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Plagiarism, Defined

Nova Southeastern University defines plagiarism as "the adoption or reproduction of ideas, words, or statements of another person as one’s own without proper acknowledgment". makes the important distinction that plagiarism involves two steps: stealing someone else's work AND representing it as your own.

Your Responsibility

Your intent doesn't matter.

You are responsible for using sources appropriately and for citing your work.

Types of Plagiarism


Anyone who has written or graded a paper knows that 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 in the fight to prevent it.

 Sources Not Cited (Intentional Plagiarism)

  • The Ghost Writer: The writer turns in another’s work, word-for-word, as his or her own. 
  • The Photocopy or Cut-and-Paste: The writer copies significant portions of text straight from a single source, without alteration. 
  • The Potluck Paper: The writer tries to disguise plagiarism by copying from several different sources, tweaking the sentences to make them fit together while retaining most of the original phrasing. 
  • The Poor Disguise: Although the writer has retained the essential content of the source, he or she has altered the paper’s appearance slightly by changing key words and phrases. 
  • The Labor of Laziness: The writer takes the time to paraphrase most of the paper from other sources and makes it all fit together, instead of spending the same effort on original work. 
  • The Self-Stealer: The writer “borrows” generously from his or her previous work, violating policies concerning the expectation of originality adopted by most academic institutions.

Sources Cited but Still Plagiarized (Unintentional Plagiarism)

  • The Forgotten Footnote: The writer mentions an author’s name for a source, but neglects to include specific information on the location of the material referenced.  This often masks other forms of plagiarism by obscuring source locations.   
  • The Misinformer: The writer provides inaccurate information regarding the sources, making it impossible to find them. 
  • The Too-Perfect Paraphrase: The writer properly cites a source, but neglects to put in quotation marks text that has been copied word-for-word, or close to it.  Although attributing the basic ideas to the source, the writer is falsely claiming original presentation and interpretation of the information.
  • The Resourceful Citer: The writer properly cites all sources, paraphrasing and using quotations appropriately.  The catch?  The paper contains almost no original work!  It is sometimes difficult to spot this form of plagiarism because it looks like any other well-researched document.