Did I Plagiarize? The Types and Severity of Plagiarism Violations

Plagiarism is a hot topic in the academic world, but it applies in all aspects of our lives. In a country and culture that values intellectual property, it is imperative that we are conscious of plagiarism guidelines and standards. The reality is, in many facets of life, when we make mistakes, we can claim ignorance. But when it comes to plagiarizing, there is little slack given; we are all expected to understand plagiarism guidelines and what constitutes a violation.

While plagiarism is never considered acceptable, there are varying levels of severity with different types of plagiarism violations. So are you wondering if you’ve plagiarized? Here’s a quick guide to help show you what constitutes the many areas of plagiarism and how serious each violation is.

For a similar chart on the copyright usage of images, see the “Can I Use That Picture” graphic.

This Infographic has also been translated into Spanish, Chinese, and Indonesian.

To purchase a 20×30 printed poster, please visit the online store.



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The Thirteen Types of Plagiarism

Why We Should Be Teaching Visual Literacy in High School

Can I Use that Picture? The Terms, Laws, and Ethics for Using Copyrighted Images

17 thoughts on “Did I Plagiarize? The Types and Severity of Plagiarism Violations

  • September 17, 2014 at 7:39 am

    Ran into this trouble while deciding to start a blog — if the blog mostly quotes other people (all cited correctly), even if I don’t make money, I’m still using their stuff to further my own name.

  • September 24, 2014 at 2:30 am

    Hey communication guy, you have a typo: “Likly”

    • September 24, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      Thanks! Error has been fixed 🙂

  • September 24, 2014 at 6:07 am

    Great work!

    Caught a typo: mininterpret –> misinterpret

    • September 24, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      Thanks! Error has been fixed 🙂

  • September 24, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    Roger said blogs, I’ll add mainstream media sites as some of the worst offenders. When something is topical, it seems everyone wants to publish a link to the story which almost always contributes nothing new; it’s just ‘as reported on’ w/ one little citation link. Then there are the social types who always find such good stuff.. yet sometimes fail to credit where and how they found it. very helpful graphic, thanks for sharing. FWIW.

  • September 24, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    “PLAGIARISM. The reproduction or appropriation of someone else’s work without proper attribution; passing off as one’s own the work of someone else” [1].

    “plagiarism (…) The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own” [2].

    [1] “Glossary” http://www.plagiarism.org/plagiarism-101/glossary. iParadigms LLC. Accessed 24-September-2014
    [2] “Plagiarism: definition of plagiarism in Oxford dictionary (British and World English)” http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/plagiarism. Oxford University Press. Accessed 24-September-2014

    Some of the (let’s call them) “faults” in this infographic are not plagiarism: Warping others’ ideas (and quoting them) is definitely wrong, but is not plagiarism. Adding little or none of your own ideas is lazy and not acceptable work for a student, but that is what anthologies are (or journals for that matter), which are perfectly acceptable under the right context and when presented as such.

    The mitosis and recycle cases I also don’t think should be classified as plagiarism as you are not passing someone else’s ideas as your own; wrong, yes, but not plagiarism in the strict sense. However, I’ll concede as your source puts it as “self-plagiarism”.

    Speaking of which, I should apologize for quoting your same source as your reference (which in the mindset of some reference nazis could be considered “half-n-half”, “miscued” or “half hearted”) because it’s not a good place to go by: the website is confusing plagiarism with copyright, but more importantly, with comercial rights.

    Look, I don’t mean to accuse you of any intentional wrong-doing, and I’m really not bothered (please, read my comments as with a light tone of voice) just be more careful next time as you might have enough reach to misguide some people.

    TL;DR: You are guilty of plagiarism under your twisted re-definition for warping and miscueing a source… and I’m sure someone will find my words plagiaristic as well

  • September 29, 2014 at 8:40 am

    As AS said, there are some good points here, but you stretch the boundaries of plagiarism. Plagiarism is the attempt to present another’s ideas/words as one’s own; it is distinct from copyright violation, recycling one’s own work, or sloppy referencing. Consider the following cases.

    1. A student pays someone to write their paper. Definitely plagiarism, but no violation of IP rights (or identity theft), since the agrrement between student and ghost-writer transfers the rights to the student. Bonus example: do you think every politician who wrote their memoirs actually WROTE them?

    2. A student writes:

    As Shakespeare said, all the world’s a stage.

    Strictly speaking, they should have used quotation marks, and citation sticklers would want the source, but only an idiot would accuse them of plagiarism for this. Sloppy referencing does not equal plagiarism. Bonus example: teen quotes song lyrics on Facebook without citing the author cuz that wd be lame.

    3. Malcolm Gladwell gives yet another TED talk on the topic of his latest book but doesn’t make air-quotes when quoting it directly. So-called self-plagiarism is not plagiarism. Bonus example: new PhD turns thesis into article.

    Oh, and to avoid any accusations of self-plagiarism, most of those examples come from a paper I just gave at a conference and the citation is … nah, can’t be bothered.

  • September 29, 2014 at 11:08 pm

    Love the poster. Dumb question though, what typeface is that? The lower-case “l” looks very Spiekermannish, but I can’t place it.

    • September 29, 2014 at 11:26 pm

      Source Sans Pro 🙂

  • December 16, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    Thank you for this information. I blog mainly about my own experiences and haven’t had occasion to cite other peoples’ works. I don’t think anyone has plagiarized any of my blog posts, mainly because I don’t think other people would find them “that” interesting.

  • December 21, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    I did some research on wikipedia and paraphrased it in my book having one of the character say it, does that count as plagiarism? If so, what would I do? It’s already published… I’m kind of freaking out, but my editor and a few other people said that they didn’t think it was…

    (My phrase)

    “Britannicus is very young, and that makes him more likely to be influenced or harmed by schemes targeted at forcibly removing him from power.”


    Britannicus’ youth became a liability for Claudius. The lack of an adult heir made the emperor more susceptible to conspiracies aimed at overthrowing the dynasty, especially those by other Julio-Claudians.

    • January 7, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      In the Humanities, there is one big exception to plagiarism rules, and that is “common historical knowledge.” For example, if you can’t remember the date on which the Titanic sank, you can look it up, then mention it without citing a specific source. The catch is that what constitutes “common knowledge” varies considerably depending on your context/audience. In general, anything that constitutes “fact” (dates, names, etc.) doesn’t need a source, unless it is controversial (e.g. Shakespeare was really a woman.), or a very recently uncovered fact (e.g. The Medieval text commonly attributed to Aelfric was probably written by Alfred.), but anything that constitutes historical interpretation of established facts (e.g. Horace Walpole’s writings suggest that he was secretly gay.) does need a citation because someone else extrapolated a conclusion from established facts and you would be citing the extrapolation rather than the “fact” itself.

      In your specific context, you’re probably ok because the “fact” part of your passage (that Britannicus was very young at the time) IS a fact rather than an interpretation, and your interpretation is based on an uncontroversial generalization (young people are–in all historical periods–more susceptible to influence from adult advisors). You’ve cut out the more complex part of your source’s interpretation of that historical moment.

      I might have encouraged you to change up the sentence structure a bit, but you’re language is distinctive enough that it shouldn’t be an issue.

      The bigger concern for me (speaking as an English Prof.) would be that you’re relying primarily on Wikipedia for your historical research. Although many articles are uploaded in good faith, and some by reputable individuals, Wikipedia does have painful errors in a number of entries. I’d strongly encourage you to verify anything you took from that page using more reputable scholarly sources.

      One other note–it also makes a difference if you’re publishing fiction or non-fiction. If it’s fiction, you have a lot more leeway and need fewer formal citations (though you still shouldn’t rely on Wikipedia!).

  • November 12, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Well, here are few great points:

    if you use other’s thoughts – reference it. If you use other’s words – cite it. Plagiarism can be unintended and that is up to you to prove and up to your professor to accept it. Once your paper is run through turnitin.com – your paper is indexed and saved into repository with you keeping the authorship right. Any following paper with alike content or even a sentence – will be caught.
    A way out can be a high level paraphrasing, example – take any sample essay here – http://essayzoo.com/essay/#paper_type and reword the whole thing. Turnitin may not catch it but you have still plagiarized and with such plagiarism checking services evolving – you may end up being caught in few years down the read and that can seriously hurt you. It is best not to plagiarize and be educated in order to avoid it. Plz reply if you think otherwise.

  • May 3, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    September 17, 2014 at 7:39 am
    Roger you did not plagiarize just next time don’t use quote after quote.

  • May 21, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Some parts of the poster are simply wrong, e. g. it is no plagiarism at all if formal shortcuts/errors like a missing/wrong page number, a misspelled author name, erc. happen and at our university such thinge would be never evaluated as plagiarism. I recommend to you the information of Prof. Dutch:


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