7 Common Types of Plagiarism and How to Avoid Them

Plagiarism leads to serious consequences. To avoid it, you must know the various types of plagiarism, so you can keep them out of your writing.

In academic and online writing, plagiarism is a common problem. Because copying someone’s work or ideas is a violation of copyright law, you must learn to avoid this problem. Understanding the many different types of plagiarism is the first step in avoiding this serious offense.

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7 Most Common Types Of Plagiarism

Understand the types of plagiarism to avoid serious offense

Before you can avoid plagiarism as a writer, you must be able to identify it. Here are seven different types of plagiarism that can sneak their way into your writing.

1. Global Plagiarism

Global plagiarism occurs when you take an entire piece and pass it off as your own work. A student buying a paper someone else wrote or someone copying and pasting an article they found online and calling it theirs can both be examples.

This type of plagiarism is the most severe. This is deliberate and dishonest, and most institutions will punish the offender decisively if caught. Disciplinary actions may include failing a class or expulsion from school.

In short, don’t copy and paste somebody else’s work. Chances are, a reader or an editor will find out.

2. Paraphrasing Plagiarism

Paraphrasing, which means re-writing someone else’s work and calling it your own without attribution, is a type of plagiarism that many people don’t recognize. Even if you paraphrase someone’s work, you need to cite the person that originated the idea.

Paraphrasing plagiarism is harder to detect because it is not a word-for-word quote of someone’s work. That said, it is still serious to take someone else’s ideas. 

Paraphrasing plagiarism can also occur if you translate written text from another language into English without proper citation.

Although artificial intelligence software makes paraphrasing easier than ever, it’s good practice to cite or link to original sources, even if you’re publishing or writing online outside of academia.

3. Verbatim Plagiarism

Copying text from a source into your document, and failing to use quotation marks and citation, results in verbatim plagiarism. To avoid plagiarizing sources you want to quote, you must use quotation marks and an in-text citation or a footnote citation. 

This type of plagiarism is common when you use significant portions of a work as a source for your own. Having varied sources, and citing them properly, can help you avoid this error.

When in doubt, include a link or citation. That applies even if you’re writing outside of an academic context. 

4. Mosaic Plagiarism 

Mosaic plagiarism, also called patchwork plagiarism, happens when you take your sources and copy bits and pieces of them to make your own work. This is actually quite easy to do without your knowledge, and it can be harder to spot. 

Patch writing happens when you have your sources open during the writing process and do not carefully cite them. Remember, anything that is not common knowledge that you put into your research paper or report needs to have the original source cited.

It can happen if you spend a lot of time writing an essay or article and forget your sources. The Zettelkasten method can help avoid this issue.

5. Self-Plagiarism

If you have work you have already submitted, you may feel tempted to re-use that work in a future piece. This often feels less damaging than direct plagiarism of your sources, because you are using pieces you already wrote. However, if you are passing off the work as something new, it is still one of the forms of plagiarism.

Plagiarizing your own work can be damaging both in academic settings and in online writing. Self-plagiarism of your previous work can damage your SEO efforts for online writing.

In academic writing, your professors may feel that you did not put in enough effort if they discover you are using previous work and calling it new.

6. Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism is one of the most common types of plagiarism. It can happen to journalists, students, writers and authors.

It usually occurs happens when the writer misquotes or fails to cite sources, not using proper MLA or APA format for the citation, but does not necessarily intend to plagiarize.

For example, if a writer uses similar words or sentence structure as the original author, but does not cite that author, the writer is guilty of accidental plagiarism. 

Even if a writer tries to quote their sources, but does so incorrectly, that writer can be guilty of accidental plagiarism. for example, including a primary or secondary source in a bibliography, but then not placing in-text citations in the piece, can cause you to be guilty of plagiarism. 

Unfortunately, the consequences of plagiarism aren’t fun.

7. Complete Plagiarism

Complete plagiarism describes when a writer or academic takes an old paper or essay and tries to pass it off as their own, without any attribution. Essentially, they’re aiming to take full credit for the piece, all while knowing they didn’t write it. It’s probably the worst type of plagiarism.

If this type of plagiarism becomes common knowledge, it’s a proven method for losing your job or even getting fired. It’s more difficult to get away with this type of plagiarism today thanks to the proliferation of artificial intelligence software that graders and other academics use.

In this article, we explain how plagiarism software works.

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

Types of plagiarism
Follow these tips to avoid plagiarism

Now that you understand the different types of plagiarism, you need to know how to avoid it. Consider these tips:

  • Cite sources liberally and include links
  • Use a plagiarism checker to screen for accidental plagiarism, such as TurnItIn, ProWritingAid, Copyscape or Grammarly
  • Study the citation method required for your paper and use it properly
  • Avoid copying and pasting sources, even with the intention of rephrasing
  • Maintain a personal reference or bibliography system
  • Work with an editor on longer or more challening pieces

The Final Word on Types of Plagiarism

Dedicated writers know that they should not copy the work of others, but the different types of plagiarism are actually more complex than simple direct plagiarism. Knowing the different types is critical to avoiding this form of academic dishonesty. Utilizing plagiarism software can help a writer avoid this serious offense.

The bottom line about plagiarism is this: do not pass someone else’s work off as your own. Strive to create original writing and cite your sources. If you need help doing just that, read our guide to the best plagiarism checkers.

FAQs on Types of Plagiarism

Why is it important to understand the different types of plagiarism?

Knowing the different types of plagiarism can help writers and students avoid this error and the repercussions. While most people know they should not call someone else’s writing their own work, plagiarism can also occur when paraphrasing or using synonyms to state something another author thought up.

Studying and avoiding all types of plagiarism is vital for a writer.

What types of plagiarism exist?

Plagiarism falls into the following categories:
1. Global plagiarism
2. Verbatim or direct plagiarism
3. Paraphrasing plagiarism
4. Self-plagiarism
5. Mosaic plagiarism
6. Accidental plagiarism
7. Complete Plagiarism


  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.