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Writing 101

– 5 min read

7 common types of plagiarism explained

Jessica Malnik

Jessica Malnik


As we’ve said before, plagiarism is the dishonest act of trying to pass someone else’s work off as your own.

It’s the type of unethical practice that can land writers, editors, and academic researchers in hot water.

However, there are multiple types of plagiarism and they aren’t all created equal. Some aren’t even intentional.

In this post, we discuss the different types of plagiarism, including examples, so you can avoid plagiarism in your writing.

7 types of plagiarism

In this section, we’ll cover the 7 most common types of plagiarism:

1. Mosaic or patchwork plagiarism

With this type of plagiarism, the work of someone else is simply paraphrased without proper citation. It’s often difficult to detect because the plagiarized material is interwoven with many different sources, including the writer’s own ideas and perspective. 

This type of paraphrasing can be done from one or several sources. The writer may try to change up the sentence structure or use synonyms to make it seem original. However, taking the idea of another piece is still plagiarism, even if the words are switched up a bit and intermingled with original thought.

2. Paraphrasing plagiarism

Paraphrasing, or incremental plagiarism, is the most common type of plagiarism. It’s similar to the mosaic plagiarism style mentioned above. However, the difference is that the copied work isn’t mixed in with new concepts and research. When you paraphrase the original idea in your own words, the borrowed material stays the same throughout the new piece.

3. Complete plagiarism

Complete plagiarism is more common in academic writing than in content marketing or other types of online writing. This type of plagiarism occurs when someone tries to submit an entire research paper as their own without proper attribution.

For example, this involves copying and pasting the original work in its exact words. The only thing that is changed is the author’s name.


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4. Self-plagiarism

Also known as auto-plagiarism, self-plagiarism happens when you copy your own writing, whether intentional or not. Often the person in a self-plagiarism incident is summarizing or repurposing their own work instead of writing a whole new piece from scratch on the same topic. 

Many people think self-plagiarism is harmless because you aren’t stealing from someone else. Just yourself. But, this type of plagiarism can be just as damaging as any other.

For example, if you are writing web pages and you are caught plagiarizing, you could end up getting penalized by Google for duplicate content.

Or, if you are writing for clients, your words may no longer belong to you. This could even result in potential legal issues if it is a breach of your client contract.


5. Accidental plagiarism

Plagiarism doesn’t always happen on purpose. It’s still considered plagiarism when someone copies another’s writing without citing their source, improperly cites the source or leaves out quotation marks on accident. Just because the omission or incorrect citation was accidental doesn’t mean plagiarism hasn’t been committed. This is why it’s important to check any work and when in doubt, give your source credit.

6. Source-based plagiarism

This type of plagiarism refers to instances when misleading sources are involved. For example, the writer may have two sources of information but only reference one. Another form of source-based plagiarism would be when an author quotes a non-existent or incorrect source.

The worst type of this kind of plagiarism is when sources are fabricated. Making up information like study findings or statistics is extremely misleading and can even be harmful in the case of medical content.

7. Direct or verbatim plagiarism

Direct plagiarism, also known as verbatim or copy-paste plagiarism, is an intentional and unethical form of stealing content. As the name suggests, the writing is stolen word for word and pasted into the new piece. The author then tries to pass off the content as their own. A word or two might be changed, but this type of plagiarism is too blatant to be considered paraphrasing.

What is the most obvious form of plagiarism

The most obvious form of plagiarism is direct plagiarism. The words are directly copied without any text citations or credit to the original source.


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With multiple plagiarism checking tools available, anyone with an internet connection can quickly see if a piece was plagiarized.

Many plagiarism software options include the ability to check for structure, synonyms, and even paraphrasing and common knowledge. If text is copied word for word, it won’t stand a chance of not being detected as plagiarism. Even pasting the words in a Google search is likely to uncover the original source when direct plagiarism is involved.

Here’s an example to give you a sense of how much could be changed and still be considered direct plagiarism:


Original: "My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get" / Plagiarized: "My mom always said life was a box of chocolates. You don't know what you'll get."


Though a few words were changed and omitted, the quote above is still considered direct plagiarism and can be easily identified as such.

A famous, real-world example of plagiarism can be seen in the case of Melania Trump’s speech following the 45th president’s inaugutypration in January 2017. Though a few words were changed here and there, a part of her speech was directly plagiarized from a prior speech of Michelle Obama’s:


Original: "And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect..." -Michelle Obama / Plagiarized: "My parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise; that you treat people with respect." -Melania Trump


This example shows how easy it is to spot instances of direct plagiarism. Politics aside, this famous case of verbatim plagiarism serves as a reminder of how obvious this type of stealing is and the importance of writing authentic, original content.



During the research phase of any content piece, you’ll likely be referencing multiple sources. Think about how they influence your work and do your best to present the information in a fresh, original way. When in doubt, use Writer’s free plagiarism checker to make sure your writing is original and ready to go live!

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Jessica Malnik

Industry insights for the professional writer.
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