begun to address these issues. These tools are now capable of detecting nuances in text that may suggest AI involvement.  Distinguishing between AI-assisted work and student originality will likely always be a challenge that is found the eye of the beholder—but this checker helps raise some flags.

Evolving Definitions of Plagiarism

AI certainly complicates the traditional definitions of plagiarism. The ultimate question for now is this: does using AI-generated content without disclosure constitute plagiarism?  \

This debate is ongoing in academic circles. Some argue that the undisclosed use of AI tools violates the principles of originality and integrity in the same way as plagiarism. Others see it as a form of assistance, no different in principle than citing information from a published source. In response, academic institutions are beginning to revise policies to clarify the boundaries and expectations regarding AI-generated content. This includes stipulating that all AI-assisted work should be clearly acknowledged, setting a precedent for transparency and accountability in student submissions.

Preventive Measures and Ethical Considerations

In response to these challenges, it is not surprising to see an increased focus on developing tools and strategies to detect AI-assisted plagiarism. These tools look for textual matches and analyze writing styles and inconsistencies that line up with patterns found in all AI-generated content.

Ethical considerations have to be made. Educators and students are walking near a fine line between seeing AI as a tool for learning and relying on AI in ways that compromise educational integrity. Academic policies are changing as a result, and students need to be on guard.  They need real critical thinking and problem-solving skills independent of AI assistance—or they might find themselves being hauled into the dean’s office with a lot of explaining to do.