Skip to Main Content


This guide is meant to raise awareness of plagiarism and help students prevent both intentional and unintentional plagiarism.

This Guide on Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a complicated and common problem that can have serious consequences.  It is important to know what plagiarism is so you can avoid plagiarizing, whether the plagiarism is intentional or accidental.  This guide is intended to help you recognize what plagiarism is, understand the consequences of being caught plagiarizing and understand how to avoid plagiarizing.  Technology has made it easier than ever for people to plagiarize, but it has also made it easier than ever to catch people who have plagiarized.

What is plagiarism?

In its Academic Honesty Policy, The University of Central Missouri defines plagiarism as:

"Plagiarism - Plagiarism is defined as the borrowing of ideas, opinions, examples, key words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or even structure from another person's work, including work written or produced by others without proper acknowledgment. "Work" is defined as theses, drafts, completed essays, examinations, quizzes, projects, assignments, presentations, or any other form of communication, be it on the Internet or in any other medium or media. "Proper acknowledgment" is defined as the use of quotation marks or indenting plus documentation for directly quoted work and specific, clearly articulated citation for paraphrased or otherwise borrowed material." 

Most students know that plagiarism (passing off another person’s work as your own) is a form of academic dishonesty and is strictly prohibited.  It is possible, however, for an individual to be unintentionally guilty of plagiarizing-- by using another individual’s work without attributing the work to the original author or by changing another’s work only minimally.  It is important to understand what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it. 

("Plagiarism." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 20 July 2017.)

Types of Plagiarism

According to, these are the ten most recognized types of plagiarism.

types of plagiarism

For a closer look at each of these types of plagiarism, visit The Plagiarism Spectrum, a report prepared by  The report contains statistics on the frequency of each of the types of plagiarism, as well as examples of each.

(Turnitin : Results : Plagiarism Spectrum. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2017)

Consequences of Plagiarism

At the University of Central Missouri, plagiarism is considered a violation of the Academic Honesty Policy.   This policy clearly defines what plagiarism is and describes the process that will be used for a student who has been accused of plagiarizing. Most if not all universities and colleges have a similar policy in place.

While plagiarism is a problem often associated with school or college, these are not the only places where one can face the consequences of plagiarism.  iThenticate, a leading producer of anti-plagiarism software, reports on six different consequences of plagiarism:

The consequences of plagiarism can be personal, professional, ethical, and legal. With plagiarism detection software so readily available and in use, plagiarists are being caught at an alarming rate. Once accused of plagiarism, a person will most likely always be regarded with suspicion. Ignorance is not an excuse. Plagiarists include academics, professionals, students, journalists, authors, and others.

Consequences of plagiarism include:

Destroyed Student Reputation

Plagiarism allegations can cause a student to be suspended or expelled. Their academic record can reflect the ethics offense, possibly causing the student to be barred from entering college from high school or another college. Schools, colleges, and universities take plagiarism very seriously. Most educational institutions have academic integrity committees who police students. Many schools suspend students for their first violation. Students are usually expelled for further offences.

Destroyed Professional Reputation

A professional business person, politician, or public figure may find that the damage from plagiarism follows them for their entire career. Not only will they likely be fired or asked to step down from their present position, but they will surely find it difficult to obtain another respectable job. Depending on the offense and the plagiarist’s public stature, his or her name may become ruined, making any kind of meaningful career impossible.

Destroyed Academic Reputation

The consequences of plagiarism have been widely reported in the world of academia. Once scarred with plagiarism allegations, an academic’s career can be ruined. Publishing is an integral part of a prestigious academic career. To lose the ability to publish most likely means the end of an academic position and a destroyed reputation.

Legal Repercussions

The legal repercussions of plagiarism can be quite serious. Copyright laws are absolute. One cannot use another person’s material without citation and reference. An author has the right to sue a plagiarist. Some plagiarism may also be deemed a criminal offense, possibly leading to a prison sentence. Those who write for a living, such as journalists or authors, are particularly susceptible to plagiarism issues. Those who write frequently must be ever-vigilant not to err. Writers are well-aware of copyright laws and ways to avoid plagiarism. As a professional writer, to plagiarize is a serious ethical and perhaps legal issue.

Monetary Repercussions

Many recent news reports and articles have exposed plagiarism by journalists, authors, public figures, and researchers. In the case where an author sues a plagiarist, the author may be granted monetary restitution. In the case where a journalist works for a magazine, newspaper or other publisher, or even if a student is found plagiarizing in school, the offending plagiarist could have to pay monetary penalties.

Plagiarized Research

Plagiarized research is an especially egregious form of plagiarism. If the research is medical in nature, the consequences of plagiarism could mean the loss of peoples’ lives. This kind of plagiarism is particularly heinous.

The consequences of plagiarism are far-reaching and no one is immune. Neither ignorance nor stature excuses a person from the ethical and legal ramifications of committing plagiarism. Before attempting any writing project, learn about plagiarism. Find out what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it. The rules are easy to understand and follow. If there is any question about missing attribution, try using an online plagiarism checker or plagiarism detection software to check your writing for plagiarism before turning it in. Laziness or dishonesty can lead to a ruined reputation, the loss of a career, and legal problems.

("6 Consequences of Plagiarism." Plagiarism Detection Software. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2017.)

Can you plagiarize yourself?

Surprisingly, the answer is YES.

When a paper you submit to satisfy a class assignment was originally written for a different assignment in a different class, that is considered self-plagiarism and is a violation of the Academic Honesty Policy.

"The Ethics of Self Plagiarism" an article from iThenticate which explains self-plagiarism and the issues that surround it.