Plagiarism Defined Plagiarism is a word that many students are introduced to at an adolescent age in an academic setting, but are likely only given simple instruction that plagiarism is the copying of work from another person, that it is not to be tolerated, and what the consequences may be if they are found guilty. The knowledge of plagiarism can and should go much deeper than that though. The word plagiarism is derived from the Latin word, plagiarius, meaning ‘kidnapper’, and is traced back to the early 17th century (Oxford Dictionairies, 2014). Merriam-Webster defines plagiarism as “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: use (another’s production without crediting the source” (Merriam-Webster, 2014, para. 1). Another definition provided by Merriam-Webster is one that notes a type of plagiarism that most people automatically associate the word, plagiarize, with, which is “to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source” (Merriam-Webster, 2014, para. 1).
A large majority of people automatically think of literary or academic theft, or the theft of some type of written work such as a book or a paper, when they think of plagiarism, but there are many other areas in which things can be plagiarized. One can copy another’s retail product, software, or invention; or a piece of artwork, music, movie, play, or original dance. It becomes plagiarism when someone copies anything that someone else created and tries to pass it off as their own authentic work. Some common terms that are synonymous with plagiarism include falsification, infringement, piracy, appropriation, copying, borrowing, fraud, stealing, theft, and even counterfeiting (Thesaurus, 2014).
Two Categories of Plagiarism Though some may disagree, plagiarism can be classified into two different groups: intentional and unintentional. Intentional plagiarism is when someone knowingly uses ideas or works of another person without properly giving credit to the original source. Unintentional plagiarism is when someone uses another’s works or ideas, but does not realize they need to be cited or lists the citation incorrectly (Houghton & Houghton, 2009). They may have also just forgotten to list the citation or reference. Citing, but not properly, can be considered plagiarism, but could be unintentional if the person is confused on the various rules of citation. In these instances, there is a fine line between intentional and unintentional. Proving which has been committed is the difficult part, as the rules for plagiarism are not black and white. Many instances come down to a judgment call. While someone may have legitimately forgotten to cite or reference information, a person who is intentionally committing plagiarism, and already being unethical, can easily claim they forgot. Paraphrasing is another a common source of unintentional plagiarism, in which a person may have borrowed the information but put it into their own words, and they do not realize the original author still needs to be properly cited and referenced. This is also a tactic for intentional plagiarizers to try and get away with it, by trying to reword the information enough that it seems original, and then claiming ignorance when they are caught.
What is considered plagiarism? According to information provided on Plaigiarism.org (What is plagiarism and Types of plagiarism, 2014), there are numerous classifications, or types, of plagiarism (intentional or unintentional). They were able to determine and characterize 10 different types ranging in the level of severity. Some examples include: “clone” (word-for-word), “remix” (rephrasing several sources together), and “aggregator” (providing proper citation, but quoting other works almost entirely). This last example is the equivalent of exceeding “fair use” rules, which are designed to establish how much of someone’s work