What is Plagiarism?

CLAY STAFFORD

Clay Stafford discusses the different types of plagiarism

What is plagiarism?

The simple answer is that plagiarism is the theft and misleading attribution of someone else’s work as one’s own.

Plagiarism comes in three forms

There are three forms of plagiarism. One is the complete attribution of an exact replica of the original, which I call ‘direct plagiarism’. The other is the attribution of identical content, which I call ‘reworded plagiarism’ and ‘concept plagiarism’.

Identical Plagiarism

The first and most obvious form of plagiarism is specifically repeating the words.

Someone writes:

The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.
One good turn deserves another.
She has a bee in her bonnet.

The plagiarist then writes:

The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.
One good turn deserves another.
She has a bee in her bonnet.

This is obviously stealing and plagiarism.

Reworded Plagiarism

The second form of plagiarism is a little less obvious, but no less derivative. The original person writes:

The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.
One good turn deserves another.
She has a bee in her bonnet.

The plagiarist then writes:

In Spain, the rain stays mainly on the prairie.
Someone doing good needs to be reciprocated.
Sometimes one’s mind is like a hat with bees inside.

The infraction in this second form is not the repeat of the exact words, but the repeat of the essential ideas in the same order of a fully organized work.

Concept Plagiarism

The third form of plagiarism, concept plagiarism, applies to what the entire work. One could view this variation as plagiarism if what is written below is the full and complete work:

Someone doing good needs to be reciprocated; it’s only fair. Sometimes one’s mind is like a hat with bees inside. Boy, do I hate bees. In Spain, the rain stays mainly on the prairie especially in the summertime.

The statements are in a different order, there is some variation going on in the wording, but collectively the statements still, in sum, reference the concept of the original work.

Reworded and Concept Plagiarism

I’m a firm believer that there are very few original ideas coming from the human race. So, if it is a fact that the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain, then numerous people are going to note that and write about it. That is not plagiarism; that’s the sharing of a fact. Nothing has been said about bees in bonnets or doing good turns. The crime in this second type is when the various moving parts (the whole of the statements, the whole of the work) are repeated in the specific order, or in the third type, if recited out of order, the ideas contribute to the majority of the whole.

Why Publishers Require Contracts Regarding Plagiarism

Because plagiarism is such a problem, publishers routinely ask authors to sign a warrant and indemnity clause to protect the publisher. This is a two-part statement: 1) the author warrants (or guarantees) to the publisher that the work is original in all possible ways, and 2) that if it is not original, and someone later discovers it, the author, not the publisher, is responsible for all legal repercussions.