Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Plagiarism is taking credit for someone else's writing as your own, including their language and ideas, without providing adequate credit.[1] The University of Cambridge defines plagiarism as: "submitting as one's own work, irrespective of intent to deceive, that which derives in part or in its entirety from the work of others without due acknowledgement."[2]

Wikipedia has three core content policies, of which two make it easy to plagiarize inadvertently. No original research prohibits editors from adding their own ideas to articles, and Verifiability requires that articles be based on reliable published sources. These policies mean that Wikipedians are highly vulnerable to accusations of plagiarism because we must stick closely to sources, but not too closely. Because plagiarism can occur without an intention to deceive, concerns should focus on educating the editor and cleaning up the article.

Sources are annotated using

in-text attribution is usually required when quoting or closely paraphrasing source material (for example: "John Smith wrote that the building looked spectacular," or "According to Smith (2012) ...").[4] The Manual of Style requires in-text attribution when quoting a full sentence or more.[5]
Naming the author in the text allows the reader to see that it relies heavily on someone else's ideas, without having to search in the footnote. You can avoid inadvertent plagiarism by remembering these rules of thumb:

Plagiarism and

Copyright violation. For how to deal with copying material from free sources, such as public-domain sources, see below

Plagiarism on Wikipedia

Forms of plagiarism

Plagiarism is presenting someone else's work – including their language and ideas – as your own, whether intentionally or inadvertently. Because it can happen easily and by mistake, all editors are strongly advised to actively identify any potential issues in their writing. Plagiarism can take several forms.

Free and copyrighted sources

☒N Copying from an unacknowledged source
  • Inserting a text—
    closely paraphrased
    with very few changes—from a source that is not acknowledged anywhere in the article, either in the body of the article, or in footnotes, the references section, or the external links section.
  • The above example is the most egregious form of plagiarism and the least likely to be accidental.
☒N Copying from a source acknowledged in a poorly placed citation
  • Inserting a text—
    closely paraphrased
    with very few changes—then citing the source somewhere in the article, but not directly after the sentence or passage that was copied.
  • This can look as though the editor is trying to pass the text off as their own. It can happen by accident when
    general references
    listed in a References section, without using inline citations.
☒N Summarizing an unacknowledged source in your own words
  • Summarizing a source in your own words, without citing the source in any way, may also be a form of plagiarism, as well as a violation of the
    Verifiability policy
  • Summarizing a source in your own words does not in itself mean you have not plagiarized, if you are still relying heavily on the work of another writer. Credit should be given in the form of an inline citation.

Copyrighted sources only

☒N Copying from a source acknowledged in a well-placed citation, without in-text attribution
  • Inserting a text—
    closely paraphrased
    with very few changes from a copyrighted source—then citing the source in an inline citation after the passage that was copied, without naming the source in the text.
  • Here the editor is not trying to pass the work off as their own, but it is still regarded as plagiarism, because the source's words were used without
    violation of NPOV
    , because this is the consensus of many scientists, not only a claim by Jones. In such cases, plagiarism can be avoided by summarizing information in your own words or acknowledging explicitly that while the words are from Jones, the view is widespread.

Avoiding plagiarism

For avoidance of plagiarism of text copied from compatibly licensed copyleft publications and public domain publications, see also the section below: Copying material from free sources

You can avoid plagiarism by summarizing source material in your own words followed by an

in-text attribution (adding the author's name to the text) and an inline citation. The following examples are adapted from "What Constitutes Plagiarism?"
, Harvard Guide to Using Sources, Harvard University:

☒NNo in-text attribution, no quotation marks, no change in text, no inline citation

  • Source: Michael E. Brown, "The Causes of Internal Conflict: An Overview," in Michael E. Brown, et al, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, The MIT Press, 2001, p. 14.
  • Source text: "Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence."
  • Wikipedia text: Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence.

☒N No in-text attribution, no quotation marks, text closely paraphrased, inline citation only

  • Source: Michael E. Brown, "The Causes of Internal Conflict: An Overview," in Michael E. Brown, et al, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, The MIT Press, 2001, p. 14.
  • Source text: "Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence."
  • Wikipedia text: Political transitions brought about by the end of authoritarian government, democratization, or political change also make states prone to violence.[8]

checkY In-text attribution, quotation marks, no change in text, inline citation

  • Source: Michael E. Brown, "The Causes of Internal Conflict: An Overview," in Michael E. Brown, et al, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, MIT, 2001, p. 14.
  • Source text: "Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence."
  • Wikipedia text: Michael E. Brown writes: "Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence."[8]
  • Note: The amount of text you quote from non-free sources must be limited to comply with
    non-free content policy. (See below

checkY In-text attribution, no quotation marks, text properly paraphrased, inline citation

  • Source: Michael E. Brown, "The Causes of Internal Conflict: An Overview," in Michael E. Brown, et al, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, The MIT Press, 2001, p. 14.
  • Source text: "Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence."
  • Wikipedia text: Michael E. Brown suggests that political change, such as the move from an authoritarian government to a democratic one, can provoke violence against the state.[8]

checkY No in-text attribution, no quotation marks, text summarized in an editor's own words, inline citation

  • Source: Michael E. Brown, "The Causes of Internal Conflict: An Overview," in Michael E. Brown, et al, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, The MIT Press, 2001, p. 14.
  • Source text: "Political transitions brought about by the collapse of authoritarian rule, democratization, or political reforms also make states particularly prone to violence."
  • Wikipedia text: Political change increases the likelihood of violence against the state.[8]
  • Note: If the sentence "political change increases the likelihood of violence against the state" is distinctive in some way (if, for example, it represents an unusual position), it may require in-text attribution (Michael E. Brown suggests that ...) despite being an editor's own summary of the source material.

Respecting copyright

Regardless of plagiarism concerns, works under copyright that are not available under a compatible free license must comply with the

non-free content guideline
. This means they cannot be extensively copied into Wikipedia articles. Limited amounts of text can be quoted or closely paraphrased from nonfree sources if such text is clearly indicated in the article as being the words of someone else; this can be accomplished by providing an in-text attribution, and quotation marks or block quotations as appropriate, followed by an inline citation.


If the source is in a language other than English, the contributor may be under the mistaken belief that the act of translation is a sufficient revision to eliminate concerns of plagiarism. On the contrary, regardless of whether the work is free, the obligation remains to give credit to authors of foreign language texts for their creative expression, information and ideas, and, if the work is unfree, direct translation is likely to be a copyright violation as well.[9][10]

What is not plagiarism

Charles Lipson states that all plagiarism rules "follow from the same idea: acknowledge what you take from others. The only exception is when you rely on commonly known information."[11] Plagiarism is less a concern where the content both lacks creativity and where the facts and ideas being offered are common knowledge. Here are some examples where in-text attribution is generally not required, though you may still need to add an inline citation:

  • use of common expressions and idioms, including those that are common in sub-cultures such as academia;[12]
  • phrases that are the simplest and most obvious way to present information; sentences such as "John Smith was born on 2 February 1900" lack sufficient creativity to require attribution.
  • simple, non-creative lists of information that are common knowledge. If the list is drawn from another source (i.e., it is not common knowledge), or if creativity has gone into producing a list by selecting which facts are included, or in which order they are listed, then reproducing the list without citing its source may constitute plagiarism.[13][14]
  • mathematical and scientific formulae that are part of the most basic and general background knowledge of a field, E = mc2 and F = ma (where, even in these cases, for deeper reader understanding, a citation may be best practice);
  • simple logical deductions.

Addressing plagiarism

Copyright violations

If you find duplicated text or media, consider first whether the primary problem is plagiarism or copyright infringement. If the source is not in the


Text plagiarism

How to find text plagiarism

There are several methods to

detect plagiarism
: plagiarized text often demonstrates a sudden change from an editor's usual style and tone and may appear more advanced in grammar and vocabulary. Plagiarized material may contain unexplained acronyms or technical jargon that has been described in an earlier part of the plagiarized document. Because plagiarized material was written for other purposes, it is often un-encyclopedic in tone. An editor who plagiarizes multiple sources will appear to frequently and abruptly change writing styles.

An easy way to test for plagiarism of online sources is to copy and paste passages into a search engine. Exact matches, or near matches, may be plagiarism. When running such tests, be aware that other websites reuse content from Wikipedia. A list of identified websites which do so is maintained at Wikipedia:Mirrors and forks. It is usually possible to find the exact version in article history from which a mirror copy was made. Conversely, if the text in question was added in one large edit, and the text closely matches the external source, this is an indication of direct copying. When in doubt, double check search engine results with an experienced Wikipedian.

Another option is to utilize a plagiarism detector, such as those found at Category:Plagiarism detectors. Plagiarism detection systems, some of which are freely available online, exist primarily to help detect academic fraud. Wikipedia does not endorse, or recommend, any external services, so your own experience will be the guide.

It can also be useful to perform a direct comparison between cited sources and text within the article to see if text has been plagiarized, including too-

close paraphrasing
of the original. Here it should be borne in mind that an occasional sentence in an article that bears a recognizable similarity to a sentence in a cited source is not generally a cause for concern. Some facts and opinions can only be expressed in so many ways and still be the same fact or opinion. A plagiarism concern arises when there is evidence of systematic copying of the diction of one or more sources across multiple sentences or paragraphs. In addition, when dealing with non-free sources, be sure that any appropriated creative expressions are marked as quotations.

Addressing the involved editor

If you find an example of plagiarism where an editor has copied text, media, or figures into Wikipedia without proper attribution, contact the editor responsible, point them to this guideline, and ask them to add attribution. Attribution errors may be inadvertent, so intentional plagiarism should not be presumed in the absence of strong evidence.

media copyright questions

As well as requesting repair of the example you found, you may wish to invite the editor to identify and repair any other instances of plagiarism they may have placed before becoming familiar with this guideline. If an editor persists in plagiarizing, report the editor to the

that show both the plagiarism and the warnings.

It may not always be feasible to contact the contributor. For example, an editor who placed text three years ago and has not edited since is unlikely to be available to respond to the concerns that are raised. Moreover, while discovery of plagiarism can be rapid and inescapable—e.g., one visits a manufacturer's history page, then on turning to Wikipedia, finds manufacturer's verbatim text content appearing in the History section of the company's Wikipedia article—the process of correcting the text may be outside of the skill set of the individual discovering it, and so cannot take place immediately. Even if within the skill set, it may not be rapidly achievable by the discovering editor (e.g., if the process requires identifying alternative content or sources).

Repairing text plagiarism

As such, whether or not one is able to contact the responsible earlier editor, the process of correcting Wikipedia content will lie to greater or lessor extent with editors currently visiting and actively involved with the article in question. Material that is plagiarized but does not violate copyright need not to be removed from Wikipedia, if its repair is possible. But it must be repaired, and until the repair is achieved, editors have the responsibility of identifying violating text, and alerting readers that the text is not in compliance with core Wikipedia policies and guidelines.

To repair plagiarism, an incoming editor can:

  • edit the content to define the limits of the plagiarism (by adding quotation marks, or <blockquote> markup), and then attributing the content to the identified source;
  • identify an additional source or sources relevant to the text content in question, then edit the content, paraphrasing per Wikipedia guidelines, so that it is fully consistent with the original and added sources.

Regardless of the specific approach among these used, until the repair is complete, information regarding the source article or file page must appear, and the sentence, section, or article containing substantial plagiarised content much be labeled with a template message (tag). Alternatively, and more radically, the unsourced material can be moved to the article's Talk page until its full repair can be accomplished.

Media plagiarism

How to find media plagiarism

This can begin with a commonsense question: Does it seem likely that the uploader is the original source? The person who scans an image from an 1825 textbook on herbs is unlikely to be the author, even if they have claimed {{PD-self}}. Sometimes doubts may be triggered by the professional quality of media, or by the exclusivity. If you suspect plagiarism, try to locate the original source through an online search engine such as Google Image Search. Other factors to consider include the editing history of the uploader and, with images, image metadata, such as Exif and XMP.[16][17]

Frequently, a person who uploads and claims credit for another's image will leave the original image metadata, or a visible or invisible

digital watermark
, in place. If the author information conveyed by the metadata, or watermark, contradicts the author information on the image description page, this is a sign the image requires investigation. A user's original photographs can also be expected to have similar metadata, since most people own a small number of cameras; varied metadata is suspicious. Suspicions based on metadata should be checked with other editors experienced with images and other media.

Source and licensing information

For images and other media, the correct source and licensing information must be supplied, otherwise the files run the risk of deletion. Never use {{PD-self}}, {{GFDL-self}} or {{self}} if the image is not yours. If the source requests a credit line, e.g. "NASA/JPL/MSSS", place one in the author field of {{information}}.

Copying material from free sources

The guidance in this section must not be read in isolation. Inline citations to a source are still required as described in the Verifiability policy and added to an article as explained in the guideline citing sources. Attribution as described in this section is an addition to those requirements.

Attribution templates

For public-domain sources, using {{

citation-attribution}}, {{source-attribution
}}, or a similar attribution template is acceptable to acknowledge the work of others and still allow subsequent modification. See the next section for more on using attribution templates with compatibly licensed sources; the proper template may vary by the license of the source.

Compatibly licensed sources

If the external work is under a

References section" near the bottom of the page (see the section Where to place attribution

Templates for compatibly licensed sources include:

  • {{Dual}}: for content imported from a source that may be reused under both CC-By-SA 3.0 and GFDL
  • {{CCBYSASource}}: for content imported from a source compatible for reuse under CC-By-SA 3.0 but not GFDL
  • {{
    }}: for content imported from a source compatible for reuse under CC-By-SA 3.0 but not GFDL

Care must be taken to check that what appears to be a compatible licence is indeed compatible. Some websites allow text to be copied for educational or non-commercial use. Such text is not compatible with the Wikipedia licences because the text must be free to be used and distributed commercially.

Public-domain sources

Whether it is copyright-expired or public domain for other reasons, material from public-domain sources is welcome on Wikipedia, but such material must be properly attributed. Public-domain attribution notices should not be removed from an article or simply replaced with inline citations unless it is verified that substantially all of the source's phrasing has been removed from the article (see #What is not plagiarism). Of course, citable information should not be left without cites, although the most appropriate citations should be used.

A public domain source may be summarized and cited in the same manner as for copyrighted material, but the source's text can also be copied verbatim into a Wikipedia article. If text is copied or closely paraphrased from a free source, it must be

References section" near the bottom of the page (see the section "Where to place attribution
" for more details).

If the external work is in the public domain, but it contains an original idea or is a primary source, then it may be necessary to alter the wording of the text (for example, not including all the text from the original work, or quoting some sections, or specifically attributing to a specific source an opinion included in the text) to meet the Wikipedia content policies of

use of primary sources

Avoiding plagiarism requires attribution, and this is best accomplished when a reader can easily compare the Wikipedia article to the source. Many public domain sources are online, and attribution can (and should) include hyperlink. When there is no online source, the editor should consider creating an exact copy of the source at Wikisource. The editor should also consider this if the online source is not available on a stable site or is in a form (e.g., a photocopied book) that is not readily convertible into simple text. This may be appropriate even when the source appears to be at a stable site and in an acceptable form, because the Wikisource site is under control of the Wikimedia foundation and other sites are not.

Copying within Wikipedia

Wikipedia's content is dual-licensed under both the

CC BY-SA license models. Contributors continue to own copyright to their contributions, but they liberally license their contributions for reuse and modification. GFDL and CC BY-SA do require attribution. However, since Wikipedia's articles do not contain bylines, it is not necessary or appropriate to provide attribution on the article's face. As long as the licensing requirements for attribution are met (see the guideline for specifics
), copying content (including text, images, and citations) from one Wikipedia article to another or from one language Wikipedia to another is not plagiarism as long as attribution is provided via the edit summaries.

Where to place attribution

If a Wikipedia article is constructed through summarizing reliable sources, but there is a paragraph or a few sentences copied from compatibly licensed or public-domain text which is not placed within quotations, then putting an attribution template in a footnote at the end of the sentences or paragraph is sufficient. To aid with attribution at the end of a few sentences, consider using a general

Directions for usage are provided on the template pages.

If a significant proportion of the text is copied or closely paraphrased from a compatibly-licensed or public domain souce, attribution is generally provided either through the use of an appropriate

References section" near the bottom of the page. In such cases consider adding the attribution statements at the end of the Reference section directly under a line consisting of "Attribution:" ('''Attribution:''') in bold:[19]

See, for example, Western Allied invasion of Germany and the Battle of Camp Hill.

A practice preferred by some Wikipedia editors when copying material from public domain or compatibly-licensed sources is to paste the content in one edit and indicate in the edit summary of the source of the material. If following this practice, immediately follow up with proper attribution in the article so that the new material cannot be mistaken for your own wording.

To provide proper attribution when copying verbatim from a public domain or compatibly-licensed source, you can either:

  • Put the whole text of the source (if small enough) in quotation marks or blockquotes, followed by an inline citation; or
  • For sections or whole articles, add a section-wide or article-wide attribution template; if the text taken does not form the entire article, specifically mention the section requiring attribution; or
  • In a way unambiguously indicating exactly what has been copied verbatim, provide an inline citation and/or add your own note in the reference section of the article.

For an example of the last, see the references section in planetary nomenclature [1], which uses a large amount of text from the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.

This practice has some advantages—for example, further changes such as modernizing language and correcting errors can be done in separate edits after the original insertion of text, allowing later editors the ability to make a clear comparison between the original source text and the current version in the article.


There are several tools available to help identify plagiarism on Wikipedia:

  • CopyPatrol – lists pages with suspected plagiarism for manual review
  • Earwig's Copyvio Detector – check any article for plagiarism, but keep in mind
  • User:CorenSearchBot (deactivated) – automatically patrolled newly created pages for plagiarism and tagged them

See also


  1. ^ "What Constitutes Plagiarism?", Harvard Guide to Using Sources, Harvard University: "In academic writing, it is considered plagiarism to draw any idea or any language from someone else without adequately crediting that source in your paper. It doesn't matter whether the source is a published author, another student, a Web site without clear authorship, a Web site that sells academic papers, or any other person: Taking credit for anyone else's work is stealing, and it is unacceptable in all academic situations, whether you do it intentionally or by accident." The university offers examples of different kinds of plagiarism, including verbatim plagiarism, mosaic plagiarism, inadequate paraphrase, uncited paraphrase, uncited quotation.
  2. ^ "University-wide statement on plagiarism", University of Cambridge.

    For subject-specific guidelines, see "Guidance provided by Faculties and Departments", University of Cambridge.

  3. ^ For example, Smith 2012, p. 1, or Smith, John. Name of Book. Name of Publisher, 2012, p. 1.
  4. ^ "What Constitutes Plagiarism?", Harvard Guide to Using Sources, Harvard University (see "Uncited paraphrase" and "Uncited quotation").

    There may be exceptions when using extensive content from free or copy-left sources, so long as proper attribution is provided in footnote or in the references section at the bottom of the page.

  5. avoid characterizing it in a biased manner
  6. ^ Levy, Neill A. "Tweedledum and Tweedledee: Plagiarism and Copyright", Cinahl Information Systems, 17(3.4), Fall/Winter 1998.
  7. ^ Copyright: Fair Use: "Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission."
  8. ^ a b c d e f Michael E. Brown, "The Causes of Internal Conflict: An Overview," in Michael E. Brown, et al, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, MIT, 2001, p. 14.
  9. ^ United States Copyright Office. "Copyright Law of the United States of America and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code, Circular 92". Retrieved 2009-04-09. A "derivative work" is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted.... Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:...(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work....
  10. . ...large-scale cribbing of foreign-language texts might occur during the process of translation.... The practice persists even though the most flagrant violators are eventually accused and dismissed from their posts.
  11. .
  12. reliable source
    , in other words one that is likely to have watchful editors and lawyers; there must be no evidence that the author(s), or publisher(s), of the unattributed use later lost, or settled out of court, a lawsuit based on the unattributed use, or that the publisher issued an apology, or retraction, for plagiarism relating to the unattributed use. Since it is impossible to prove that something does not exist, Wikipedia editors who suspect plagiarism is involved must provide reliable evidence of such a legal judgment, out-of-court settlement, apology, or retraction.
  13. ^ Per Lipson, 2013, p. 43: "If you use someone else's work, cite it... Cite it even if the work is freely available in the public domain... All these rules follow from the same idea: acknowledge what you take from others. The only exception is when you rely on commonly known information." See full Lipson reference above.
  14. Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service
  15. . Retrieved 2009-01-13..
  16. ^ Exif data is automatically saved by most modern digital cameras, and includes important information about the camera being used and the date/time of the picture (see File:Cannon.jpg for Exif in action).
  17. ^ XMP is utilized by Adobe in its image manipulation programs; it tracks the history of modification and, when possible, original ownership information (see File:Redding Album Cover.jpg for XMP in action).
  18. DNB
    }} needs the "inline=1" parameter set.
    , use 6 quotation marks to surround "Attribution:" rather than a leading ";"

Further reading

Articles, books, and journals
Digital academic resources
External links
  •[dead link] – Website published by John P. Lesko, associate professor of English at Saginaw Valley State University; editor of Plagiary (see "Further reading"). (Hyperlinked resources, including: a "glossary of terms" relating to plagiarism; a bibliography of "Books and Other Resources"; and profiles of "Famous Plagiarists". "Copyright 2004–2006 Famous / War On Some Rights Reserved").
  • The Plagiarism Checker – Facility for detecting student plagiarism at ("EDUC478: This educational software was designed as a project for the University of Maryland at College Park Department of Education." © Copyright 2002 by Brian Klug.) However, please note, this tool routinely fails to identify material taken from recent published sources whose texts do not appear online. For instance, the Charles Lipson quote appearing in footnote, above, is not detected as being derived verbatim from that source.
  • – By Turnitin (cited by Eisner and Vicinus [below]).
  • "Read a Q&A with the editors on Inside Higher Education" – Interview with Caroline Eisner and Martha Vicinus, editors of Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism, conducted on April 3, 2008.
  • Seife, Charles (August 31, 2012). "Jonah Lehrer's Journalistic Misdeeds at". Slate Magazine.