What is Plagiarism?

what is plagiarism

Wikipedia defines what plagiarism is in the following quote. We help you learn how to avoid it when writing.

“Plagiarism is defined as the wrongful appropriation, close imitation, or purloining and publication of another author’s language, thoughts, ideas, expressions and the representation of them as one’s own original work.” – Wikipedia Plagiarism

That is quite a mouthful and this is probably why most people do not understand it, nor do they know how to handle themselves in regards to it.

The phrase, wrongful appropriation sounds daunting does it not? The first thing you should key into is the first half of the phrase, wrongful. We all know right from wrong, or at least we should. Most parents and guardians these days do a sufficient job passing that simple concept along to their children. Appropriation can be described as the act of taking for one’s own use. Many things can be appropriated such as clothing or food for example. We do this everyday when we shop at a store. But when you add the term wrongful to that, it becomes something that you should not be doing or taking part in. So the act of wrongful appropriation means that you are taking something for your own use that does not belong to you in the first place.

What is a close imitation? How close to another author’s work would you have to be in order to have your work considered to be a close imitation? Well there’s the first rub in all of this. Considering the fact that plagiarism law is a concept and is not even mentioned by name in any particular law, it is hard to resolve the question of close imitation. Whether that answer be the act of stealing one word or ten words, there is no real succinct description.

The term purloin fetches its description from the act of taking dishonestly. This literally means to steal or pilfer something, even if it is your own property. You may have heard of the term pilfering where it refers to someone has stolen goods from stock aboard a ship for instance. That term has been around since the mid 1500s where it actually was used aboard ship. There are various other related terms for purloin, but as an act, it simply means to steal something.

Now when you tie all of this together with the publication of another author’s language, thoughts, ideas or expressions and then go on to represent them as your own language, thoughts, ideas or expressions, you would be doing something wrongful. That is all there is to it. When it comes to plagiarism and journalism, (or other things such as art, for example), you simply are not allowed to do this.

The informative video found below is about citing your sources and the use of various citing styles. This video was created by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

While on the subject of plagiarism, it might be interesting to also point out that there is also the concept of self plagiarism. If you have ever had to create a sample of your writing for example, you may have been asked to produce something new and unique. In some cases, the subject for the topic will even be given to you. This does not, however, give you free reign to pull a piece of your own work out, dust it off and submit it as new work. This is self plagiarism. You would have to disclose the fact that this piece of writing was already completed by you on an earlier date and where the piece was used. Unfortunately, if you were being asked for original work, you would have just nullified the project as a whole in doing so. So yes, it is possible to self plagiarize.



Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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