Avoiding plagiarism – a refresher for students

In this article, a student writer looks at the definition of plagiarism and how it can be avoided.


  • The meaning of plagiarism is copying someone else’s work or publication of another person’s thoughts, ideas, or expressions and the representation of them as your own original work without any citations or references, this can not only just be limited to peoples writing but peoples creations such as designs.
  • Plagiarism is subject to penalties, suspension. Recently, cases of extreme plagiarism have been identified in high profile cases that will be noted down later on in this paper.
  • Plagiarism is not against the law, however you can get a copyright infringement. In some areas, it is a serious ethical offense. Plagiarism and copyright infringement overlap to a considerable extent, many types of plagiarism do not constitute copyright infringement, which is defined by copyright law and may be adjudicated by courts. Plagiarism is not defined or punished by law, but rather by institutions like schools etc.


The aim of this article is to provide people with the knowledge of plagiarism and ways to avoid plagiarism, the different types of plagiarism and finally give some example of plagiarism.

Types of plagiarism

There are many different types of plagiarism the most common of all is where people hand in other people’s work as if it were their own work. Some people may copy short sentences from different sources and present that as their own work. Other forms of plagiarism involve rewriting works of other people and failing to do citations of the sources. It is not also correct to cite just some parts and leave the rest. Even in cases where you have cited, it is right that you rewrite the work to ensure that the wording is correct. In cases where citations are wrong, that amounts to plagiarism. Below I will list some of the types of plagiarism and their meanings.

a. Self-plagiarism

(1) Self-plagiarism is where you constantly keep using your own work without acknowledging so this is sometimes described as self-plagiarism or recycling fraud.

b. Direct plagiarism

(1) Direct plagiarism is the word-for-word transcription of a section of someone else’s work, without attribution and without quotation marks or giving any references to acknowledge the other person. The deliberate plagiarism of someone else’s work is dishonest, and grounds for disciplinary actions.

c. Mosaic plagiarism

(1) Mosaic Plagiarism occurs when someone borrows phrases from a source without using quotation marks, or finds synonyms for the author’s language while keeping to the same general structure and meaning of the original. Sometimes called patch writing.

d. Accidental plagiarism

(1) Accidental plagiarism occurs when a person neglects to cite their sources, or misquotes their sources, or unintentionally paraphrases a source by using similar words, groups of words, and/or sentence structure without attribution. People must learn how to cite and reference their sources and to take careful and accurate notes when doing research which is a good way to avoid plagiarism in which I will go over next.

Lack of intent does not absolve the person of responsibility for plagiarism.

How to avoid plagiarism

The main point should always be written in your own words and should be sufficiently general to allow you to explain, elaborate and illustrate it using research. Some of the most effective ways of avoiding plagiarism is to write in well-developed paragraphs. Each paragraph should have a clear main point that reflects your individual answer or question. When you explain or analyze the main idea you will need to refer to the research literature either by paraphrasing or by using direct quotes and giving references.

a. Paraphrasing

(1) Paraphrasing is understanding something and putting someone else’s ideas or work into your own words. This skill is used extensively and must include acknowledgement of the source of the information. Paraphrasing when done successfully demonstrates an understanding of the material you have read.

When paraphrasing try to work at the entire paragraph level instead of the individual sentences. Read the paragraph that contains the idea you think will be useful to explain or illustrate your main point, put the text aside then write out the idea without referring to the original.

b. Direct quotes

(1) If you quote a person word for word, then this is termed a direct quote. It doesn’t matter whether it is a phrase, sentence or paragraph, you will need to provide reference from which it was taken. Direct quotations are usually indicated in the text of an assignment by using quotation marks around the text or by writing the text in italics. Refer to Referencing Guides for specific details on different styles of referencing direct quotations.

(2) The following paragraph, illustrates the use of direct quotes by a student:

(a) The individual rights approach makes individual freedom more important than the welfare of particular groups in society. Advocates of individual rights argue that individuals possess natural rights which should not be restricted by governments or other individuals (Jones 2002). According to Heywood (2004, p. 259), in contemporary liberal democratic societies, rights are frequently interpreted as freedom of choice This choice is limited when governments intervene in individuals’ lives through such measures as taxation and setting minimum wages and conditions. Advocates of individual rights argue that there is a need to “limit the powers and responsibilities of governments in order to protect the natural freedom of the individual” (Ryan, Parker and Hutchings 1999, p.234)

c. Planning your paper .

(1) Another good way to avoid plagiarism is planning your paper it is the first step you can take toward preventing plagiarism. If you know you are going to use other sources of information, you need to plan how you are going to include them in your paper. This means working out a balance between the ideas you have taken from other sources and your own, original ideas. Writing an outline or coming up with a statement in which you can clearly formulate an argument about the information you find will help establish the boundaries between your ideas and those of your sources.

High profile cases of plagiarism

7. Listed below I will go over some cases of famous people that have been caught using plagiarism, accused of plagiarism and a different type of plagiarism.

a. Vladimir Putin

(1) The Russian leader was accused of plagiarizing his theses. In 2005, researchers at the Brookings Institute managed to get their hands on a copy of Putin’s thesis, called ‘Strategic Planning of the Reproduction of the Mineral Resource Base of a Region under Conditions of the Formation of Market Relations.’ The Brookings researchers said it lifted liberally from a 1978 textbook written by two University of Pittsburgh professors.

b. Joe Bidden

(1) The vice president was forced to withdraw from the 1988 presidential race over allegations of plagiarism. Many parts of Biden’s speeches on the trail, as Maureen Dowd of the New York Times reported, were lifted from the unsuccessful run of British politician Neil Kinnock of the Labour Party against Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Revelations followed that Biden took parts of his speeches from Robert Kennedy, JFK and Hubert Humphrey.

c. J.K Rowling

(1) J.K Rowling had a case brought against her in early 2010 she was accused of plagiarism, claiming she had stolen ideas for the fourth instalment in the series from a book published in 1987, written by Adrian Jacobs, and titled The Adventure of Willy the Wizard. The estate of the late author claimed that the plot of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had very similar plot points to that of his novel. However this case was never successful in court.

d. Niki Minaj

(1) Nicki Minaj was accused of copying portions of her 2012 hit song Starships from a song written and performed by Clive Tanaka in 2011. However, a more recent and much more unusual accusation of plagiarism has come from Terrence Davidson, who filed a lawsuit against Minaj for $30 million, claiming that she had stolen his wig designs. Stealing ideas for wig designs does fall under plagiarism, by definition, since its stealing ideas.


There are many reasons why plagiarism is wrong, as stated from before lots of famous people have been accused of plagiarism and it has jeopardized their career and in some cases costed them a lot of money, plagiarism is also denying your opportunity to learn and practice your skills that may be vital in the future.

By committing plagiarism not only are you taking credit for someone else’s work but you are also showing dishonesty and laziness and taking the easier option rather than the harder option, but by taking the harder option you are giving yourself a lot of chances to further your knowledge in a certain subject even if you plagiarized because you thought it to be an easy task and there’s no point to it, doing the research yourself as stated before can improve on what knowledge you already have.


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