4 Types of Plagiarism and How to Avoid Them

May 9, 2016

4 Types of Plagiarism and How to Avoid Them

The consequences of Plagiarism are severe, but scandals have broken at even the most respected schools–and it’s led to suspensions and even expulsions. Most if not all schools have honor codes with clear policies on plagiarism, including UMA’s own honor code that states:

“It is assumed that all students are enrolled in class to learn; cheating is not acceptable. Dishonesty of any type in a course, including cheating on examinations or plagiarizing materials, can result in a grade of ‘F’ and may be cause for suspension or dismissal.”

So as you can see, it’s a serious offense.

While some students who plagiarize know what they’re doing, others simply get caught unaware because they don’t fully understand what plagiarism is. But just like the law, ignorance isn’t an excuse. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the four most common types of plagiarism and how to avoid them.

Pay attention to make sure you aren’t accidentally breaking the cardinal rule of learning.

Copying and pasting

This is the most obvious form of plagiarism. If you’re doing it, chances are you know it’s wrong. But here’s a strong incentive for you to stop: The Internet has made it easier than ever to catch this type of copying.

There’s a nearly endless list of tools that hunt out duplicated text. Usually your instructors will run your work through one of these detection tools. If your sentences match anything in the database, it will show up instantly—and you might be suspended or worse.

So stop copy and pasting, and start writing original ideas.

Collaborating too closely with classmates

Be really careful on this one. This is a less obvious form of plagiarism, and it’s tempting to do. Collaborating with classmates is generally a good idea, particularly in online courses. But it’s crucial that you create your own test answers and assignments.

Want proof? In 2012, an estimated 70 students at Harvard were kicked out for collaborating on a take-home test. This was a huge scandal, both for the students and the university. Let me just say that again: almost a hundred students expelled.

So collaborate when studying, but step away and work independently when it comes to the actual assignment.

Using a source without attributing it correctly

So, you wrote a paper and you have every intention of crediting your sources. But you get distracted and forget quotation marks or cite the source incorrectly. Did you know these mistakes are also plagiarism?

It might not seem fair, but this just demonstrates how important it is to get your sources right. Always double-check that any direct quote is in quotation marks and clearly cited. Also check over your in-text and bibliography citations for mistakes. Make sure your sources match up to the actual information, and that you haven’t mislabeled anything.

If you need help with the formatting, a good resource is academictips.org.

Copying someone’s idea without citation

You might not steal someone’s exact words, but you’re still plagiarizing if you repeat their ideas. Even if you add new conclusions, you should still cite the original source of the concept. Someone worked hard to come up with those thoughts—they deserve credit. And plagiarism policies generally agree.

To avoid this mistake, make sure to cite where the idea came from. Then introduce your own thoughts and research, so that your whole assignment or paper isn’t just echoing already published ideas. Citing the source doesn’t necessarily eliminate the plagiarism if you don’t bring anything new to the table.

As you navigate your writing assignments in the future, be sure to rely on these useful tips to easily avoid any issues with plagiarism. Have you ever made any plagiarism mistakes? How do you keep yourself on track?

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About the Author

is an award-winning writer and journalist with years of experience within the healthcare and education space. She has contributed to dozens of periodicals, publications and blogs, and she specializes in providing well-researched and thought-provoking content.

The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ultimate Medical Academy.

The UMA Blog covers information and advice for employers and workers at the intersection of healthcare, education and employment. Our contributors are intimately familiar with a wide range of subjects covering professional development, career advancement, workplace politics, healthcare industry specific topics, personal finance, education and so much more. Learn what you need to get ahead and stay ahead.

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