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The Different Types of Plagiarism and Tips to Avoid It

Different Types of Plagiarism
Plagiarism, in simple words, is stealing another person's language and thoughts, and passing it off as one's own original work. This article focuses on the types of plagiarism and the ways it is done.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Plagiarism is derived from two Latin words - plagiarius which means an abductor, and plagiare which means to steal. According to Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, it is defined as use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work. It is also considered as violation of scholarly ethics and intellectual property by many academicians.
Why People Plagiarize
Lack of original content in any piece of written work is considered as plagiarism. Plagiarism is a phenomenon that takes place everywhere around us. Some people plagiarize unknowingly because they do not know what may amount to it. Others plagiarize willingly as they are simply ignorant or lazy. Students are the greatest culprits of plagiarism, when it comes to doing their school/college projects. The reasons why students plagiarize in large numbers are many. Some of them are:
  • Less time
  • Procrastination
  • Ambition of achieving higher grades
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Lack of patience
  • No trust in one's own ability
  • Sheer lethargy
  • Ignorance about the consequences of plagiarism
Whatever the reason may be, plagiarism is an offensive act that leads to infraction of originality. A person should try to avoid any such act as far as possible, and cite appropriate references in his work, wherever necessary.
Types of Plagiarism
Academic and journalistic plagiarism is an age-old practice. However, Internet plagiarism is now prevalent in a big way. Moreover, plagiarism has taken many new forms. Now, it is just about cut, copy and paste, or a little rephrasing. But copy it is!
  • Full Plagiarism: This is also known as 'complete plagiarism'. Whenever a writer copies the content from another source as it is, it is called full plagiarism. In such a kind of plagiarism, the writer changes nothing from the original source, and there is an absolute lack of original research. The language, the flow, and even the punctuation is copied to such an extent, that one cannot cite even a minor difference in the two contents. Full plagiarism, then refers to copying somebody else's original content, word by word, and presenting it as one's own. Many academicians believe that it is generally the work of people who are incompetent in the particular subject, or are just plain lazy to make an effort. This kind of plagiarism may lead to serious consequences, ranging from suspension to termination.
  • Partial Plagiarism: When a person combines data from two or three different sources in his work, it amounts to partial plagiarism. This kind of plagiarism pertains to copying someone else's work, not fully, but partly. A person plagiarizing content in this way, makes rampant use of paraphrasing, which means that he presents the same idea in a different form, by manipulating the language of the original content, but the flow remains the same. This, he does in most cases by making use of synonymous vocabulary or changing sentences from active to passive voice and vice versa. In this way, the author does try to be original, but again the work does not contain any first-hand research. Inadequacy of knowledge on the particular subject is a common reason for the occurrences of partial plagiarism.
  • Minimalistic Plagiarism: Minimalistic plagiarism is done when a person paraphrases the same content but in a different flow. In this kind, the plagiarist attempts to copy ideas, opinions, thoughts and concepts of another author, in such a way that his work does not seem like it has been plagiarized. What he does is that he not only changes the sentence construction and makes use of synonymous vocabulary, but he also changes the order in which the thoughts have been presented in the original work. It is this change in the flow that makes the work seem original, though it is not. This kind of plagiarism again lacks first-hand research, though such write-ups almost seem to be original. Many people do not consider this as plagiarism, probably because such an instance is very difficult to spot, and there are very sparse chances of getting caught.
  • Mosaic Plagiarism: This kind is most common among students. Instances of mosaic plagiarism occur mostly due to lack of knowledge or ignorance about plagiarism, and the ways to avoid it. When a person changes the construction of the sentence but does not bother to change the original wording, it amounts to mosaic plagiarism. The result then, is that the sentences change, the flow changes, but the words remain the same. This act amounts to plagiarism, because no due credit is given to the author of the original work, which becomes absolutely necessary in such cases. Detailed knowledge of referencing and citations is very important in order to avoid this kind of plagiarism.
  • Source Plagiarism: Sometimes, the author one is referring to may have quoted some other author in his work. Plagiarism in such cases, takes place when due credit is not given to the author one is gathering matter from. Citing primary reference is very important in such a case. For a person, the author he is referring to is a primary source, and not the author who was referred to by the author who is being referred. This has to be kept in mind and accordingly worked upon.
  • Source Citation: When the complete source information with quotes is provided, it does not amount to plagiarism. However, the definition of a complete source citation varies in various contexts. Some writers quote the name of the source, but provide no other accessible information., while some others very conveniently provide false references. Some just merge their information with the original piece of writing. Instances of plagiarism take place not only when the sources are not cited at all, but also when the sources are improperly cited. Instances when the sources are not cited occur in following cases:
    • Ghost Writer, where a person feels free to copy other person's work, word by word, and to reproduce it as his own.
    • Poor Disguise, where the essence of the original work remains the same, but only the keywords are changed.
    • Photocopy, where large parts of the content are copied from a given text, without making any changes.
    • Potluck Paper, wherein the writer attempts to hide his act of plagiarism by skillfully combining contents from different resources, and putting them together in a way that they seem to be original.
    Instances of improper citation amounting to plagiarism include:
    • Source Misinformation, where a person either gives a wrong source, or does not provide adequate information about the same, thus making it difficult/impossible to trace.
    • Neglected Footnote, wherein the source author is cited but the location of the source is not provided, which again makes cross-referencing difficult.
    • Full-proof Plagiarist, is the one who perfectly cites all the sources in his/her work, but the entire text is the paraphrased version of the original. This is very difficult to spot, and it seems very much like an original piece of work.
    Proper citation is thus a requirement, which includes not only the name of the original author, but also the location of the source.
  • Self-plagiarism: This type is perhaps the most contested one, as there is a mixed opinion about this being a form of plagiarism. Using one's own work, fully or partially, or even the same thoughts and reproducing it in some form or the other, has been termed as self-plagiarism by many. Publishing the same material through different media without referencing it correctly is a very common habit among numerous writers. The contents on many websites are perfect examples of this. According to Professor Paul Brian's opinion posted on the Internet Humanist Forum, "Self-plagiarism, or the recycling of an old work in a new guise is also a theft, since the author leads the book-buyer to think that there is a new book of his in the market. The author is misleading his/her readers. Self-plagiarism is fraud, if not outright theft."
Avoiding Plagiarism
Considering that plagiarism may lead to serious consequences, one has to be careful enough to ensure that none of his referencing and cross-referencing acts amount to it. Original works of research also need, as their starting point, references of previous researches carried out in a given field. This completely nullifies the possibility of not referencing other authors at all. The catch, however, is to retain the originality of one's research by citing the appropriate references. One can avoid plagiarism by doing the following:
  • Read and acquire as much knowledge as possible on the topic you are going to write on. This will help you understand the key concepts and the previous researches that were done in the field.
  • Document each and every source you have referred to properly and adequately. This will help you majorly in source citations.
  • Manage your time properly so that you get adequate time to research, and then write your paper or work.
  • Ask someone whenever in doubt, as it is always better to be clear about the documentation and research work.
  • Do not download or buy essays from websites, as this can have grave results.
  • Make use of quotation marks while citing someone else's text word by word. This is a clear indication that the words are not your own, and so it does not amount to plagiarism.
  • Above all, trust your abilities and make sure what you are doing is right and moral.
Plagiarism is an issue involving one's personal principles and ethics. Just knowing what plagiarism is, and how and why it should be avoided, would not help in getting rid of it. What is needed is one's own determination to avoid plagiarism in his own content, so that the readers get exposure to more and more new and original ideas and concepts.