Examples of unintentional plagiarism | Quetext blog (2023)

Accidental plagiarism, also known as accidental plagiarism, occurs when a student, journalist, or writer uses someone else's words and fails to cite the proper sources for the citation. Authors should avoid committing unintentional plagiarism in their own work.

To avoid accidental plagiarism, cite direct quotations correctly, paraphrase correctly and avoid repetition if you frequently publish texts publicly. While it may seem easy to avoid accidental plagiarism, the rules of self-plagiarism and correct paraphrasing can make it difficult.

Of course, unintentional plagiarism is also caused by natural human error. It's perfectly normal to make a mistake when writing or revising a document, so adding a plagiarism checker as part of your writing process can help clear up any doubts related to unintentional plagiarism.

What is inadvertent plagiarism?

Unintentional plagiarism is the inadvertent appropriation of someone else's ideas due to a lack of knowledge about correct citation and documentation. The only difference between unintentional plagiarism and intentional plagiarism is the lack of confidence in presenting someone else's ideas as your own.

Unfortunately, in most cases, a mistake that results in unintentional plagiarism has the same, often significant, consequences as intentional plagiarism offenses. For example, most colleges have harsh penalties for proven plagiarism, ranging from automatic course failure, a lower grade, academic suspension, or expulsion. For professional writers, discovering plagiarism can result in diminished credibility in the field or even loss of employment.

Unfortunately, intentional plagiarism occurs, which is when an author knowingly and voluntarily adopts someone else's unique thoughts as their own idea. As this can happen in academic and professional environments, even unintentional plagiarism is totally unacceptable and will be severely penalized.

(Video) What Plagiarism Can Cost You [Video]

How does accidental plagiarism happen?

In contrast to intentional plagiarism, unintentional plagiarism occurs when an author, through no malice or fault, quotes verbatim or paraphrases another's idea without citing the original source. This can happen to both experienced and novice writers, but unfortunately all sorts of plagiarism and an indication of professional or academic dishonesty.Accidental Plagiarismcan negatively impact a student's or writer's future, even if the event is the result of a mistake.

It is important to remember that all content created by an original author is that person's intellectual property and if duplicated, the original author deserves due credit. In research papers, unintentional plagiarism often occurs when students fail to correctly cite the source of a written idea.

It is good practice and often necessary to use someone else's idea to support conclusions in your own writing, but proper paraphrasing and citations are crucial. In fact, citations are expected in research papers or policy studies, so extreme caution must be exercised by the writer to avoid instances of unintentional plagiarism.

While unintentional plagiarism is often the result of a harmless mistake, academic institutions or publications nonetheless penalize it. However, there are software tools that can help students and authors prevent accidental plagiarism. For example, Ouetext offers a plagiarism checker that scans all resources on the Internet for duplicate content. This is an easy way to preserve the integrity of your writing.

While plagiarism seems easy, some of the most common mistakes that lead to unintentional plagiarism arise from normal events that many authors and students might encounter. By learning a few examples of unintentional plagiarism, authors can strengthen their research skills and improve the final written product.

(Video) Avoiding Plagiarism Self-Assessment

Examples of unintentional plagiarism

Many people wonder how plagiarism can be unintentional, but there are several ways an author can make a mistake without adequate knowledge of citation methods. The three most common occurrences of unintentional plagiarism include mistakes insummarize, paraphrase and quote.

Example 1: citation error

If someone else's written ideas are used, proper attribution must be given to the original author. When a direct citation is written in an article or column, authors should use quotation marks, footnotes or endnotes and can do so using any of the major citation styles (Chicago vs MLA vs APA). Citation errors are among the most common types of plagiarism.

For example, if you copy and paste a famous quote like "My fellow Americans, don't ask what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country," but John F. Kennedy's January inaugural address doesn't get it right quote 01/20/1961 because you assume that the reader will recognize the source, then you have made a citation error that would lead to plagiarism.

In the example above, authors can avoid plagiarism by using footnotes or endnotes with an appropriate citation format, or simply linking to a source that contains the President's entire speech, including the quote in question. In particular, it is perfectly acceptable to use someone else's ideas to strengthen your arguments and help with a persuasive piece of writing.

Example 2: Paraphrasing error

paraphraseis the act of expressing an idea differently or more clearly than the original writer. When an idea is well known, it can be more difficult to describe accurately.

(Video) The Basics of Plagiarism: Understanding and Avoiding It

For example, let's say you're writing about Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. Instead of directly quoting large paragraphs, paraphrase his works into shorter sentences. Since the ideas are not yours, this paraphrase must be quoted. With complex and unique ideas like Einstein's Theory of Relativity, it can be difficult to fully explain the meaning in abbreviated paragraphs or without the creator's original words - which is perfectly acceptable as long as that content is properly cited!

When writing paraphrased sentence structures, a good practice is to completely restructure the original idea. Another tip for perfect paraphrasing is to use synonyms that make the idea more concise. Both of these paraphrasing methods still require citations, and when an author incorrectly paraphrases or fails to cite their paraphrased work, then this is a form of plagiarism. However, if your research cannot be paraphrased, it is usually best to use quotation marks and correct citations.

Example 3: Self-plagiarism

self-plagiarismcan be frustrating for many writers, especially when stating your own ideas. However, it is considered plagiarism when an author copies their previously published writings in another piece.

For example, if you published a paper on women's rights in the 19th century with unique ideas about how women contributed to community government, you cannot reuse parts of that text in a subsequent paper on the global importance of women leadership in government .

Many authors find this particular form of plagiarism to be the most difficult to navigate since you are the originator of the ideas to begin with. In order to rule out unintentional self-plagiarism, however, it is crucial to correctly cite your own works.

(Video) Plagiarism: A Lesson

This is how you avoid unintentional plagiarism

The best way to avoid unintentional plagiarism is to use your own words or use paraphrases or word-for-word content with quotation marks and a proper citation. Authors should aim to publish mostly original work with new ideas while avoiding plagiarism at all costs. Students should strive to maintain their academic honesty and integrity by reducing instances of plagiarism.

A great tool that many authors use to prevent unintentional plagiarism isQuetext's plagiarism checker, which can help students and copywriters avoid unintentional plagiarism by flagging all items that may need citing. The plagiarism checker identifies direct citations, incorrectly paraphrased ideas, and summaries of other work that need revision or citation.

Another useful tool isQuetext citation generator, making the task of citing correctly a breeze. The citation generator automatically generates three different citation styles, MLA, APA, and Chicago, giving authors options to meet any course or industry needs.

By following recognized citation styles, using in-text citations, and working with a plagiarism checker like Quetext, authors can ensure they are not the victim of unintentional plagiarism.


What are some examples of unintentional plagiarism? ›

Examples of unintentional plagiarism include the failure to...
  • cite a source that is not common knowledge.
  • quote an author's exact words, even if documented.
  • paraphrase or summarize in your own words, even if documented.
  • be loyal to a source' tone, intentions, or words.

What is plagiarism give 5 examples? ›

Turning in someone else's work as your own. Copying large pieces of text from a source without citing that source. Taking passages from multiple sources, piecing them together, and turning in the work as your own. Copying from a source but changing a few words and phrases to disguise plagiarism.

What is one of the most common reasons for unintentional plagiarism? ›

Unintentional plagiarism (misuse of sources)

Misuse of sources might include a lack of understanding of paraphrasing, not being clear about the parameters of common knowledge, and/or the statute of limitations on the attribution of ideas.

How easy is it to accidentally plagiarize? ›

Believe it or not, it's not hard to mistakenly plagiarize. Accidental plagiarism is usually the result of being rushed, unorganized, or uninformed about the citation and research process. Whether it's an accident or an intentional act of plagiarism, the consequences are essentially the same.

How a student can commit unintentional plagiarism? ›

Unintentional plagiarism is not giving proper credit for someone else's ideas, research, or words, even if it was not intentional to present them as your own. Even if it was not intentional, it is still plagiarism and not acceptable. Accidentally failing to cite your sources correctly.

How do you apologize for unintentional plagiarism? ›

I understand that my behavior has disappointed you and caused you grief, once again, I am sorry for that. I deeply regret my actions. What I did was wrong and there is no excuse for it. I should have better cited my sources and put forth more effort into creating original work.

What are 3 examples of plagiarism? ›

Some examples of plagiarism include: Copying and pasting a Wikipedia article into the body of an assignment. Quoting a source without including a citation. Not paraphrasing a source properly, such as maintaining wording too close to the original.

What is the most common example of plagiarism? ›

Paraphrasing without citation is the most common type of plagiarism.

What is the most severe example of plagiarism? ›

Complete plagiarism is the most severe form of plagiarism where a researcher takes a manuscript or study that someone else created, and submits it under his or her name. It is equivalent to intellectual theft and stealing.

What is unintentional plagiarism for example can be caused by poor paraphrasing skills? ›

Some examples of unintentional plagiarism could be: failure to cite a source that is not common knowledge, putting quotation marks around only part of a quote but not all of it, and failure to put a paraphrase in your own words. Even if the work is cited, a paraphrased segment must be in your own words.

How do people accidentally plagiarize? ›

Accidental plagiarism occurs when a person neglects to cite their sources, or misquotes their sources, or unintentionally paraphrases a source by using similar words, groups of words, and/or sentence structure without attribution. (See example for mosaic plagiarism.)

What is unintentional plagiarism often a result of? ›

Some new writers or authors may insist that they are not guilty of plagiarism as they have rephrased each sentence and written it in their own words. In many cases, unintentional plagiarism occurs because of lack of knowledge about what amounts to plagiarism.

Can you go to jail for accidentally plagiarizing? ›

Most cases of plagiarism are considered misdemeanors, punishable by fines of anywhere between id="mce_marker"00 and $50,000 -- and up to one year in jail. Plagiarism can also be considered a felony under certain state and federal laws.

How do you copy a sentence without plagiarizing? ›

If you insert a source's words into your writing, verbatim, one of the most simple yet obvious ways to avoid plagiarism is by using quotation marks around the text to denote that the words aren't your own. A direct quote should also cite the source so that readers know who the quote is from.

How do I make sure I don't accidentally plagiarize? ›

Five Easy Ways to Avoid Accidental Plagiarism
  1. Scrupulously acknowledge prior relevant work. ...
  2. Use quotation marks for direct quotes. ...
  3. Use your own words when paraphrasing the ideas of others. ...
  4. When taking notes, clearly indicate direct quotations. ...
  5. Provide citations even for commonly known facts.

Is it plagiarism if you copy 3 words? ›

Plagiarism: taking any sequence of more than three words without citing is stealing work from others. Taking an idea, image (photograph, table, or graph) without citing is also plagiarism and may also violate copyright laws.

Does paraphrasing count as plagiarism? ›

Paraphrasing without crediting the original author is a form of plagiarism, because you're presenting someone else's ideas as if they were your own. However, paraphrasing is not plagiarism if you correctly cite the source.

What are the four most common types of plagiarism? ›

4 Common Types of Plagiarism in Research
  • Type 1: Direct Plagiarism. ...
  • Type 2: Self-Plagiarism. ...
  • Type 3: Accidental Plagiarism. ...
  • Type 4: Mosaic Plagiarism. ...
  • How Can I Avoid Committing Any Type of Plagiarism in Research?

Is Accidental plagiarism common? ›

Plagiarism is a serious offense but often occurs accidentally. It's easy to do it unintentionally. Here are some of the most common examples of accidental plagiarism found in papers, essays, and articles: Not citing a source properly.

What percent of plagiarism is allowed? ›

There is a lack of consensus or clear-cut-rules on what percentage of plagiarism is acceptable in a manuscript. Going by the convention, usually a text similarity below 15% is acceptable by the journals and a similarity of >25% is considered as high percentage of plagiarism.

How many plagiarism is OK? ›

12 How Much Plagiarism Is Usually Allowed for a Paper to Be Accepted? When it is an original paper, the author should aim at zero plagiarism. However, in many journals, a similarity of up to 15% is allowed. For a chapter in a book, this limit is about 5% and in a thesis, less than 10% is accepted.

Who does plagiarism hurt the most? ›

Plagiarism hurts the entire academic community because it questions the forms of intellectual ethics to which the community subscribes. It most immediately hurts your direct relations with your professors and fellow students.

Is plagiarism sometimes done unintentionally? ›

So many people, especially inexperienced writers, accidentally commit plagiarism by not writing their content properly or not citing their sources accurately. Simply put, if the reader can assume that you wrote the words because of improper citation or paraphrasing, then it can be considered plagiarism.

How do you check for unintentional plagiarism? ›

Use a Plagiarism Checker

Several websites, including Quetext, will compare your paper to thousands of online articles and sources. You will get a full report of all similarities, intentional or accidental. If you find unintentional plagiarism, Quetext also offers citations.

Is unintentional plagiarism illegal? ›

As seen in the Madonna case, plagiarism can also happen in songs or other types of works that may be too similar to another artist's creation. Plagiarism may be done deliberately or accidentally; either way, plagiarism is a serious offense.

Can a student be penalized for unintentional plagiarism? ›

Usually, the school sets the penalties for a student who is found to have plagiarized their work. In cases where the student plagiarized unintentionally through accident or misunderstanding, then the consequences may be largely up to the teacher.

How can you avoid unintentional plagiarism? ›

Things you can do to avoid unintentional plagiarism

Understand how to use references to support your discussion, not replace it – your work needs to be a balance of your own understanding and analysis, backed up by references to other sources, most of which should be scholarly.

What kind of mistake often leads to accidental plagiarism? ›

Unintentional Plagiarism

Some of the most common mistakes include: Quoting something verbatim but not including a citation. Paraphrasing or summarizing another text but not including a citation. Paraphrasing poorly by rearranging sentences and simply replacing certain words.

What is the difference between unintentional and intentional plagiarism? ›

Unintentional plagiarism is when some words from the original text are changed, and intentional plagiarism is when nothing from the original is changed. Unintentional plagiarism is when you are not aware of your plagiarism, and intentional plagiarism is when you deliberately copy another's work.

Does it count as plagiarism if you didn't know? ›

If you publish an idea that turns out to have been previously known, but you were unaware of the prior work before you published it, then it's not plagiarism. Depending on the circumstances, it could be considered poor scholarship, or even negligence if you really should have found the reference.

Is it possible to plagiarize and not be aware? ›

Tips for avoiding plagiarism. Even if you don't mean to plagiarize, it's still possible to do it without realizing it. It's important to understand that it's still plagiarism, even if it's accidental.

What percentage of plagiarism is acceptable? ›

Going by the convention, usually a text similarity below 15% is acceptable by the journals and a similarity of >25% is considered as high percentage of plagiarism.


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