About Plagiarism

As an academic you probably have come across the word plagiarism, either as a distinct English word, or an admonition of the consequent effect of your likely association. While not a word that is used frequently or widely in daily communication, when you do get acquainted with the word, you would observe its peculiar traits – as much as plagiarism can be a difficult word to spell, based on the widely varied definitions that exist, the word is even more difficult to define.

However, before we take a look at some of the definitions, let us research into the origins of the word plagiarism.

The earliest mention of plagiarism dates back to the 1600s. The word was culled from “plagiary” which was used to refer to felons who had made attempts to steal children, in order to sell them into slavery. During this period and prior, manuscripts written did not necessarily bear the names of the authors, and the duplication of all forms of the arts was widely accepted. During this era, it was considered a thing of pride and expertise that one’s work had gained enough reputation to merit copying.

The 1700s brought about the copyright law. The principal reason for the passing of the law, on the publishers’ end, was to protect books in circulation from being pirated, while on the authors’ end, it was to discourage the unauthorized printing of their manuscripts. Gradually, on the international scene, these laws were adopted, one country after another. The modern copyright practices still bear a resemblance to some of the practices that were inculcated back then.

The following are some insightful, comprehensive and expansive definitions of plagiarism.

The Cambridge University defines plagiarism as “submitting as one’s own work, irrespective of intent to deceive, that which derives in part or in its entirety from the work of others without due acknowledgment”. The Institution concludes that the act represents a show of poor scholarship and a breach in the scholar’s academic integrity. The University of Nottingham states that plagiarism involves a scholar’s attempt to pass off some other person’s work, deliberately or without prior knowledge, as his or her own. This, the academia concludes, includes the individual’s attempt to copy or paraphrase the work of another, which might at that time be published or unpublished, or attempting to represent the other person’s artistic or technical work or creation as his/her own.

Belgium Research University, The University of Leuven Website for Research Integrity defines plagiarism as “any identical or lightly-altered use of one’s own or someone else’s work (ideas, texts, structures, images, plans, etc.) without adequate reference to the source.”

From the above definitions, we identify that plagiarism focuses primarily on the attempt of one entity to place the ownership claim on the intellectual property of another.

Some examples of plagiarism

The simplest examples of plagiarism include:

  • When large groups of phrases or sentences from earlier texts, in order to fill in the gaps in writing. This, with or without citation is classified as plagiarism.

It is expected that in the writing of a scholarly paper, earlier texts related to the subject matter are perused; however, the scholar extracts the idea from these texts to build on his (or her) own theory.

  • When the scholar paraphrases sentences or paragraphs in order to pass the writing as original content, without acknowledging the primary source of information.
  • Wrongfully citing a source. In this scenario, the scholar attempts to provide a citation, however the wrong source was used.
  • Passing off one’s earlier work as an original paper. This is commonly known as “self-plagiarism”. As the word sounds, self-plagiarism refers to when a student or scholar submits the same assignment to more than one course. It could also mean the copying of information from an earlier course work the scholar undertook, without citing any acknowledgement to the earlier work.
  • Unintentional plagiarism: This occurs when a person copies another’s work without consciously realizing that the work is being copied. As a result of this ignorance, the act is classified as “unintentional”.

It is important to note that just because the act was committed without the individual being aware, does not exempt it from being an act of plagiarism.


So while a consensual definition for plagiarism might have not been arrived at yet, you do know that any collection or use of some other person’s work without acknowledging them for the usage is considered a felony and a punishable crime by law. You also do know that if you ever feel like you have intentionally or unintentionally used ideas or content from some other person’s work, you should attempt to make the necessary attribution.

At Writing Peak, we help you to navigate the gray areas in the definitions for plagiarism, providing you well-written, well-researched and appropriately referenced papers to meet your writing objectives. You can schedule a consultation with us today.