Types of plagiarism

In the context of the University of Hawai`i at Manoa (as well as most other Western academic institutions), a text that contains plagiarism is, essentially, a sign that the writer was not able to quote, paraphrase or summarize correctly (or cite their sources appropriately). There are many forms that plagiarism might take, but based on previous scholars’ efforts to classify them (Howard, 1995; Blum, 2009*), the ELI would like to suggest the following three categories for the inability to meet the standards for incorporating sources (i.e., forms that plagiarism might take):

  • Deceptive. Turning in a final product that was originally written by someone else as if it were the student’s own writing. These could be purchased, freely downloaded, or “borrowed” from another student (this category could even include a student using their own paper for two different courses, if done without both instructors’ knowledge or agreement).
  • Overly-similar. When parts of a paper use words that are too close to the original source’s wording. The most common form this takes is “patchwriting” (where the writer “patches in” pieces from a source together with their own writing. However, it’s also possible that someone could be trying to write in their own words but accidentally use phrasing that is the same or too similar to the original source’s wording. (Note that some writers use patchwriting as an efficient tool (allowing them to keep writing without losing their train of thought), with the intention of going back later and paraphrasing the patchwritten)
  • Under-informed. When a writer uses the ideas of others and does not correctly cite the sources. This could include omitting a citation or reference, or providing an incomplete or incorrect citation.

It’s important to note that, while the focus here is on student writing, these categories apply to the writing of any author, including university faculty.

* Howard (1995) classified plagiarism into “cheating”, “non-attribution”, and “patchwriting”. Blum (2009) had five categories for plagiarism, including three that could be done by students (“uninformed”, “nonce”, and “deceptive”) and two additional categories that she called “professional plagiarism” and “copyright infringement”. The focus in the ELI’s statement is on types of plagiarism that might be found in students’ work.


Next: What is Patchwriting?