Plagiarism is not always a black and white issue. The boundary between plagiarism and research is often unclear. Learning to recognize the various forms of plagiarism, especially the more ambiguous ones, is an important step towards effective prevention.
The Plagiarism Spectrum was developed as a way to define and distinguish the common ways in which plagiarism can take form. The Spectrum makes these forms memorable by tagging the types with “Digital 2.0” monikers, a gesture that both acknowledges the role that the internet plays in instances of content copying and makes the types more meaningful for a generation of writers who are “digital natives.”1
As part of the Plagiarism Spectrum project, a May 2012 survey of nearly 900 secondary and higher education instructors was also conducted to assess the frequency with which these types appear as well as the degree to which each type is problematic for instructors.
Each of the 10 most common types of plagiarism are defined below. The types are ranked in order of severity of intent.
Submitting another’s work, word-for-word, as one’s own
Combines perfectly cited sources with copied passages without citation
Contains significant portions of text from a single source without alterations
Mixes copied material from multiple sources
Changing key words and phrases but retaining the essential content of the source
Includes citations to non-existent or inaccurate information about sources
Paraphrases from multiple sources, made to fit together
Includes proper citation to sources but the paper contains almost no original work
Borrows generously from the writer’s previous work without citation
Includes proper citation, but relies too closely on the text’s original wording and/or structure
In addition to being ranked by severity, each type is also accompanied by an example to illustrate how each type appears within the context of a paper.
For full study details and the full list of examples, please download a copy of the white paper.