Benjamin Franklin once said, “There is much difference between imitating a man and counterfeiting him.” It might be tempting to pass off this wise observation as one’s own without giving credit to Franklin. But, thanks to the internet, it is next to impossible to plagiarize the words of famous people. But what about the words and ideas of not-so-famous people? How safe is the common man from being ripped off of credit for his/her work? Welcome to the world of plagiarism where no content or idea is safe from being stolen. From copying a friend’s homework to stealing someone’s intellectual property, plagiarism is widespread in every field of work.
Before discussing plagiarism in detail, one needs to define what is considered as plagiarism.
An act of deliberately or accidentally copying others’ works, ideas, and words without giving proper credit to the source is termed as plagiarism. There is no bigger threat to creativity and originality than plagiarism.
Here are 6 different types of plagiarism for a better understanding of what is and what isn’t considered plagiarism:
- Direct plagiarism: This is the most blatant form of plagiarism out there, where content is stolen and replicated as it is. It is the laziest form of copying, where the plagiarist doesn’t even bother to make any changes before passing off someone’s work as their own. For example, students purchase essays from the internet and submit them without putting any effort to make these essays their own. Ironically, this is the most easily detectable form of plagiarism.
- Find & Replace plagiarism: This kind of plagiarism involves finding keywords in a written piece of material and replacing them with their synonyms in an attempt to mask the stealing of content. An example of this is replacing “fainted” with “fell unconscious” without changing anything else from the original content. Changing active voice to passive voice, tinkering a little with sentence structure, etc. also fall under such kind of plagiarism. Such feeble attempts to hide plagiarism seldom work as the content theft is identified sooner or later.
- Mosaic plagiarism: In this type of plagiarism, the person copies a phrase or passage from the source without using quotation marks. While this might not seem like a severe case of plagiarism, it is considered to be highly unethical as one is passing off someone’s ideas or words as their own without giving any credit to the source. Mosaic plagiarism is quite common among students who copy passages from various sources in an attempt to lengthen their written content. Lethargy and a lack of deriving inferences to form one’s own opinions are the major causes of mosaic plagiarism.
- Accidental plagiarism: Sometimes, improper citation and misinterpretation of sources can also lead to plagiarism. These are not as severe as direct plagiarism or find and replace plagiarism because they are unintentional mistakes that occur due to the writer’s negligence or misunderstanding of source material. For example, if a student forgets to cite sources in the bibliography, it can be termed as accidental plagiarism. This type of plagiarism can be easily avoided if the writer pays attention to citation rules or reads the source material carefully.
- Self plagiarism: If one uses excerpts from their previously published content without citing the source, then it is considered as a case of self plagiarism. While it might seem harsh to be reprimanded for reusing one’s own work, it is important to inform the reader that the ideas or words used in the written content have been published before. Republishing one’s content, word-by-word, on multiple platforms without giving credit to the source when it was first published is a classic example of self plagiarism.
- Paraphrasing: Using someone’s ideas without crediting the source by rephrasing the entire content falls under paraphrasing plagiarism. By using different words and writing styles, many writers try to pass off the knowledge they acquired from different sources as their own. It may sound bizarre, but most of the content on the internet falls under paraphrasing plagiarism.
Although plagiarism is prevalent on a large scale in academics and the publishing industry, there are a few reliable plagiarism checkers out there that make it easier to detect plagiarized content. Watch out this space for an in-depth analysis on how to avoid plagiarism in writing!