What is Plagiarism?

Do you know you can be thrown out of school, robbed of your job or even end up behind bars because of plagiarism? Yes, the consequences of plagiarism can be that serious.

If that sounds scary, let us first understand what plagiarism is before we start examining the 5 alarming results of plagiarism. Well, put simply, plagiarism = cheating.

Let us refer to the Cambridge dictionary definition if that sounds too blunt. It says, “Plagiarism is using someone else’s idea or work and pretending it to be your own”.

Important to note that we often do this and may need to do this, but the problem arises when we fail to give due recognition to the source or the author.

Types of Plagiarism

Before we delve into the consequences of plagiarism, it may be worth spending some time to know about the various types of plagiarism that are in practice. This may help you catch yourself when you unknowingly indulge in any of these practices, and hence, be more watchful.

Global Plagiarism:

This form of plagiarism happens when you copy and paste someone else’s entire piece of work, verbatim, and pass it on as your own. Commonly seen amongst students, this is the most serious form, rather worst form of plagiarism because it is entirely intentional.

Once detected, this can lead to a failed grade or even expulsion from school/college. Thankfully, academic institutions have been seen to take a tough stand on such cases because it genuinely impacts their reputation.

Paraphrasing Plagiarism

Paraphrasing or rewriting is another common form of plagiarism, which often goes undetected. This is because you do not directly lift and shift the content from the source, but it is an offence, nonetheless. This plagiarism can happen when you are translating written text from another language to English without appropriate references.


With the easy availability of tools that help in paraphrasing, this form of plagiarism is becoming more rampant.

Verbatim Plagiarism

Copying text from one source and pasting it into your document without applying proper quotation marks and citations results in verbatim plagiarism.

Mosaic Plagiarism

Also known as patchwork plagiarism, happens when you have multiple sources open at the time of writing. As you work, you may end up copying bits and pieces from the various sources, as appropriate, and then forget to include the correct references. While this might be unintentional, remember you need to cite any information that is not common knowledge.


As the name suggests, it involves copying and pasting from your previous work. Sounds funny? You may be often tempted to reuse your previous work. While it is less damaging than other forms of plagiarism, if you try to pass on the reused content as fresh content, that is when it becomes unacceptable.

In academics, this practice can put off your teachers as they realize you have not put in enough effort, and instead tried out shortcuts.

In online content writing, this practice can damage your SEO rank.

Accidental Plagiarism

This is the most common type of plagiarism observed among journalists, students, writers, or authors. Note that accidental plagiarism commonly happens when you misquote or fail to cite the sources correctly. It may be that you miss using the proper MLA or APA format for the citation. As evident from the name, this practice is never intentional, but unacceptable.

Complete Plagiarism

This form of plagiarism occurs when you simply pick up a piece of work – essay, article, blog etc. and pass it on as your work, without acknowledging the author. It is noted that this act of copying is generally done intentionally and with full awareness. Hence, complete plagiarism is the worst form of plagiarism.

Thankfully, we have some tools in the form of plagiarism checkers that can detect such plagiarism.

In summary, any type of plagiarism, intentional or unintentional, is unacceptable. Well, if that sounds like a sermon, I think I should apprise you about the dangerous consequences.

What happens if you plagiarize?

To be honest, the impact of plagiarism can be disastrous and far-reaching. So, without further delay, let us examine the 5 alarming results of this serious offence:

1. Loss of Grade for Students

Students, when caught plagiarizing, can lose their grades. It does not matter whether the act is intentional or unintentional, academic institutions treat it with utmost toughness.  And, to ensure that students do not end up in such a sticky situation, institutions generally publish plagiarism guidelines in their handbooks. Having set clear expectations with the students, violation of any of these guidelines becomes unacceptable.

To protect their reputation, institutions can even to go the extent of expelling students, or revoking their degrees, certifications or scholarships granted. In other words, it can result in the cancellation or revocation of financial aid.

If you have received grant funding for your research, you can lose your scholarship or grant funding. In the worst-case scenario, you can even be banned from receiving funding from that organization or its affiliates ever again in the future.

The severity of the punishment depends on the extent of the plagiarism. However, irrespective of the punishment the very fact that your name surfaces in the school/college corridors for plagiarism is enough to ruin your academic career.

Moreover, once you are caught plagiarizing, teachers or examiners become extra strict while checking other students’ papers. In other words, the impact does not remain limited to the student but can impact others.

You can understand the extent of plagiarism in academia from the fact that in the last 3-year period, over 50,000 students in the UK alone have been caught plagiarizing.

2. Destroyed Professional Reputation

It’s not just students that run the risk of being thrown out of school/college, professors too can face similar consequences. This happens when it is revealed that they plagiarized their research papers. Once exposed, institutions can expel the teachers as well. As a result, they find it difficult to get a job elsewhere and can have their careers jeopardized forever.

One such instance happened at Sri Venkateshwara University. The University Executive Council banned its Chemistry Professor. This is because they spotted that the Professor plagiarized around 70 research papers published between 2004 and 2007.

In another instance, the offence resulted not only in punishment but extreme embarrassment for our country. This happened when the late President Abdul Kalam received a letter from Stanford University in the year 2002. The letter claimed that physicist Prof. B.S. Rajput had blindly copied from the content of others. During this time, the Professor was serving as the Vice-Chancellor of Kumaon University. Once the plagiarism charges were levelled against him, he had no option but to resign from his post.

In case you are still a researcher and receive funding for your research, the funding is likely to be cancelled or revoked. As a result, you may be unable to continue with your research and your dream of earning a degree remains unfulfilled.

Interesting to note that it is just not researchers and Professors that can come under the scanner. The world has witnessed several instances of performers in various fields facing a similar fate.

For example, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was renowned for penning biographies of high-profile American personalities. Once caught plagiarising one such biography on President Kennedy, she was forced to resign from the Pulitzer Prize Board.

In yet another example, George Harrison – a former member of The Beatles, reused the music of a song sung by the group The Chiffons in his song titled “My Sweet Lord”.

And the list goes on…

3. Curbed Creativity

If you are a journalist, writer, author, or blogger creativity is the key to your success. The more original you are, the easier it is for you to establish a brand for yourself. This is when your readers start recognizing your distinctive style and start following you. Therefore, in such professions, if you indulge in the act of plagiarism, lifting and shifting content from various sources, you fail to establish an identity for yourself.

In other words, your creativity is stunted, and you end up losing yourself in the crowd. One such incident happened after Kavya Vishwanathan published her debut novel “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life”. Scholars charged her with copying sections from the novel “Sloppy First and Second Helpings” authored by Megan McCafferty. Kavya countered that any similarity was purely unintentional. Unfortunately, none believed her. As a result, her career is nearly ruined.

The message, therefore, is loud and clear. Be extremely careful that you stay away from all forms of plagiarism. Wear your creative hat and keep pushing yourself. Undoubtedly there would be periods of drought but let that not stop you. Else you might end up putting your career at stake. Unfortunately, even such incidents don’t deter people from indulging in this unhealthy practice.

For example, another real-life event occurred when the New York Times reporter Jayson Blair lost his job. This happened when it was discovered that he had plagiarised about half of the articles he wrote with the newspaper.

4. Sued Legally

Once it reaches serious proportions, plagiarism offences can even have alarming results of legal implications. Infringement of the Copyright Law designed to protect expressions of ideas triggers this plagiarism. To be precise, section 13 of the Copyright Act 1957 grants protection to works of literature, drama, music, art, cinema, and sound recording.

One major advantage of copyright protection is that protection is available in several countries across the world although the work is first published in India. This is because India is a member of the Berne Convention. Moreover, by the International Copyright Order, of 1999, the Government of India has extended copyright protection to works first published outside India as well.

Therefore, if you use someone else’s work even after paraphrasing it, and the author spots it, the author can file a lawsuit against you. And, once this happens, it blacklists you for life. As the case progresses, you continue to draw all the negative publicity. Understandably, this ruins your career.

So, if you have to do this, be sure to provide appropriate references and citations to the source so that you do not entangle in any legal implications.

5. Wasted Money

Finally, this is the last nail in the coffin. Apart from losing your reputation, and job, in fact, your entire career, you end up spending a fortune. The monetary loss particularly kicks in when you are dragged into a lawsuit for violating the Copyright Law.

Some real-life examples of copyright infringement have been noted amongst internal business houses. The most popular case in this regard happened in the 2010s when Apple sued Samsung and Google while itself was simultaneously sued by Motorola over patent rights. The fight eventually came to a halt when Google bought Motorola and Apple agreed to an out-of-court settlement with Google in 2014.

Another notable copyright infringement happened when Gucci sued Guess in 2009 charging them for using a similar logo and some other trademarks. After a protracted legal battle, the fashion brand won the case while Guess ended up paying $4.7 million.

You may now be able to estimate the serious monetary impact of copyright infringement.

How to avoid plagiarism?

By now, you must be well familiar with the 5 alarming results of plagiarism. So, the best way is to stay away from indulging in this unholy practice, But how does one do so?

Fortunately, we have some effective techniques at our disposal that can help us stay away from this menace.

Let me first present some tips for students to avoid plagiarism.

Make an early start

When working on an article or research paper, start early so that you have enough time to research the subject. As a result, you will have adequate time to read through multiple resources, gather in-depth information and consolidate your thoughts.  This will also help you spark your creativity as you have time to think.

Include correct citations

As you refer to other sources, be careful to note down the citations and references and include them accurately in your work as you progress. In other words, ensure that you invest enough time to note down all the citations and references so that you do not miss out in a hurry.


This is a very critical step while working on any piece of work. It sounds simple, and hence you can skip it but trust me it is the foolproof step to ensure that you are not plagiarizing. In case you spot any such instance you can ensure that you have included all the necessary citations and references.

Apply Quotes

As and when you are reusing the content from any other source in your work, be sure to use quotation marks so that you can avoid running into the risk of plagiarism.


It is often tempting to use content from some other source in your work. You can do it at times, provided you effectively paraphrase the content. In other words, just do not simply replace one word with its synonym. Instead, understand the content well and then rewrite it in your own words. Important to note that this practice not only helps you avoid plagiarism but also forces you to be creative.

Add value

When you prepare for your content, you might be reading from multiple sources. Note that it is not necessary to use all the information that you gather. On the contrary, consolidate the content from all sources and then use your understanding and judgement to build your insights. Presenting these insights in your work is what sets you apart.

Use Plagiarism Checker

An extremely effective tool to avoid plagiarism. There are several such checkers easily available online. Pick up anyone and run your content through it. The output of the tool will confirm the level of plagiarism. This is indeed a sure-shot way to stay safe and you can do it in a jiffy.

Some of the most popular plagiarism checkers available for free are Scribbr, Quetext, and Grammarly.

Add Reference Page

It is a good habit to create a Reference Page and add it to the end of your content. This ideally should list all the references you have used in your work. While this is extremely helpful, develop the practice of adding the references as and when you progress through your work instead of keeping it for the end.

Seek guidance from your teacher/guide

Even though you may be familiar with the guidelines, it is always wise to have a word with your teacher This will help you ensure that you have understood all the guidelines correctly and, hence, can apply them appropriately.

Use the Internet Prudently

Citing from the Internet does not mean that you can use the content as you want. Instead bear in mind that the Internet is also hosting someone’s creation. Hence, the need to acknowledge the original author exists here as well. In other words, be mindful of using citations and references for Internet content with the same rigour.

Overall, while you continue to remain mindful of using the tips given above, the most effective weapon for you to stay away from the alarming results of plagiarism is to sharpen your creative brain. Creativity fosters insights into the content you gather through your research, helps build your unique style and boosts your confidence in establishing yourself as a content writer.

Train to Write Confidently

To hone your content writing skills, you can enrol yourself for the Content Writing Course offered by Henry Harvin. This course aims to train you on

  •   Language skills to help you develop content for international clients
  •   Research skills to assist you in gathering relevant information for your topic
  •   Graphic skills to enhance the appeal of your blogs or posts
  •   Strategic skills to design your content so that you can effectively reach out to your target audience

Important to note that apart from the course, the institute also provides you:

  •   International credential of Certified Digital Content Writer (CDCW)
  •   Access to an e-learning portal rich in tools, assessments, video recordings etc.
  •   Opportunity to work on projects that give you experience in real-life scenarios
  •   Guaranteed Internship where you can work on assignments
  •   1-Year Gold Membership to the Henry Harvin Writing Academy for the CDCW course

Additional Resources

Apart from enrolling yourself for the course, reading the following related blogs too can be helpful:

You can also watch the following content writing video from Henry Harvin:

 What is the bottom line?

So, you are now familiar with what is plagiarism and the 5 alarming results of plagiarism. To help you be the king of your content and stay away from this menace we have provided some healthy tips for you. These resources help start on the right foot.

You can then continue reading and researching to further hone your content development skills to establish a brand for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What if the content is anonymous?

Even if the source has no author name, you should state clearly in your work that you are not the original author of the content. In the reference section, you can put “unknown” or “anonymous”.

2. Does it matter how much I copied?

It does not matter how much you copied. Whether you copy one paragraph or one page, if you are trying to pass on someone else’s work as your own, you are indulging in the act of plagiarism.

3. If I plagiarize, can my teacher find out about it?

It is very easy for your teacher to spot plagiarism. There are many tools readily available to your teacher that can easily diagnose if you have used content from some other source. Your work not having adequate references and citations can also raise the suspicion of your teacher.

4. When I summarize a source, how can I ensure that I am not plagiarizing?

One effective way to check is to keep the source away when you are writing the summary. This helps you determine if you have mastered the topic well and can present your perspective while wrapping up the topic.

5. Is it okay to copy and use someone’s charts, tables, or figures in my paper?

This is still plagiarism. The original author invested time and effort to come up with these graphs and figures based on the researched content. So, you need to give due credit to the author in your citations.

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