Direct Plagiarism in Writing: All You Need to Know

About Plagiarism

07 Jul 2022

Direct plagiarism is a huge problem in academic writing. Find out more about it and how to avoid it.

Direct plagiarism

The direct plagiarism definition is the practise of taking credit for someone else's work. When writing contains portions or lines that are taken from another’s work, whether it is word for word or very close to the original words, it is generally considered directly plagiarised. Direct plagiarism is usually done on purpose, however sometimes forgetting to include quotation marks, an in-text citation, or reference can result in accusations of direct plagiarism. Direct plagiarism is also referred to as ‘clone plagiarism’ or ‘verbatim plagiarism’ (verbatim definition: to use identical words).

Consequences of direct plagiarism:

  • Embarrassment
  • Loss of reputation and trust
  • Failing your course
  • Revoking of a certificate or qualification
  • Suspension or expulsion from school or college

However, if you are caught plagiarising in a work situation e.g., you are a writer, researcher, or journalist, you could lose your job/funding, face fines or legal action which may lead to difficulties finding new employment or funding for research.

Why Do People Directly Plagiarise?

  1. Lack of Time: People may have many time restraints and demands upon them. Many people are juggling commitments with work, college, family, and children, as well as errands to run. and household chores to do which could result in them seeking a way to cut corners by plagiarising work.
  2. Pressure to succeed: Sometimes others may expect a lot from us, perhaps more than we feel we can deliver, and students may see cheating as a way to gain higher grades and please others.
  3. Stuck: Some students are simply stuck with work they do not understand and instead of reaching out for support from their educational instructor, they risk plagiarising.
  4. Not confident: People can suffer with low self-esteem or poor confidence in their academic ability and feel their work will not be good enough or their opinions are not of value, so they steal from others.
  5. Just pure lazy: Yes, I have said it! Some people are just plain lazy and prefer to take the risks involved with plagiarising than writing their own work! Some people simply don’t know  what is direct plagiarism.

Remember that your educational establishment can be approached for help as can friends and family if you are struggling and feel like cutting corners by plagiarising. Plus, keep in mind that by plagiarising you are learning nothing yet risking a lot.

How is Direct Plagiarism Detected?

Your educational instructor or assessor may notice that your tone, formatting, or style of your work differs, or they may recognize the plagiarised source in your work. However, plagiarism is far more accurately detected by an online plagiarism detector tool. A plagiarism detector is normally used by schools and colleges. This software quickly and easily analyses the content and highlights similarities and matches to the work of others. A plagiarism percentage score is provided by the software. Ideally, this score should be zero but do not panic if your work scores 15% or under as this is normally considered an acceptable level. The 15% figure is interpreted by academic institutions as inadvertent plagiarism, with an allowance for software flaws that can arise with such complex and sophisticated technology. However, if you score over 15%, you could be asked to edit and re-submit the work or in extreme or persisting cases of plagiarism, you could be suspended or expelled from your college. A plagiarism percentage of more than 20% is a perceived as clear indication that the student intentionally plagiarised.

Direct Plagiarism vs. Other Types of Plagiarism

Direct Plagiarism

Other forms of plagiarism

  • Also referred to as verbatim plagiarism or clone plagiarism
  • Involves taking the exact words or very similar words of others without citing the original source
  • Easiest form of plagiarism to detect
  • Usually, intentional but is occasionally unintentional (e.g., copying and pasting a quote but forgetting to cite it).
  • Paraphrasing someone else’s work without citing the person (also known as non-verbatim plagiarism).
  • Changing some words and perhaps the order of words but the meaning remains the same and you have not cited the original source (mosaic or patchwork plagiarism).
  • Making up quotations or changing quotations to back your views.
  • More difficult to detect
  • Can be intentional or unintentional

Direct Plagiarism or Verbatim Examples

There are different types of direct plagiarism and plagiarised work may include a combination of forms:

Global plagiarism

Global plagiarism occurs when a writer plagiarises an author's whole piece of work and it is carried out intentionally, since it is assumed highly unlikely anyone could copy an entire piece of work by accident. Having someone else create an essay or assignment for you or submitting a text that you found online as your own are examples of global plagiarism. Global plagiarism normally comes with the most severe consequences, and it is the type of plagiarism with which you will most easily get caught. 

Word-for-word plagiarism

This is the most common direct plagiarism example. It happens when sentences or chunks of content are copied without any modifications. This direct plagiarism example is usually deliberate, but it's also possible that it's unintentional as it is so easy to copy and paste information into your writing and forget to cite it. 


Self-plagiarism is a type of plagiarism in which you reuse your past work. This is prevalent in academia. Students are regularly detected recycling sections of their papers or resubmitting papers as fresh assignments. It occurs as people have ownership of their work and feel they are entitled to use it again, but normally new work is expected and required by educational establishments or employers. It can be easy to self-plagiarise when writing about the same topic again, as you are likely to have the same views and opinions so be careful. 

Accidental Plagiarism Examples

Common types of plagiarism can easily occur accidently: 

Failure to remember to cite and reference: Failing to include both in-text citations and reference list entries for the work of others that you have included in your work. 

Not clearly identifying paraphrased work: This occurs when readers cannot see where ideas from a source begin and end in text. Some of the work that is not yours may be viewed as being claimed to be yours. 

Incorrect adaptations: You can change quotes but if you change them and do not clearly indicate how it has been changed it can be taken as plagiarism. 

Cut and paste: Errors with cutting and pasting occur when you are inserting copy and pasted material into a text and forget you did it. This is easily done as cutting and pasting is so fast and simple. You may be unable to tell which was your work and which was the work of others. 

These accidental plagiarism examples show that even being careful, you can become a victim of plagiarism, so it’s always better to double check.

How Can I Avoid Direct Plagiarism?

  1. Use coloured fonts: If you copy and paste material into a document to paraphrase or refer to later, use a distinct colour (e.g., red for danger) to highlight the text until you have put it in your own words and cited it. This will serve as a reminder that the content is duplicated.
  2. Cite properly: Successful students understand how to cite according to the citation style specified by their educational institution. Work can be acknowledged in Harvard, APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, or another style, with different versions available, such as APA 6th and MLA 8th. Make sure you give in-text citations for every quote, fact, statistic, graph, figure, photo, or other image you use from another source, and that you fully reference the source in your reference list or bibliography. Remember that direct quotes should be written within speech marks, and paraphrased content counts as a quotation that requires citation, although the speech marks are only needed if you stick to the original exact words.
  3. Proofread: Read your entire document from beginning to end to ensure that you have included in-text citations and a reference list or bibliography entry for every piece of information you obtained from another source, as well ensuring that any direct quotes are enclosed in speech marks.
  4. Fixgerald citation generator: This free tool can be used to generate citations quickly and accurately in various citation styles. If you leave Fixgerald citation generator open in a tab and update it each time you use a new source, it can help you generate in-text citations and store your full references as you go.

Example Citations

This will differ according to your academic institution specific citation guidelines but a common in-text citation for a direct quote may look like this:

“Rabbits are talented in two ways: breeding and dying” (E. Davies, 2021). 

The full reference will then be supplied in the reference list or bibliography at the end of your work. For instance:

Davies, E. (2021) Small Animal Matters. [Accessed 26 Apr. 2022].

Direct plagiarism is literary theft. When you include other people’s work in your writing you must acknowledge it clearly and accurately because not only is it a legal necessity, but it also adds credibility to your work. Readers need to know where you got your information. Although, direct plagiarism or any form of plagiarism can be tempting if you are short of time, stuck, or just feeling a bit lazy, the dire consequences are not worth it. Seek support if you are struggling and remember that is it far more valuable to your development to hand in your own work, however low the grade, than risk a zero score or losing your place on a course entirely. Plus, you may do far better than you think!

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