Types of Plagiarism — Guide and Examples

27.03.23 Types of plagiarism Time to read: 4min

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Plagiarism is stealing content without permission and presenting it as one’s own without correct accreditation.1

In academia, industry, and commerce, all types of plagiarism are considered severely unethical. Here’s how to spot and avoid them.2

Types of Plagiarism – In a Nutshell

  • Plagiarism is the unethical act of copying past material without permission and passing it off as one’s original work.
  • Malicious types of plagiarism are used to cheat examinations, boost reputations, and enhance mediocre pieces.
  • Accidental types of plagiarism occur when existing ideas are repeated unconsciously, uncredited, or by coincidence.
  • If discovered, all (deliberate) types of plagiarism can carry life-changing penalties. Use references, a moral compass, and proofreading to avoid.

Definition: Types of plagiarism

Plagiarism isn’t always copying out an entire book word-for-word. Here’s our quick guide.

Global plagiarism Copying an existing work whole and attaching a new credit to it.1
Direct plagiarism Copying part of another source into a piece without reference. The copy-and-paste job is still too obvious to count as paraphrasing, however.2
Patchwork plagiarism Carefully "stitching" together stolen content. Due to its close similarity to legitimate referencing, malicious intent can be hard to prove.2
Paraphrasing plagiarism Copying an existing work and changing certain words, phrases, or the order.2
Self-plagiarism Recycling your own work. It's the author's - but it isn't new. The material has already been published elsewhere.2
How to avoid point deductions

Point deductions can also be caused when citing passages that are not written in your own words. Don’t take a risk and run your paper through our online plagiarism checker. You will receive the results in only 10 minutes and submit your paper with confidence.

To the plagiarism checker

Types of plagiarism: Global plagiarism

Global (or complete) plagiarism is the most egregious of the types of plagiarism. Global misrepresents someone else’s work by falsely accrediting it. Global plagiarism from obscure secondary sources is a common, lazy tactic often used to cheat exams.3


The article Types of Plagiarism: How Not To (Cambridge, MA., 1969) by Dr V. V. Honest is photocopied from an obscure journal by an unscrupulous student. The student changes the title to Plagiarism: A Short Guide before adding their name and submitting it.

All global types of plagiarism are considered top-tier, conscious ethical offences. Discovery may warrant a student or employee’s disqualification, demotion, exclusion, or dismissal. Intellectual property infringement may also trigger legal proceedings.

You can avoid all types of plagiarism by only ever submitting your own work.3

Types of plagiarism: Direct plagiarism

Direct types of plagiarism are slightly more sophisticated. Direct uses “smoke and mirrors” to make copied material seem much more original without paraphrasing.1

Here’s how it works. An article is, again, plagiarized – but this time, the plagiarist doesn’t steal everything and takes the time to swap out certain words. To confuse invigilators, the student also re-orders the paragraphs and inserts a unique conclusion they actually wrote.

You can avoid direct types of plagiarism by submitting work that’s yours in full. Referenced block quotes are, however, legitimate – but always ensure they’re correctly labelled and italicized.3

Types of plagiarism: Patchwork plagiarism

Patchwork (Mosaic) plagiarism is a subtler (and sometimes disputed) member of the types of plagiarism. It may be committed innocently through ignorance.2

It occurs when unreferenced, borrowed ideas or content mix with original work. The author eloquently stitches together sources to form a “unique” argument. Topical ideas already coined elsewhere might also reoccur to a naive author, complicating matters.2

You can avoid these “grey zone” types of plagiarism through careful proofreading, referencing, and exhaustive literature surveys.3

Types of plagiarism: Paraphrasing plagiarism

Paraphrasing is distinct. Instead of changing select elements, the plagiarist completely rewrites other people’s work in their own words.1

While the prose may be completely original, work showing an identical intent, topic, tone, ideas, structure, or meaning still qualifies as stolen.2

It’s all too easy to paraphrase without credit. However, correctly referencing past work (i.e. secondary sources) can prove highly useful. Here’s an example of how to paraphrase the right way.3


The original text: “To avoid accidental types of plagiarism, remember the V.V. Honest motto: always double-check your work!”

Incorrect paraphrasing:

Plagiarism? Me, I personally believe all essayists should undergo constant self-review for such sloppy, amateurish types of plagiarism.

Correct paraphrasing:

Honest (Et Al.) declared in 1969 that ethical writers should always “double-check” their statements for signs of naive types of plagiarism. I would agree.

Types of plagiarism: Self-plagiarism

Self-plagiarism occurs when a creator produces a new piece that’s too derivative of their past work. It often results from creative stagnation, time constraints, or laziness.

Here’s another example. A student rewrites an essay derivative of a successful past piece that received a high grade. While there’s no fault with authorship, the new exam criteria specifically requested original work – so the old essay doesn’t qualify.

There’s a second, less severe tier of self-plagiarism, too. While having a distinct style is good, repeating your “greatest hits” too often can lead to accusations of recycling via paraphrasing.

You can avoid self-plagiarism by examining your older material for similarities and themes and searching for ways to innovate. If appropriate? You can even reference your past pieces.2


Good referencing uses truthful footnotes to direct readers to sources. It avoids fraud by correctly giving credit where credit’s due.1

No. Musical compositions, video material, spoken prose (e.g. jokes, speeches, slogans), and visuals (e.g. art styles) are also at risk.

Yes. Creators that repeat their previously released work too closely risk committing self-plagiarism.2


1 University of Oxford. “Plagiarism.” Accessed March 3, 2023. https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/guidance/skills/plagiarism.

2 Writer. “Prevent any kind of plagiarism before hitting publish.” Accessed March 3, 2023. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/nevertheless.

3 Calonia, Jennifer. “How To Avoid Plagiarism.” Grammarly Blog. Accessed March 3, 2023. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/5-most-effective-methods-for-avoiding-plagiarism/.