Wikipedia describes plagiarism as the "wrongful appropriation" and "stealing and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions" and the representation of them as one's own original work. The most obvious kind of plagiarism may be when a student wilfully copies large sections of text or diagrams created by another person without attribution, but plagiarism is not always that obvious. There have been a few high profile cases in recent months of plagiarism by people one may not have expected. Why would a senior academic or politician risk copying another person's work? Is it possible that not using proper referencing techniques sometimes catches out even experienced academics? Turnitin conducted a survey of educators and identified 10 types of unoriginal work on a 'plagiarism spectrum' ranging from cloning to re-tweeting. The survey results indicate the significant impact that social media and the Internet have on academic writing and the different types of plagiarism.

If you happen to have a piece of text and want to use it in your academic work, it may be worthwhile pasting a paragraph of it into Google first to search if it can be traced to another person's work. If you have the funds to pay for using a service such as Grammarly to check your grammar, you could at the same time use it to check for possible plagiarism in your own work.

We read and hear information on our particular topics of interest every day and it may just be possible that the latest brilliant ideas you are typing up have in fact already been written about by somebody else. Testing out a few paragraphs or possibly the entire text you have written may make the difference between publishing your masterpiece and facing a major embarrassment. Since so much is now available on the Internet, if you do not run the check, someone else may do it for you!

Useful links:

Free online software for plagiarism detection:

List of ten free plagiarism checker tools:

Review of plagiarism software:

Submitted on 5 May 2014. First published on

How to protect yourself from plagiarism