How To Tell Accidental Plagiarism From Intentional?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012 05:04 5

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How often do you suffer from writer’s block? If you happen to experience this state of mind again and again, you’d better not turn to cheating. Once involved into this “harmful activity”, you’ll hardly be able to get rid of it completely. No matter whether you’ve plagiarized accidentally or intentionally, you are still guilty!


To avoid this confusing situation once and for all, you need to understand clearly what accidental and intentional plagiarism are like. Well, let’s check out what’s the difference.

Oops, I Didn’t Mean To Do It…

Living in the age when almost any information becomes available with one click, to answer the question of authorship is often next to impossible. A lot of facts mix up, so that you can’t really tell if these thoughts belong to you or someone else.

Imagine the following scenario: you and your group mates need to compose a short story describing some extraordinary events from your life. It’s quite natural, that you would like to share your ideas and even discuss the way the plot of your story will be built. Thus, you shouldn’t be surprised, if it turns out that most of your work will be very similar to the ones of your group mates. No doubt, that you professor will consider these papers to be plagiarized.

Unfortunately, it is not the only case, when accidental plagiarism occurs. If you misinterpret or don’t understand the term, if you don’t follow citation rules or lack paraphrasing skills, if you don’t keep record of the sources used in your work, etc. then you are guilty of accidental plagiarism.

Yes… I Did It On Purpose

In contrast to accidental, intentional plagiarism seems to be a much more serious offense, since it implies, that you cheat deliberately. The most wide-spread reasons preceding it are as follows:

lack of time/good time-management skills, laziness, absence of interest/motivation, and so on.

When does it happen? The cases are really numerable. Though some of them are more frequently met, namely:

  • stealing information from the Internet without proper attribution,
  • passing off one’s own previous paper as a new one,
  • lifting a group mate’s paper (wholly or partially) and submitting it as one’s own,
  • making use of already written works available for free download,
  • submitting low quality works purchased from online writing services, etc.

Apart from the types of plagiarism outlined above, you may come across other ones as well. However, no matter how they differ, it is still plagiarism, which is appreciated neither by people, nor by law.

Nobody wants to repeat a course, ruin reputation or be expelled, so please watch out and avoid plagiarizing!

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  1. Nikky

    I haven’t used this website yet, but I will for sure. I am a teacher and sometimes it is hard to say if a student plagiarized or not. What about “self” plagiarism?

    • Darla

      Don’t you know your students’ writing style? I can always say when they try cheating, it’s too obvious.

  2. Nikky

    Can you also say if a student used the same few sentences from his past works? I doubt that.

    • Darla

      Nikky, I think you go to extremes here. Intentional plagiarism and “self” plagiarism cannot be put together. These are 2 different things.

  3. Nikky

    Dah, I never said those were the same notion.