Key Takeaways:

  • Plagiarism is the act of using someone else’s work or ideas without proper acknowledgment.
  • It includes direct copying, paraphrasing without credit, and self-plagiarism.
  • The internet has made it easier but also easier to detect with tools.
  • Proper citation and attribution are essential to avoid such kind of intellectual theft.
  • It extends beyond text to include images, videos, music, and code.

Plagiarism is a critical issue in academia, literature, and various other fields. Understanding what constitutes plagiarism, its implications, and how to avoid it is essential for maintaining integrity and originality in one’s work.

This article answers the question what is plagiarism, its different forms across various fields, and why it’s essential to be vigilant against it, especially in the digital age.

What Does the Word Plagiarism Mean in Literature?

In literature, plagiarism refers to the act of using someone else’s words, ideas, or expressions without proper acknowledgment. This can range from copying entire passages or works to paraphrasing someone else’s ideas without giving credit.

The essence of literary theft lies in presenting another person’s intellectual property as one’s own.

The Best Way to Define Plagiarism

The best way to define plagiarism is to describe it as intellectual theft. It involves taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as your own.

This can happen intentionally or unintentionally, but the consequences are often severe, including academic penalties, legal repercussions, and damage to one’s reputation.

Dictionary Meaning of Plagiarism

definition plagiarism

According to the dictionary, plagiarism is defined as “the act of using another person’s words or ideas without giving credit to that person.”

This definition highlights the importance of attribution and the ethical responsibility of acknowledging primary sources.

What is Plagiarism in Different Fields?

Plagiarism manifests differently across various fields:

  • Academia: In educational settings, plagiarism involves copying assignments, research papers, or theses without proper citation.
  • Journalism: For journalists, plagiarism includes using information, quotes, or articles from other writers without acknowledgment.
  • Art and Design: In creative fields, plagiarism can occur by replicating another artist’s work or design concepts.
  • Science and Research: In scientific communities, plagiarism might involve using another researcher’s data, experiments, or publications without proper credit.

Different Forms of Plagiarism

Form DescriptionExample
Direct PlagiarismCopying text word-for-word from a source without attribution.A student copies a paragraph from a website and includes it in their essay without citation.
Self-PlagiarismReusing one’s own previously published work without disclosure.Submitting the same research paper for multiple classes without informing the instructors.
Paraphrasing PlagiarismRewriting someone else’s ideas or text without proper attribution.A blogger rephrases a news article’s content but fails to credit the original source.
Mosaic or Patchwork PlagiarismMixing copied text with original ideas without proper citation.Combining phrases from different sources with original writing but not citing any sources.
Accidental PlagiarismUnintentionally failing to cite sources or misquoting them.Forgetting to include a citation for a quote or idea taken from another author’s work.
Source-Based PlagiarismCiting incorrect or non-existent sources, or using sources improperly.Fabricating or manipulating references to support an argument in an academic paper.
Complete PlagiarismSubmitting someone else’s entire work as one’s own.A student submits a purchased essay from an online service as their own work.
Image PlagiarismUsing images, graphs, or charts without proper permission or attribution.A marketer uses an infographic from a website in a presentation without crediting the creator.
Code PlagiarismCopying code or programming scripts without proper attribution.A programmer uses code from a GitHub repository in their project without citing the source.
Idea PlagiarismUsing someone’s original ideas without giving credit.Presenting another researcher’s theory as one’s own in a thesis or dissertation.
Artistic PlagiarismCopying artistic works such as paintings, music, or designs without permission.Using a copyrighted song as background music in a video without obtaining a license.

Can Ideas and Words Actually Be Stolen?

While physical theft involves tangible objects, intellectual theft encompasses the unauthorised use of intangible creations such as expression of ideas, and artistic works.

In both creative writing and academic writing, using someone else’s original idea or content piece without proper credit is considered intellectual theft. This not only disrespects the original creator but also undermines the integrity of the work being presented.

Proper citation and acknowledgment are crucial to maintaining ethical standards in all forms of writing and content creation.

What About Images, Videos, and Music?

Plagiarism isn’t limited to text; it extends to images, videos, and a piece of music as well. Using someone else’s photographs, video clips, or musical compositions without permission or proper credit constitutes plagiarism.

With the proliferation of digital content, it’s crucial to respect the intellectual property rights of creators in all media forms.

Related Article: Examples of plagiarism

Common Misconceptions

  • Plagiarism is only about copying word-for-word: It also includes paraphrasing someone else’s work without credit and presenting it as original.
  • It’s not plagiarism if it’s not published: Even unpublished work can be plagiarised. Sharing drafts, essays, or research findings without proper attribution is still unethical.
  • Using common knowledge isn’t plagiarism: While common knowledge doesn’t need citation, any unique analysis, interpretation, or synthesis does.

Plagiarism in the Digital Age

The digital age has made it easier to access and share information, but it has also increased the risk of duplicating the content.

The ease of copying and pasting text, images, and other media from the internet makes it tempting to use others’ work without proper credit. For Example:

Using Images Without Permission:

A marketer uses a photograph found on Google Images in a promotional flyer without obtaining permission from the photographer or crediting the source.

Repurposing Content Without Credit:

A YouTuber takes clips from another creator’s video and incorporates them into their own content without acknowledgment.

Submitting the Same Work for Multiple Assignments:

A student submits the same research paper for different classes without notifying the instructors, an act known as self-plagiarism.

Unattributed Code Snippets:

A programmer copies code from an open-source project or a coding forum and uses it in their own project without citing the original developer.

What’s Next?

To ensure your work remains plagiarism-free, consider employing a Bytescare plagiarism checker.

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These tools can help you identify unintentional plagiarism and ensure all sources are properly cited. Additionally, educating yourself about proper citation practices and ethical standards in your field is crucial.

To maintain the integrity of your work, book a demo with our plagiarism checker today. Ensure your content is original and free from any unintentional plagiarism. Let’s uphold the value of originality together.


What is plagiarism in simple words?

It is when you use someone else’s work or ideas and pretend they are your own without giving them credit.

What is plagiarism in education?

In education, copying involves students copying homework, essays, or projects from other students or sources without proper attribution, violating academic integrity policies.

Is plagiarism good or bad?

It is bad because it is dishonest, unfair to the original creators, and can lead to serious consequences such as academic penalties, legal issues, and damage to one’s reputation.

How many words define plagiarism?

This form of intellectual theft can be identified even if only a few words or a short phrase are copied without proper attribution, especially if the wording is distinctive or the idea is unique.

Is plagiarism one sentence?

Yes, it can occur even with just one sentence if it is taken from someone else’s work without proper credit.

What is plagiarism in computer?

In computer science, it (often referred to as code theft or code duplication) involves copying code, algorithms, or software designs from others without permission or proper attribution.

Is it plagiarism if I use common knowledge?

No, using common knowledge does not require citation. Common knowledge refers to facts or information widely known and accepted, such as historical dates or widely recognised scientific facts. However, unique interpretations or analyses must be cited.