Key Takeaways:

  • Incremental plagiarism refers to the act of gradually copying or borrowing ideas, phrases, or sentences from various sources without proper citation or acknowledgment.
  • It is essential to recognise that even small instances of incremental plagiarism can lead to ethical and academic integrity issues.
  • The misuse of others’ work, even in small increments, can undermine one’s credibility and be considered intellectual theft.
  • Proper citation and acknowledgment are crucial in academic writing to give credit to the original authors and avoid plagiarism accusations.
  • Developing good research and writing practices, such as taking thorough notes and maintaining a clear distinction between one’s own ideas and borrowed information, can help prevent incremental plagiarism.

Incremental plagiarism involves using someone else’s ideas, writing style, or material without credit. This type of plagiarism involves gradually adopting original material rather than duplicating portions verbatim.

The free interchange of ideas and academic integrity are compromised by this practice.

We shall discuss incremental plagiarism, its effects, and how to avoid it in this piece of writing.

What is Incremental Plagiarism?

Incremental plagiarism occurs when someone uses portions of another’s work (such as sentences, phrases, or paragraphs) across different parts of their own work without proper attribution.

This type of plagiarism involves the accumulation of small pieces of uncredited material which, over time or across various sections of a single document, contribute significantly to the plagiarist’s content.

Unlike complete plagiarism, which involves copying an entire work, incremental plagiarism is often less obvious because it intersperses original writing with plagiarised segments, making it harder to detect.

This piecemeal approach undermines academic integrity, misleading readers and educators about the authenticity and originality of the work. Proper citation and a rigorous check for originality are essential to avoid this subtle but serious form of plagiarism.

Is Incremental Plagiarism Accidental?

is incremental plagiarism accidental

Incremental plagiarism can be both intentional and accidental.

It’s intentional when a person knowingly incorporates small parts of someone else’s work into their own without giving proper credit.

However, it can also be accidental, often resulting from a lack of understanding about what constitutes plagiarism or how to properly cite sources.

For instance, a person might think that changing a few words in a sentence makes it their own, or they might not realise that even paraphrased ideas need to be credited. This lack of awareness can lead to unintentional incremental plagiarism.

Regardless of intent, it’s important to remember that all forms of plagiarism, including incremental, are considered unethical and can have serious consequences in academic and professional settings. Therefore, it’s crucial to always give credit where it’s due and strive for originality in your work.

Remember, using someone else’s work can be a great way to learn and get inspired, but the final product should always reflect your own understanding and unique perspective. That’s where the ‘human touch’ comes in – it’s about making the work truly yours.

Incremental Plagiarism vs Global Plagiarism vs Patchwork Plagiarism

Here is a table comparing Incremental, Global, and Patchwork Plagiarism:

Type of PlagiarismDescriptionExample
Incremental PlagiarismStealing bits and pieces of content without attribution.Copying phrases, sentences, or data points from a source without citing it.
Global PlagiarismCopying someone else’s entire work and presenting it as your own.Submitting another person’s essay, presentation, or project as your own.
Patchwork PlagiarismCreating a new work by stitching together pieces of content from various sources without proper citation.Paraphrasing or summarizing multiple sources without creating a new and original analysis.

Incremental Plagiarism Examples

Sure, here are a few examples of incremental plagiarism:

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1. Word-for-word copying:

Let’s say a student is writing an essay on global warming and finds a relevant paragraph on a website. Instead of paraphrasing or summarizing the information, the student copies and pastes the entire paragraph into their essay without giving credit to the original source.

Original source: “According to recent research, global warming is caused by the excessive release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, trap heat and cause the Earth’s temperature to rise at an alarming rate.”

Plagiarism example: “According to recent research, global warming is caused by the excessive release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, trap heat and cause the Earth’s temperature to rise at an alarming rate.”

2. Sentence rearrangement:

In this case, a student finds a sentence in a book that perfectly captures their thoughts on a topic. They decide to use the sentence but rearrange the words and structure slightly to make it appear as their original work.

Original source: “Renewable energy sources are crucial for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and mitigating the harmful effects of climate change.”

Plagiarism example: “Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and mitigating climate change are crucial reasons for utilizing renewable energy sources.”

3. Using Quotes without Proper Citation

One common form of incremental plagiarism occurs when a writer includes a quote from another source without providing proper citation.

When incorporating someone else’s exact words into your work, it is essential to enclose the quote in quotation marks and include a citation to acknowledge the original author.

For instance, suppose you are writing a paper on climate change and wish to include a quote from a scientist’s report. Failing to enclose the quote in quotation marks and cite the source constitutes incremental plagiarism.

Prominent Cases of Incremental Plagiarism

cases of incremental plagiarism

Political Speech

One notable instance of incremental plagiarism that garnered significant public attention occurred during the 2016 Republican National Convention. Melania Trump, the wife of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, delivered a speech that soon raised eyebrows for its familiarity.

Journalist Jarret Hill was among the first to spot the similarities, recognising that parts of Melania’s address closely mirrored a speech given by former First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Following these accusations, The Washingtonian conducted an analysis using a plagiarism checker, which revealed that 47% of Melania’s speech matched Michelle Obama’s earlier speech.

The statistical likelihood of such a similarity occurring by chance was calculated to be less than one in a trillion.

Despite the evidence and public scrutiny, the Trump family did not formally acknowledge the plagiarism.

Song Lyrics

Incremental plagiarism in song lyrics occurs when artists borrow phrases or lines from other songs without proper credit or permission.

This can happen inadvertently, as artists may be influenced by the music they listen to and unconsciously incorporate similar themes or melodies into their own work.

Another high-profile plagiarism case involved singer Katy Perry. In 2014, she won a Grammy Award for her song “Dark Horse.” However, the following year, she found herself embroiled in a legal battle when Marcus Gray alleged that “Dark Horse” was a copy of his song “Joyful Noise.”

Initially, Perry was found liable and ordered to pay a fine. Later on, she was acquitted of the charges.

In Publication

Plagiarism has also tainted prominent publications. For instance, New York Times journalist Jayson Blair faced allegations of plagiarizing content in 36 articles.

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The misconduct came to light after Macarena Hernandez, a journalist from The San Antonio Express-News, discovered portions of her own work in one of Blair’s articles. This revelation severely damaged Blair’s career, marking a significant professional downfall.

Commencement Speech

This case initially appeared to be an isolated event but soon unfolded as a recurring issue.

In 2010, Manny V. Pangilinan, a prominent Filipino businessman and then-chair of the board of trustees, delivered a commencement speech at Ateneo de Manila University. The speech came under scrutiny when blogger Katrina Stuart Santiago highlighted instances of incremental plagiarism within it.

Pangilinan had appropriated quotes from several notable figures, including President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Conan O’Brien, and J.K. Rowling, without proper attribution.

He promptly acknowledged the oversight and offered to resign from his board position, although the university’s board chose not to accept his resignation.

Subsequently, another blogger and author, Jessica Zafra, identified additional instances of incremental plagiarism in Pangilinan’s earlier speeches. This pattern highlighted a significant lesson on the importance of originality and integrity in public discourse.

In Which Case Does a Person Commit Incremental Plagiarism?

commits incremental plagiarism

A person commits incremental plagiarism in several scenarios:

Misunderstanding of citation rules: Sometimes, a person might not fully understand the rules of citation and might inadvertently fail to cite a source properly. This can lead to incremental plagiarism.

Paraphrasing without citation: If a person paraphrases (rewords) someone else’s work but does not provide a citation, this is considered incremental plagiarism. Even though the words are different, the ideas are still borrowed.

Quoting without citation: Using direct quotes from a source without proper citation is another form of incremental plagiarism. Even if the quote is just a sentence or two, it still needs to be cited.

Mixing cited and uncited work: Sometimes, a person might correctly cite some parts of their work but neglect to do so for others. This mix of cited and uncited work can lead to incremental plagiarism.

Remember, the key to avoiding any form of plagiarism is understanding what it is, knowing how to cite correctly, and always giving credit where it’s due.

It’s not just about avoiding copying, but also about understanding and presenting the information in a way that reflects your own understanding and perspective.

Consequences of Incremental Plagiarism

The repercussions of incremental plagiarism are similar to those of other forms of plagiarism:

  • Poor Grades and Revision Requests: Typically, you may receive lower grades for the assignment and be asked to revise your work.
  • University Disciplinary Action: Universities have specific rules regarding academic integrity. Consequences may include academic probation, fines, or other disciplinary measures. It’s advisable to consult your professor before submitting your assignment to avoid such penalties.
  • Expulsion from University: In severe cases, students may face expulsion from the university. This harsh punishment may be imposed if a student repeatedly submits non-original work, indicating a lack of commitment to learning and academic honesty.
  • Legal Action and Plagiarism Allegations: In extreme cases, plagiarism can lead to lawsuits and allegations. This scenario is especially challenging if the original author discovers their work has been copied without permission.

It’s crucial to understand the seriousness of incremental plagiarism and its potential consequences to maintain academic integrity and avoid damaging your academic and professional reputation.

How to Avoid Incremental Plagiarism?

Avoiding incremental plagiarism requires careful attention to detail and a commitment to academic integrity. Here are some tips to help you avoid this form of plagiarism:

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Proper Citation: Always provide proper citation when using someone else’s ideas, words, or phrases in your work. This includes both direct quotes and paraphrased material.

Use Quotation Marks: When using someone else’s exact words, be sure to enclose the text in quotation marks to indicate that it is a direct quote.

Keep Detailed Notes: When conducting research, keep detailed notes of all the sources you consult, including page numbers and publication information. This will make it easier to properly cite your sources later.

Understand Citation Styles: Familiarise yourself with the citation style required by your institution (e.g., APA, MLA) and make sure to follow it consistently.

Review and Edit: Before submitting your work, carefully review it to ensure that you have properly cited all sources and that your writing is original.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your work is free from incremental plagiarism and that you maintain the highest standards of academic integrity.

What’s Next?

With various types of plagiarism detection tools readily available, maintaining originality in content is paramount.

Remember, a truly impactful piece of writing in academic papers relies heavily on original ideas, not just paraphrasing common knowledge.

Proper acknowledgment of source material is key, even for individual sections that borrow core ideas.

Originality in content goes beyond surface-level changes; it’s about weaving your own analysis and using original wording.

By adhering to proper citation standards, you ensure your work is not only plagiarism-free, but also credible and showcases your own intellectual contribution. To guarantee peace of mind, consider using Bytescare Plagiarism Checker.

Book a demo today and embark on your academic journey with confidence, knowing your content shines with its own unique voice.


What is incremental plagiarism in public speaking?

Incremental plagiarism in public speaking occurs when a speaker gradually appropriates someone else’s original content, ideas, or speaking style without proper acknowledgment. This can include paraphrasing without citation or adopting someone else’s structure or argument without giving credit.

What is the difference between plagiarism and incremental plagiarism?

While plagiarism involves directly copying someone else’s work, incremental plagiarism is more subtle. It involves gradually adopting someone else’s original content, ideas, or writing style without proper acknowledgment.

How incremental plagiarism happens?

Incremental plagiarism occurs when individuals slowly integrate someone else’s original material into their own work without proper citation or acknowledgment. This can involve paraphrasing without citation, adopting someone else’s writing style, or gradually incorporating their ideas into your own writing.

How can I identify incremental plagiarism in my writing?

You can identify incremental plagiarism in your writing by carefully comparing your work to your sources. Look for similarities in wording, sentence structure, and ideas. If you find that you have adopted someone else’s material without proper acknowledgment, you may be guilty of incremental plagiarism.

Is it considered incremental plagiarism if I only change a few words or phrases in someone else’s work?

Yes, even if you only change a few words or phrases in someone else’s work, it can still be considered incremental plagiarism if you do not properly acknowledge the source. Simply changing a few words does not make the work your own; you must still give credit to the original author.

Does incremental plagiarism only apply to written works?

No, incremental plagiarism can apply to various forms of communication, including public speaking. Just as in written works, incremental plagiarism in public speaking involves gradually appropriating someone else’s original content, ideas, or speaking style without proper acknowledgment.