What is Plagiarism?

Forms of Plagiarism


Avoiding Plagiarism

Detection of Plagiarism

Works Cited


Accidental vs. Intentional Plagiarism

You're doing great!  While plagiarism is a serious offense, some forms of plagiarism are accidental. Accidental plagiarism results from not understanding how to use sources and how to document them.  However, some forms of plagiarism is intentional.  Let's look at both forms.


In this section, you will learn to identify:

  • forms of accidental plagiarism;
  • forms of intentional plagiarism; and
  • reasons why student plagiarize

Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism can occur when students do not fully understand what documentation is and how to do it.  Here are some examples:

  • Papers written from source materials which are never mentioned in the text and are not listed in a bibliography or works cited page are plagiarized. All writers are required to give credit where credit is due.
  • Papers which have references to sources in the text but no bibliography or works cited page are also plagiarized. One of the purposes of documentation is to aid readers who wish to study the same subject. Writers are expected to provide a full bibliographic reference for sources used.
  • Papers which have the bibliography/work cited page but no references to sources in the text are also unacceptable. Writers are expected to show which ideas came from which sources.
  • Intentional Plagiarism

    'Borrowing'  Papers

    One form of intentional plagiarism is "borrowing" a friend’s paper. In "borrowing," students take another person’s paper, usually with their permission. They may add a new introduction or conclusion, and, of course, they change the name. Such borrowing constitutes plagiarism—even if the student makes significant changes. A "borrowed" paper is not the original work of the student who submits it. Professors try to minimize this form of plagiarism by making the actual assignment very specific so that few papers generated in other courses would fulfill requirements. Also, they may ask that all the sources for the paper be turned in.

    Purchasing Term Papers from Paper Mills

    Another form of intentional plagiarism is to buy a paper from a term paper mill like schoolsucks.com, monsterpapers.com, essaytown.com, and similar Internet sites. Students who are new to college life should not be naïve about these sites. Professors know what these sites are, where they are, and how to determine if a paper originated from them. No sophisticated technology is needed to find these sources, and since this type of plagiarism is so obviously intentional, anyone using these sites should be ready for lots of trouble and no sympathy.

    Internet 'Cutting and Pasting'

    Finally, Internet cut and paste is a common strategy. Students may not realize that they are expected to organize ideas and write original pieces connecting ideas they have discovered through research. Instead they follow an organizational pattern they discover in one of their sources, write their own topic sentences, and then cut and past the specific information to support the topic sentences. This type of plagiarism is detected through commercial detection systems.

    Reasons Students Intentionally Plagiarize

    Intentional plagiarism occurs for many reasons. These statements from the Honors Council of Georgetown University cover some of the common reasons…err, excuses.

    "I don’t have time to do it right"
    "They said it so much better."
    "My friend got stuff from the Internet."
    "In my country/high school using someone else’s words is ok."

    An additional reason is students’ lack of confidence in their ability to produce the work assigned. Students forget that the goal is to learn how to write from sources—by actually doing the writing. No one expects Ph.D level work from a community college student. The goal of a research assignment is to begin to learn how to do research and how to do research writing in order to succeed in future college classes and on the job.


    Sometimes plagiarism is not an accident.  This kind of plagiarism includes “borrowing” or buying a term paper.  Intentional plagiarism is also cutting and pasting a paper together from Internet sources.  When these papers are submitted as one’s own original work, plagiarism has occurred.  Reasons for intentional plagiarism vary, but procrastination and lack of confidence in one’s ability are probably high on the list of reasons.   Start your papers early. Be confident—you can do it, and you’ll learn a lot in the process.   Intentional plagiarism?  Don’t go there.  Now, let's click on Basics in the navigation bar and learn about the basics of handling source material.

    Created by: Marilyn Bauer and Jacie

    Moriyama for Leeward Community College
    Last Updated: November 1, 2004