What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is a serious form of academic misconduct. It involves both appropriating someone else’s work and passing it off as one’s own work afterwards.  Thus, you commit plagiarism when you present someone else's written or creative work (words, images, ideas, opinions, discoveries, artwork, music, recordings, computer-generated work, etc.) as your own.  

People's ideas may be contained in:

  • written text (journal articles, books, theses, dissertations, newspapers, magazines, notes, course material, students' projects, e-mail messages, data, computer code, everything on the internet, etc),
  • visual text (books on fine art, graphics, photographs, etc),
  • multimedia products (websites, videos, films, CDs and DVDs, etc),
  • music (compositions, lyrics, CDs, DVDs, music or sound bites on the internet, etc), and
  • spoken text (speeches, audio recordings, lectures, interviews, etc).

Types of plagiarism 

Anyone who has written or graded a paper knows that plagiarism is not always a cut-and-dried issue. The difference  between plagiarism and research is often elusive. Cultivating vigilant awareness of the various forms of plagiarism, especially the in more marginal cases, is an important step in the fight to prevent it.


'The Ghost Writer’

The writer turns in another’s work, word-for-word, as his/her own.


‘The Photocopy’

The writer copies significant portions of text straight from a single source, without alteration.


‘The Potluck Paper’

The writer tries to disguise plagiarism by copying from several different sources, tweaking the sentences to make them fit together while retaining most of the original phrasing.


‘The Poor Disguise’

Although the writer has retained the essential content of the source, he/she has altered the paper’s appearance slightly by changing key words and phrases.


‘The Labo[u]r of Laziness’

The writer takes the time to paraphrase most of the paper from other sources and makes it all fit together, instead of spending the same effort on original work.


‘The Self-Stealer’

The writer ‘borrows’ generously from his/her previous work, violating policies concerning the expectation of originality adopted by most academic institutions.


‘The Forgotten Footnote’

The writer mentions an author’s name for a source, but neglects to include specific information on the location of the referenced material. This often masks other forms of plagiarism by obscuring source locations.


‘The Misinformer’

The writer provides inaccurate information regarding the sources, making it impossible to find them.

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