Types include:

  • Total/ Complete
  • Stitched up
  • Sloppy
  • Own
  • Accidental



A reasonably intellgient tutor knows when a piece of work has a source elsewhere which is unaccounted for, or which goes on at length even if there are references. The tutor may know the work. If not, a change in style or word power is noted (from this or other work of the student), or the text clearly is addressing some question but not quite the one set, or there seems to be a dramatic increase in the ability of the student's understanding unsupported elsewhere. Plagiarism includes but is not simply the copying as a whole a piece of work that is then passed off as one's own. It has various extents and categories. There are two subdivisions in every case: Block Copying and Unsourced Rewrites. Block Copying is a cut and paste job, whereas Unsourced Rewriting involves passing off another's ideas as one's own.

    In short:
  • do not pass off text as one's own when it isn't
  • do not pass off an idea as one's own when it isn't
  • It is up to the student to self-protect against accusations of plagiarism


This is plagiarising a whole a piece of work that is then passed off as one's own. This might be called total (or complete) plagiarism.
In the Block Copy approach, students sometimes introduce it and conclude it with their own words, but the rest is just pasted in. The Internet has made this more common, and some sites even offer texts, and some even have people who will do the writing. This plagiarism is done on the belief that a tutor has not got immense knowledge of the total sources of essays and articles in the world. Usually the palgiarising student is more stupid than this and does not "travel" far for the work. Nevertheless, even with a remote find, a tutor will for reasons in the introduction realise that the work is not the student's and will be as able as the student was in tracking down the source material.
A block of work may be rewritten without sourcing it. This Unsourced Writing then becomes a pinch of an idea. Usually the rewriting isn't very good, but a tutor spots it because the idea is original to the student or the rewriting gives clues that the main points are not understood (detectable within the writing). The source is harder to find, perhaps, but the tutor will often be able to track how the original was changed into the student's pastiche.
Stitched up
This is where a student enters some original writing in amongst blocks of unaccounted for text from varied sources.
In the Block Copy approach the tutor notices variations in writing style, or material that surely must have a source and is yet not accounted for or inadequately referenced. Although this seems more protected by variety, it is also more open to detection in the one case or two, and it only takes one case to prove plagiarism.
In the Unsourced Rewriting approach the tutor has to be more of a detective. Nevertheless parts look rewritten as sandwiches between odd bridging paragraphs. Sometimes the resultant essay may be quite acceptable, except for the lack of adequate referencing. It is important that the essay is clear when it is drawing on another's idea, as the essay progresses, and that this is referenced.
In this case a student only had to do a little more work and effort to be on the right side of the rules about plagiarism. Even though some work many be referenced, in the Block Copy approach the language of the originator is copied without proper indentation or quotation marks. There may be referencing but it indicates use of the material sourced by the book or webpage whereas this immediate source is being ignored. This is itself plagiarism because the interpretation of the writer on to these sources is being ignored. For this reason it is also dangerous, in that the filter of the original sources may have changed the meaning of those sources. Perhaps there is accurate referencing but is just incomplete, leaving areas that are properly referenced but other parts which are not.
In the Unsourced writing approach, the student either writes references based not on the interpreter but the interpreter's sources, or writes accurate references but not them all. Whilst hard to detect, it's a fact that all ideas develop, and any source used must be quoted, even if that source has used its own sources, and every source should be quoted. The fact is, though, is that a lot of plagiarism does take place this way, but it leaves a student open for criticism when these errors become blatant, when although the work is written by the student an impression is given of looking at original works when they were never seen, or of inate intelligence and undeerstanding of the subject when it was in fact cribbed from sources.
Students on courses which are similar may transfer completed written material from one to the other. This actually is not usually possible without prior agreement from the tutor or other authorities. In the Block Copy approach, chunks of essays get reproduced elsewhere. Many students get away with this, until of course the tutor's have a conversation that remarks on an essay, or essays get seen by some examiner or inspector. In the Unsourced rewrite approach the student simply takes too much - of course if the sections were bite sized, rewritten and placed into new contexts with full source referencing then no plagiarism will have taken place.
Whoops! This is where the writing really was one's own but comes to look like someone else's, being not in fact a Block Copy (unless extremely unlucky, or lucky if the monkeys do end up typing Shakespeare). Unfortunately this is still plagiarism because there is no defence. See how to avoid to realise why there is no defence. Unsourced Rewriting is far easier to do, and in fact may look like a slightly altered Block Copy. It becomes important, therefore, to know the sources available and also, having done a lot of reading, not to think that author A's approach is the only way to write it, so that this ends up being the way a quite honest essay gets written!


First these matters are tackled in areas and then as a whole...
Total/ Complete
To wholly pass of another's work by Block Copying is just breaking intellectual property rights and intellectual copyright. One may as well not bother to attend the course. The whole point about writing is to enter a process of learning, and this is not. To follow a text with rewriting as one goes is inadequate as work, even to reference it. Avoidance of these is so obvious that to do them is deliberate academic "crime".
Stitched up
It is important to stress that finding and inserting a variety of Block Copied sources is not good enough. Although it might be said that some minimal "research" has been done, the absence of own writing means there has been no process of interpretation or learning. It is vital in these days of copying and pasting from Internet sources that details of sources are kept and reproduced, and in the case of the Internet the date (even the time) should be noted as web pages are forever changing. To rewrite sections that are otherwise pasted is no adequate alternative to giving the sources. A well sourced essay showing lots of reading is obviously a good thing - but the method is chunky if there is a lot of quotations where the student's writing amounts to bridging paragraphs between quotations or shallow rewrites.
Note down every source when material is gained and stored. Here is how it can go wrong. Material is found that is very useful but its source is lost. That material later just has to be used. It is put in, even if rewritten, but the source is lost and therefore it looks like the student's original thoughts. However, it is not and is plagiarism. So pershaps some sort of filing system for quotations is required, and then suitable quotations and information can be found for referenced inclusion.
If an essay on a subject has been written, then it will be in the mind of the writer. Perhaps rereading, thinking and then being aware of sections applied to that answer will assist in what can be written about in this. Write the new essay and only then reference those same sources now freshly reapplied. it is important, though, to "get away" from the old essay, and focus on the question in hand.
Overall Strategies of Avoidance
All research should be research of information and its source. The source needs detailing accurately and at least as much as according to the referencing system to be used. So if Harvard is used, record a useful summary of the text, give page numbers of the points being made, and perhaps write the reference in the Harvard form (but also add details of where obtained, the ISBN number and so on).
Database store the research so that when a topic arises this material can be investigated.
Become familiar with the arguments and the main sources. A good way to proceed is the lecture notes that summarise the topic. Focus on the question, and write as much as possible in one's own words. Even "steamroller" the essay, by forcing something to be written from the initial understanding of the topic. Rewrites will refine the essay.
Make sure that quotations and other inserts are added to the essay, rather than an essay being written around the quotations and source texts. Many students gather information and having done this write the essay around the harvest. This is definately the wrong way around. Try to write originally from an understanding of the subject, and then add the source material. It is important to try to avoid close paraphrasing of a source.
When an author is quoting a text, then use the reference of the immediate source adding then where that got it from. It's like a double reference is made. Only use this if it has to be. If the original source cannot be found, don't enter it separately in the bibliography. A reader (book that contains passages from sources) should be quoted of course, because the reader selects and the student may not have selected in this way, or miss something in the original, had the original been available.
Bibliographies should be thorough. If a source is read and contributes in any way to the writing of an essay, it should be in the bibliography even if nothing in the text refers to it directly. If something in the text is from something in the bibliography, even vaguely, then a reference should be made. If the source is making a somewhat different point via that text's use, then a footnote might suggest this, because of course this essay is making an interpretation in a different manner.
It is actually quite possible to use a reference to cut down on the writing. By referring to another author and the idea contained therein, the use of a reference pointing to it means that the idea does not have to be slavishly reproduced. In effect the student is saying, I'm using this, I've explained my use, but if you want to see how he or she generated the idea, go off and read it yourself. This is quite normal. The essay being written needs to focus on the question in hand.
Remember that all academic writing supposes a "tradition". How a subject has been written about in the past stands behind how it is written about in the future. New writing comes from old, so it is a requirement to know the sources of past work. Knowing these sources is a good defence against accidental plagiarism. The wheel is rarely reinvented. There is always a tension between how something has been written about by knowledgable people and originality in the next piece of work.



See Gordon, C., Simmons, P., Wynn, G. (2000), Biology Program Guide 2000/ 2001 [Online], British Columbia: The Faculty of Arts, The University of British Columbia, Available WWW, at: <http://www.zoology.ubc.ca/bpg/plagiarism>, [Accessed: 19/07/2000].

The above uses categories of complete, near complete, patchwork, lazy and self plagiarism, but has not organised them into block copy and unsourced rewriting. The categories here are variants but written afresh with these subdivisions.

Creme, P., Lea, M. R. (1997), Writing at University: A Guide for Students, Buckingham: Open University Press, 66-67.

This is a more informal approach to plagiarism in terms of watching one's own writing and discussing with the tutor the parameters.