Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Internet Explorer 11 Will No Longer Be Supported as of November 20, 2020. Read More...

Plagiarism Basics: Types & Examples

Types and Examples of Plagiarism

Deliberate vs. Accidental Plagiarism

Deliberate Plagiarism is "copying a sentence from a source and passing it off as your own and, summarizing someone else's ideas without acknowledging your debt, or buying a term paper and handing it in as your own" (Aaron 133).

Accidental Plagiarism is "forgetting to place quotation marks around other writer’s words, omitting a source citation because you're not aware of the need for it, or carelessly copying a source when you mean to paraphrase" (Aaron 133).

Examples of Plagiarism:  A Continuum

See the continuum below for examples of types of plagiarism that can occur, with the lower left being less serious and possibly accidental examples of plagiarism.  As the examples go higher and to the right, they are more serious and deliberate examples of plagiarism.

Aaron, Jane E. The Little, Brown Essential Handbook for Writers. New York: Longman, 2000.

Don't let this happen to you! Start practicing academic integrity while in college and be ready for the real world!

The Person

The Case

The Judgment

Jayson Blair

36 of the 73 national news stories written by him for the New York Times included plagiarized quotes or were made up.

Forced to resign from the New York Times. The executive editor and managing editor also resigned shortly after Blair.

Ohio University Student

An Ohio University student was charged with plagiarizing a paper because she didn’t cite or paraphrase correctly.

Expelled from the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea program. She was forced to disembark early and go home.

Kaavya Viswanathan

Her novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, had too many similarities to novels by Megan McCafferty, Salman Rushdie, Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, and Tanuja Desai Hidier.

Her book was pulled from publication after the plagiarism was discovered. Her book and movie deals were dropped. Because the novel was not part of her academic work, Harvard took no action against the sophomore.

Janet Cooke

Fabricated parts of her story for the Washington Post that was nominated for and won the Pulitzer prize

Resigned and returned her Pulitzer Prize

Timothy S. Goeglein

Former White House aide, 20 of the 38 stories he wrote for the News-Sentinel (Indiana), copied text from other sources without citing them.

Resigned from White House. News-Sentinel editor stated they won't publish his articles in the future.

Janet Dailey

In two of her books, she borrowed plot points as well as passages from Nora Robert's novels.

Both novels were pulled from print and she paid a settlement to Nora Roberts.

Source: UC San Diego Library

NewspaperCase #1:  The editorial staff of the University Press (UP) retracted its Fall sports issue because it decided much of its content was plagiarized by a reporter (2017).

Retraction:  The Oxford English Dictionary (2018) defines retraction as "the action or fact of revoking or rescinding a decision, decree, etc."  A more thorough definition is, "the action of withdrawing a statement, accusation, etc., which is now admitted to be erroneous or unjustified... recantation; an instance of this; a statement of making such a withdrawal." 

When a retraction is applied to something that was published (such as a newspaper article or academic journal article), it was withdrawn from the publication in which it appeared after it was published.  A retraction is issued through a decision made by the publication's editorial board.

Source:  Oxford University Press (2018, July).  OED online.  Retrieved from

Case #2:  University Press (UP) editor accused reporter for Boca Raton Tribune of plagiarizing her story (2015):

Case #3:  University Press (UP) suspended a writer for plagiarism and issued an apology (2005):

Examples of Plagiarism and Proper Use of Information

Example 1: No Attribution and Poor Paraphrasing

The original text:

"There is a strong market demand for eco-tourism in Australia. Its rich and diverse natural heritage ensures Australia's capacity to attract international ecotourists and gives Australia a comparative advantage in the highly competitive tourism industry."

Weaver, D. (Ed.) 2000, The encyclopedia of ecotourism, New York: CABIPublishing: p. 143.

The plagiarized text:

There is a high market demand for eco-tourism in Australia. Australia has a comparative advantage in the highly competitive tourism industry due to its rich and varied natural heritage which ensures Australia's capacity to attract international ecotourists. 

Why is this plagiarism?

One or two words have been changed but this copies the same basic wording and structure of the original text. It also does not cite the original source of the text, so the student is suggesting that the words and ideas are his/her own.

Example 2: Not Properly Formatting a Direct Quote

Original Text:

"Dramatic changes in the non-Aboriginal community's appreciation of the importance of women as social and ceremonial agents in Aboriginal society had translated into pressure of demand in the art world for Papunya women's paintings."

(Johnson, V. 1994,  Aboriginal artists of the western desert, Roseville East, NSW: Craftsman House : p18).

The plagiarized text:

Johnson (1994) explains that dramatic changes in the non-Aboriginal community's appreciation of the importance of women as social and ceremonial agents in Aboriginal society had translated into pressure of demand in the art world for Papunya women's paintings.

Why is this plagiarism?

Although the author has been cited, the student presents the exact words as if he or she had written them. This 'direct quote' should be enclosed in quotation marks ("...").

Example 3: Correct Paraphrasing and Attribution

The original text:

"More and more occasions require negotiation; conflict is a growth industry. Everyone wants to participate in decisions that affect them; fewer and fewer people will accept decisions dictated by someone else."

(Fisher, R., & Ury, W. 1991, Getting to Yes - negotiating an agreement without giving in. London, Random House : p. xiii).

Correctly used in an essay:

Fisher & Ury (1991) believe that because people want to be involved in the decision making process, rather than be given instructions, negotiation is an essential skill.

Why is this not plagiarism?

The authors are named at the beginning of the sentence, so it is clear this is not the writers original idea even though the writer has expressed the original text in his/her own words ('paraphrasing').

Example 4: Correct Citation and Use of Quotations

The original text:

"For a cinema whose heroic male leads had been figures like Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson, and Paul Hogan, the films of the early 1990s represented a radical shift in its image of Australian masculinity".

 (Butters, P. 2001, 'Becoming a man in Australian films in the Early 1990s' in  I. Craven (Ed.), Australian cinema in the 1990s. London, Frank Cass: p. 79).

Correctly used in an essay:

Butters (2001) discusses a move away from the traditional movie heroes, and suggests that more recent films "represented a radical shift in its image of Australian masculinity".

Why is this not plagiarism?

Again, citing the author at the beginning of the sentence highlights that this is not the student's own opinion. Quotation marks are used around a direct quote.

Source: DeSales University Plagiarism LibGuide