Types of Plagiarism

As is frequently discussed in academic circles, plagiarism is simply not tolerated. From high school students writing their college entrance essays to well-regarded scholars and academics, plagiarism is something that can dismantle one’s goals, plans, and career. Nno matter where you are in your academic or professional career, it’s a good idea to brush up on some of the basic plagiarism types and how to avoid them.

Blatant Plagiarism

This is what most people associate with that word "plagiarism." This umbrella term refers to the word-for-word copying and pasting into your text from an outside source while claiming it as your own. Blatant plagiarism is a bad idea for many reasons, but mainly it’s a bad idea because you’re likely to get caught. Most colleges, universities, and publishing houses have plagiarism checkers that can easily determine if you copied anyone else’s work and passed it off as your own. The easiest way to avoid this type of plagiarism is just DON’T DO IT. YOU WILL GET CAUGHT. And unless your dad is the head of the CIA, you’re unlikely to get out unscathed.

Mosaic Plagiarism

The slippery technique of mosaic plagiarism entails taking parts of someone’s original work and intertwining it with your own.

Original Text

Trotsky was initially a supporter of the Menshevik Internationalists faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. He joined the Bolsheviks immediately prior to the 1917 October Revolution, and eventually became a leader within the Party. During the early days of the Soviet Union, he served first as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs and later as the founder and commander of the Red Army as People's Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs. He was a major figure in the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War (1918–20). He was also among the first members of the Politburo.

Mosaic Plagiarism of the Original Text

Initially a supporter of the Menshevik Internationalist faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, Trotsky immediately joined the Bolsheviks before the 1917 October Revolution. He eventually became a leader in the Party. In the early days of the Soviet Union, Trotsky served as People's Commissar of Foreign Affairs and later as the instigator and leader of the Red Army in his role as People's commissar of Military and Naval Affairs. Trotsky was also a major reason why the Bolsheviks commanded victory in the Russian Civil War (1918-20) and was one of the first Politburo members.

As you can see, the text contains some choice re-wording and restructuring of text although it closely resembles the original text. If you were to turn in a paper with this mosaic text, you would likely be called out for plagiarism.

Proper Paraphrasing is the Best Alternative to Mosaic Plagiarism

When you write papers, you have to give information that other authors have already written about. The trick is to express them in a unique and fresh way. Let's take a look at the above listed original text again.

Original Text

Trotsky was initially a supporter of the Menshevik Internationalists faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. He joined the Bolsheviks immediately prior to the 1917 October Revolution, and eventually became a leader within the Party. During the early days of the Soviet Union, he served first as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs and later as the founder and commander of the Red Army as People's Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs. He was a major figure in the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War (1918–20). He was also among the first members of the Politburo.

Good Paraphrasing of the Text

While originally a Menshevik, Trotsky later joined the Bolsheviks before the October Revolution in 1917. By proving himself as a leader in his roles as People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs and as the Red Army’s People’s Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs, Trotsky eventually became a key player in the early years of the Soviet Union. He was a visionary leader for the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War (1918-20) and included himself as one of the Politburo’s earliest members.

Good paraphrasing can help you to express common knowledge or knowledge you gain from texts without copying the original author’s structure or word usage. A good rule of thumb for all paraphrasing is the following: When in doubt, be sure to cite.

Idea Plagiarism

The last prominent form of plagiarism on our list is idea plagiarism. This involves stealing someone else's idea or representation and passing it off as your own. For example, if you were to take the concept of Dasein, a fundamental concept of Heidegger's Being and Time, and passed it off as your own original thread in philosophy, you would be guilty of idea plagiarism.

The place where students run into complications with idea plagiarism is when they have to complete literature or philosophy papers that require them to create their own original work. For instance, if you're an English major who has been given the assignment to write a scary story and you re-wrote the synopsis of Stephen King's The Shining, you would be guilty of idea plagiarism. A way to avoid this pitfall is that if you incorporate anyone else's ideas or theories at all, cite their influence somewhere in your acknowledgement or works cited sections. But don't think that you can re-tool The Shining and list Stephen King in the acknowledgement section. Your professor will not be pleased! Influence that sparks original work, not the regurgitation of others' work, is the goal.