Defining Plagiarism


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Plagiarism is the unauthorized or uncredited use of the writings or ideas of another in your writing. While it might not be as tangible as auto theft or burglary, plagiarism is still a form of theft.

Examples of plagiarism include:

  • Turning in someone else’s paper as your own
  • Using the exact words of a source without quotation marks and/or a citation
  • Using similar words as a source while keeping the same sentence structure and meaning – this is known as patchwriting.
  • Taking an image, chart, or statistic from a source without telling where it originated
  • Copying and pasting material from the internet without quotation marks and/or a citation
  • Including another person’s idea without crediting the author

In the academic world, plagiarism is a serious matter because ideas in the forms of research, creative work, and original thought are highly valued. Chances are, your school has strict rules about what happens when someone is caught plagiarizing. The penalty for plagiarism is severe, ranging from a failing grade for the plagiarized work to a failing grade for the class or expulsion from the institution.

You might not be aware that plagiarism can take several different forms. The most well-known, intentional, or purposeful plagiarism is handing in an essay written by someone else and representing it as your own, copying your essay word for word from a magazine or journal, or downloading an essay from the Internet.

Unintentional or accidental plagiarism is a much more common and less understood phenomenon. It is the result of improperly paraphrasing, summarizing, quoting, or citing evidence in academic writing. Generally, writers accidentally plagiarize because they simply don’t know or fail to follow the rules for giving credit to the ideas of others in their writing.

Both intentional and unintentional plagiarism are wrong, against the rules, and can result in harsh punishments. Ignoring or not knowing the rules of how to not plagiarize and properly cite evidence might be an explanation, but it is not an excuse.


Adapted from Lumen Learning’s “Defining Plagiarism” from English Composition II used according to CC BY 4.0.


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UNM Core Writing OER Collection Copyright © 2023 by University of New Mexico is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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