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“Hmm... A story about a murderer with split personalities and narcissistic tendencies... I'll tweak it a bit by throwing in a painting or something.”

~ Oscar Wilde on ripping off Robert Louis Stevenson's work

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For other uses, see Plagiarism (disambiguation).
For Uncyclopedia policies concerning plagiarism, see Uncyclopedia:Plagiarism and Uncyclopedia:Copyright violations.

Plagiarism, as defined in the 1995 Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, is the "use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work."[1] Within academia, plagiarism by students, professors, or researchers is considered academic dishonesty or academic fraud, and offenders are subject to academic censure, up to and including expulsion. In journalism, plagiarism is considered a breach of journalistic ethics, and reporters caught plagiarizing typically face disciplinary measures ranging from suspension to termination of employment. Some individuals caught plagiarizing in academic or journalistic contexts claim that they plagiarized unintentionally, by failing to include quotations or give the appropriate citation. While plagiarism in scholarship and journalism has a centuries-old history, the development of the Internet, where articles appear as electronic text, has made the physical act of copying the work of others much easier.

Plagiarism is not the same as copyright infringement. While both terms may apply to a particular act, they are different transgressions. Copyright infringement is a violation of the rights of a copyright holder, when material protected by copyright is used without consent. On the other hand, plagiarism is concerned with the unearned increment to the plagiarizing author's reputation that is achieved through false claims of authorship.


English Plagiarism (1615–25), earlier plagiary (1590–1600), derives from Latin plagiārius, "kidnapper", equivalent to plagium, "kidnapping", which contains Latin plaga ("snare", "net"), based on the Indo-European root *-plak, "to weave" (seen for instance in Greek plekein, Latin plectere, both meaning "to weave").[2]



Many students feel pressured to complete papers well and quickly, however Peter Callaghan would rather you complete papers well, quickly, and without help. With the accessibility of new technology (the Internet) students can plagiarize by copying and pasting information from other sources. This is often easily detected by teachers for several reasons. First, students' choices of sources are frequently unoriginal; instructors may receive the same passage copied from a popular source from several students. Second, it is often easy to tell whether a student used his or her own "voice." Third, students may choose sources which are inappropriate, inaccurate, or off-topic. Fourth, lecturers may insist that submitted work is first submitted to an online plagiarism detector.[3]

In the academic world, plagiarism by students is a very serious offense that can result in punishments such as a failing grade on the particular assignment (typically at the high school level) or for the course (typically at the college or university level).[citation needed] For cases of repeated plagiarism, or for cases in which a student commits severe plagiarism (e.g., submitting a copied piece of writing as original work), a student may be suspended or expelled. In many universities, academic degrees or awards may be revoked as a penalty for plagiarism.

There is little academic research into the frequency of plagiarism in high schools. Much of the research investigated plagiarism at the post-secondary level.[4] Of the forms of cheating, (including plagiarism, inventing data, and cheating during an exam) students admit to plagiarism more than any other.[citation needed] However, this figure decreases considerably when students are asked about the frequency of "serious" plagiarism (such as copying most of an assignment or purchasing a complete paper from a website). Recent use of plagiarism detection software (see below) gives a more accurate picture of this activity's prevalence.

For professors and researchers, plagiarism is punished by sanctions ranging from suspension to termination, along with the loss of credibility and integrity.[5][6] Charges of plagiarism against students and professors are typically heard by internal disciplinary committees, which students and professors have agreed to be bound by.[7]


Since journalism's main currency is public trust, a reporter's failure to honestly acknowledge their sources undercuts a newspaper or television news show's integrity and undermines its credibility. Journalists accused of plagiarism are often suspended from their reporting tasks while the charges are being investigated by the news organization.[8]

The ease with which electronic text can be reproduced from online sources has lured a number of reporters into acts of plagiarism: Journalists have been caught "copying-and-pasting" articles and text from a number of websites)[citation needed].

Online plagiarism

Content scraping is a phenomenon of copy and pasting material from Internet websites, affecting both established sites [9] and blogs[10]

Free online tools are becoming available to help identify plagiarism, [11] and there is a range of approaches that attempt to limit online copying, such as disabling right clicking and placing warning banners regarding copyrights on web pages. Instances of plagiarism that involve copyright violation may be addressed by the rightful content owners sending a DMCA removal notice to the offending site-owner, or to the ISP that is hosting the offending site.

Plagiarism is not only the mere copying of text, but also the presentation of another's ideas as one's own, regardless of the specific words or constructs used to express that idea. In contrast, many so-called plagiarism detection services can only detect blatant word-for-word copies of text.

Other contexts

Generally, although plagiarism is often loosely referred to as theft or stealing, it has not been set as a criminal matter in the courts.[12] Likewise, plagiarism has no standing as a criminal offense in the common law. Instead, claims of plagiarism are a civil law matter, which an aggrieved person can resolve by launching a lawsuit. Acts that may constitute plagiarism are in some instances treated as copyright infringement, unfair competition, or a violation of the doctrine of moral rights. The increased availability of intellectual property due to a rise in technology has furthered the debate as to whether copyright offences are criminal.[citation needed]


A famous passage of Laurence Sterne's 1767 Tristram Shandy, condemns plagiarism by resorting to plagiarism.[13][14] Oliver Goldsmith commented:[15]

Sterne's Writings, in which it is clearly shewn, that he, whose manner and style were so long thought original, was, in fact, the most unhesitating plagiarist who ever cribbed from his predecessors in order to garnish his own pages. It must be owned, at the same time, that Sterne selects the materials/ of his mosaic work with so much art, places them so well, and polishes them so highly, that in most cases we are disposed to pardon the want of originality, in consideration of the exquisite talent with which the borrowed materials are wrought up into the new form.

On December 6, 2006, Thomas Pynchon joined a campaign by many other major authors to clear Ian McEwan of plagiarism charges by sending a typed letter to his British publisher, which was published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.[16]

Playwright Wilson Mizner said "If you copy from one author, it's plagiarism. If you copy from two, it's research."[17]

American author Jonathan Lethem delivered a passionate defense of the use of plagiarism in art in his 2007 essay "The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism" in Harper's. He wrote: "The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism" and "Don't pirate my editions; do plunder my visions. The name of the game is Give All. You, reader, are welcome to my stories. They were never mine in the first place, but I gave them to you."[18]


Self-plagiarism (also known as "recycling fraud" [19]) is the reuse of significant, identical, or nearly identical portions of one’s own work without acknowledging that one is doing so or without citing the original work. Articles of this nature are often referred to as duplicate or multiple publication. In addition to the ethical issue, this can be illegal if copyright of the prior work has been transferred to another entity. Typically, self-plagiarism is only considered to be a serious ethical issue in settings where a publication is asserted to consist of new material, such as in academic publishing or educational assignments [20]. It does not apply (except in the legal sense) to public-interest texts, such as social, professional, and cultural opinions usually published in newspapers and magazines.

In academic fields, self-plagiarism is when an author reuses portions of their own published and copyrighted work in subsequent publications, but without attributing the previous publication.[21] Identifying self-plagiarism is often difficult because limited reuse of material is both legally accepted (as fair use) and ethically accepted.[22]

It is common for university researchers to rephrase and republish their own work, tailoring it for different academic journals and newspaper articles, to disseminate their work to the widest possible interested public. However, it must be borne in mind that these researchers also obey limits: If half an article is the same as a previous one, it will usually be rejected. One of the functions of the process of peer review in academic writing is to prevent this type of "recycling".

The concept of self-plagiarism

The concept of "self-plagiarism" has been challenged as self-contradictory or an oxymoron [23].

For example, Stephanie J. Bird [24] argues that self-plagiarism is a misnomer, since by definition plagiarism concerns the use of others' material.

However, the phrase is used to refer to specific forms of potentially unethical publication. Bird identifies the ethical issues sometimes called "self-plagiarism" as those of "dual or redundant publication." She also notes that in an educational context, "self-plagiarism" may refer to the case of a student who resubmits "the same essay for credit in two different courses." As David B. Resnik clarifies, "Self-plagiarism involves dishonesty but not intellectual theft." [25]

According to Patrick M. Scanlon [26]:

“Self-plagiarism” is a term with some specialized currency. Most prominently, it is used in discussions of research and publishing integrity in biomedicine, where heavy publish-or-perish demands have led to a rash of duplicate and “salami-slicing” publication, the reporting of a single study’s results in “least publishable units” within multiple articles [27]. Roig (2002) offers a useful classification system including four types of self-plagiarism: duplicate publication of an article in more than one journal; partitioning of one study into multiple publications, often called salami-slicing; text recycling; and copyright infringement."

Self-plagiarism and codes of ethics

Some academic journals have codes of ethics which specifically refer to self-plagiarism. For example, the Journal of International Business Studies. [28]

Some professional organizations like the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) have created policies that deal specifically with self-plagiarism.[29]

Other organisations do not make specific reference to self-plagiarism:

The American Political Science Association (APSA) has published a code of ethics which describes plagiarism as "deliberate appropriation of the works of others represented as one's own." It does not make any reference to self-plagiarism. It does say that when a thesis or dissertation is published "in whole or in part", the author is "not ordinarily under an ethical obligation to acknowledge its origins."[30]

The American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) has published a code of ethics which says its members are committed to: "Ensure that others receive credit for their work and contributions," but it does not make any reference to self-plagiarism.[31]

Factors that justify reuse

Pamela Samuelson in 1994 identified several factors which excuse reuse of one's previously published work without the culpability of self-plagiarism.[22] She relates each of these factors specifically to the ethical issue of self-plagiarism, as distinct from the legal issue of fair use of copyright, which she deals with separately. Among other factors which may excuse reuse of previously published material Samuelson lists the following:

  1. The previous work needs to be restated in order to lay the groundwork for the contribution in the second work.
  2. The previous work needs to be restated in order to lay the groundwork for a new contribution in the second work.
  3. Portions of the previous work must be repeated in order to deal with new evidence or arguments.
  4. The audience for each work is so different that publishing the same work in different places was necessary to get the message out.
  5. The author thinks they said it so well the first time that it makes no sense to say it differently a second time.

Samuelson states she has relied on the "different audience" rationale when attempting to bridge interdisciplinary communities. She refers to writing for different legal and technical communities, saying: "there are often paragraphs or sequences of paragraphs that can be bodily lifted from one article to the other. And, in truth, I lift them." She refers to her own practice of converting "a technical article into a law review article with relatively few changes--adding footnotes and one substantive section" for a different audience.[22]

Samuelson describes misrepresentation as the basis of self-plagiarism. She seems less concerned about reuse of descriptive materials than ideas and analytical content.[22] She also states “Although it seems not to have been raised in any of the self-plagiarism cases, copyrights law’s fair use defense would likely provide a shield against many potential publisher claims of copyright infringement against authors who reused portions of their previous works."[22]

As a practical issue

In addition to legal and ethical concerns, plagiarism is frequently also a practical issue, in that it is frequently useful to consult the sources used by an author, and plagiarism makes this more difficult. There are a number of reasons why this is useful:

  • An author may commit an error in how they interpret or use a source, and consulting the original source allows these errors to be detected.
  • Authors generally only supply the portions of prior works that are directly relevant to the work at hand. Other portions of their sources are likely to be relevant to later extensions and generalizations of their work.
  • As modern automated indexing methods become prevalent, references between works provide valuable information about their authoritativeness and how closely works are related; this helps to locate relevant works.

Organizational publications

Plagiarism is presumably not an issue when organizations issue collective unsigned works since they do not assign credit for originality to particular people. For example, the American Historical Association's "Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct" (2005) regarding textbooks and reference books states that, since textbooks and encyclopedias are summaries of other scholars' work, they are not bound by the same exacting standards of attribution as original research and may be allowed a greater "extent of dependence" on other works.[32] However, even such a book does not make use of words, phrases, or paragraphs from another text or follow too closely the other text's arrangement and organization, and the authors of such texts are also expected to "acknowledge the sources of recent or distinctive findings and interpretations, those not yet a part of the common understanding of the profession."[32]

Within an organization, in its own working documents, standards are looser but not non-existent. If someone helped with a report, they may expect to be credited. If a paragraph comes from a law report, a citation is expected to be written down. Technical manuals routinely copy facts from other manuals without attribution, because they assume a common spirit of scientific endeavor (as evidenced, for example, in free and open source software projects) in which scientists freely share their work.

The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications Third Edition (2003) by Microsoft does not even mention plagiarism, nor does Science and Technical Writing: A Manual of Style, Second Edition (2000) by Philip Rubens. The line between permissible literary and impermissible source code plagiarism, though, is apparently quite fine. As with any technical field, computer programming makes use of what others have contributed to the general knowledge.

See also

  • Academic dishonesty
  • Assemblage (composition)
  • Contract cheating
  • Copyscape (website for detecting Internet plagiarism)
  • Copyright
  • Copyright infringement
  • Credit (creative arts)
  • Cryptomnesia
  • Essay mill
  • Fair use
  • Joke thievery
  • Journalism scandals (plagiarism, fabrication, omission)
  • Ghostwriter
  • List of plagiarism controversies
  • Multiple publication
  • Musical plagiarism
  • Personal boundaries
  • Plagiarism detection
  • Scientific misconduct
  • Source criticism


  1. qtd. in Stepchyshyn, Vera, Robert S. Nelson (2007). Library plagiarism policies. Assoc of College & Resrch Libraries.p. 65.
    ISBN 0838984169.
  3. Klein A. (June 8, 2007). Opinion: Why Do They Do It?. The New York Sun. Retrieved on 2007-12-11.
  4. Hart, M.; Friesner, Tim (December 15, 2004). research Plagiarism and Poor Academic Practice – A Threat to the Extension of e-Learning in Higher Education?. Electronic Journal of E-Learning. Retrieved 2007-12-11.
  5. Kock, N. (1999). A case of academic plagiarism. Communications of the ACM, 42(7), 96-104.
  6. Kock, N., & Davison, R. (2003). Dealing with plagiarism in the IS research community: A look at factors that drive plagiarism and ways to address them. MIS Quarterly, 27(4), 511-532.
  7. Clarke, R. (2006). Plagiarism by academics: More complex than it seems. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 7(2), 91-121.
  8. List of cases of plagiarism among journalists
  9. Authorship gets lost on Web. USA Today
  10. Online plagiarism strikes blog world.
  12. Louisiana State UniversityPDF Icon.png
  13. Laurence Sterne Tristram Shandy, Vol V, Chap. 1
  14. Mark Ford Love and Theft london Review of Books Vol. 26 No. 23 · 2 December 2004 pages 34-35 | 4103 words
  15. Oliver Goldsmith The vicar of Wakefield: a tale, Volume 5 p.xviii
  16. Pynchon, Thomas. Letter to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, December 6, 2006.
  17. Quoted by Stuart B. McIver, Dreamers, Schemers and Scalawags, Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida, 1994. ISBN 1-56164-034-4.
  18. Jonathan Lethem. "The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism", February 2007. 
  19. See for example Dellavalle, Robert P., Banks, Marcus A. and Ellis, Jeffrey I. (2007). "Frequently asked questions regarding self-plagiarism: How to avoid recycling fraud." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Vol. 57 (3), September, pp.527. doi:10.1016/j.physletb.2003.10.071
  20. See Allow me to rephrase, and boost my tally of articles, by Rebecca Attwood, Times Higher Education Supplement, 3 July 2008
  21. Hexham, I. (2005). Academic Plagiarism Defined.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 Samuelson, P. (1994). "Self-Plagiarism or Fair Use?" Communications of the ACM, 37(August): 21-25.
  23. Broome, Marion E. (2004). "Self-plagiarism: oxymoron, fair use, or scientific misconduct?" Nursing Outlook, Vol. 52 (6), November, pp.273-274. [1]
  24. Self-plagiarism and Dual and Redundant Publications: What Is the Problem?
  25. See Resnik, David B. (1998). The Ethics of Science: an introduction, London: Routledge. p.177, notes to chapter six, note 3. Online via Google Books
  26. Scanlon, Patrick M. (2007). "Song from myself: an anatomy of self-plagiarism." Plagiary: cross-disciplinary studies in plagiarism, fabrication and falsification, Vol. 2 (1), pp.1-11
  27. Blancett, Flanagin, & Young, 1995; Jefferson, 1998; Kassirer & Angell, 1995; Lowe, 2003; McCarthy, 1993; Schein & Paladugu, 2001; Wheeler, 1989
  28. JIBS Code of Ethics
  29. ACM Policy and Procedures on Plagiarism (October 2006).
  30. American Political Science Association, [2]PDF Icon.png Section 21.1
  31. American Society for Public Administration, []
  32. 32.0 32.1 Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct. American Historical Association (2005-01-06). Retrieved on 2009-04-16.

External links