What Is Incremental Plagiarism: How to Avoid It and Cope With Consequences

About Plagiarism

Madeline Shields

05 May 2023

In this post, we will define incremental plagiarism, provide examples, and suggest ways to prevent it. 

What is incremental plagiarism

Do you write a paper and draw inspiration from other people's work? Do you find some exciting examples you want to mention in the essay? Do not hesitate to name the author so you are not accused of stealing!

Today, so many texts are accessible on the web. No wonder students create work containing plagiarism without even being aware of it. Quite frequently, they use other people's ideas, rewrite them in their own words without attribution, and receive accusations of copying as a result.

Keep reading to discover what incremental plagiarism is, the outcomes it brings, and how to avoid it.

What is incremental plagiarism?

Incremental plagiarism occurs when small sections of someone else's text appear in the original work without specifying the author. For example, a student wrote a paper, described it in their own words, and took statistics or a conclusion from someone else's work. Professors see this approach as plagiarism in academic papers and reduce grades. Moreover, copying someone's ideas word for word and paraphrasing the thoughts of another author or your previous works is plagiarism too. 

When writing a text, each student uses many sources. If you don't know what's allowed and don't check your work before submitting it, you can be accused of dishonesty, ruining your study achievements. Even taking ideas from someone’s research without citing them is disrupting your work's uniqueness.

Thus, the incremental plagiarism definition is simple: do not borrow, will not be accused. You can find it in different forms:

  • verbatim plagiarism (when you copy some text word for word);
  • self-plagiarism (when you use parts of your previous work);
  • paraphrased plagiarism (when you use other people's thoughts, paraphrasing them in other words).

Next, we'll look at the differences in the different types of plagiarism so you're sure to stay out of trouble.

Consequences of incremental plagiarism

To begin with, let's figure out the consequences of borrowing a few other people's ideas in your work. The effects are generally the same as if you were caught doing any different kind of plagiarism:

  • Bad grades and the teacher's request to rewrite the work. These are the most manageable consequences you can expect.
  • Disciplinary action by the university. Each college and university has its own rules. Therefore, when students create non-original works, the university may apply its punishment: keeping the student for one more academic year, imposing a fine, etc. You can check with your professor before submitting your assignment.
  • Expulsion from the university. This punishment is unpleasant but quite real. For example, if a student rewrote someone else's work, they might be asked to leave the university because they have no desire to acquire knowledge and remain unique.
  • Lawsuits and allegations of plagiarism. It is the most challenging punishment a student can face, especially if the real author of the work finds out they were copied.

Incremental plagiarism vs. global plagiarism

Let's compare different types of plagiarism.

This type of plagiarism is considered the most unacceptable and fraudulent. For example, your assignment is to write an essay about the impact of stress on a person's life. Many texts, articles, books, and essays have been written about stress. And you decide that no one will ever know that you took a one piece on this topic and passed it off as your own. However, the teacher checks each student's work in a special program and sees if a similar text has ever been published before. Therefore, the program will show where you got it from and the real author.

  • What is incremental plagiarism?

Suppose you read many sources and used thoughts without specifying the author. If you swap words/sentences and use synonyms, but the opinion remains close to the author’s content, you risk getting accused of plagiarism.

When checking for plagiarism, the professor will see that you copied only some small parts, which is unacceptable but not as fraudulent as global plagiarism. If, when using other people's thoughts, you put quotation marks and follow the rules for quoting, no one can accuse you of illegal actions.

Incremental plagiarism vs. patchwork plagiarism

Let’s contrast another common type of plagiarism. Part of it is confused with incremental plagiarism.

  • What is patchwork plagiarism?

It is imposed when you copy more than 1-2 sentences of another author into your original paper ─ large sections and entire paragraphs. It is not acceptable in any uni when the whole work consists of pieces of other people's papers and studies, but the student declares the opposite. If the teacher checks such work on the program to determine originality, it will glow as written off.

  • What is incremental plagiarism?

Incremental plagiarism also involves copying individual sections, but small ones, while working with patchwork plagiarism almost entirely consists of copied sections of other people's texts.

Incremental plagiarism Vs. accidental plagiarism

  • What is accidental plagiarism?

It occurs when you write a completely original paper and accidentally copy someone's thoughts. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not uncommon. You can be sure that the thought is entirely yours, but if someone has previously described it in similar terms, your work will not be original. The main flaw is that you may not even anticipate accidental plagiarism, while incremental plagiarism most often occurs when inspired by someone else's ideas.

Don't worry about these limitations! Next, you will receive instructions on protecting yourself from plagiarism accusations. 

Exploring incremental plagiarism examples

It can be found in students' works, speeches, songs, and books. Here are some of the most famous instances:

  • Melania Trump's speech was widely discussed in the press as it turned out to be 47% plagiarism of Michelle Obama's speech. When Melania gave her speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention, some listeners noticed she sounded familiar. When the text was checked for plagiarism, it was found to be 47% identical to words previously spoken by Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Since the percentage of coincidence is so high, it is challenging to imagine that this happened by chance. Nevertheless, Melania neither apologized nor admitted her mistake.
  • Another case happened to singer Katy Perry. In 2014, she received a Grammy Award for the song Dark Horse. However, she was sued for plagiarism in this composition a year later. Marcus Gray has claimed that Dark Horse is a plagiarism of his Joyful Noise. As a result, the singer was first ordered to pay a fine and then acquitted.
  • Plagiarism can also be found in well-known magazines. For example, The New York Times journalist Jason Blair was accused of copying 36 articles for publication. His lousy faith came to light when journalist Macarena Hernandez of The San Antonio Express-News found some of her material in the reporter's article. This flaw completely ruined Jason's career.

People steal not only small sections but entire books. Here is James McKay, who became the author of hundreds of books. He wrote historical and autobiographical works. However, in 1997, Robert Bruce, a Pulitzer Prize winner, accused McKay of plagiarism. He compared his biography of Alexander Bell with James's and found that the text matched 95%. The same story happened with his book dedicated to John Paul Jones. The publisher had to destroy more than 7500 copies, but the author claimed that it was accidental plagiarism and that he did not perform anything fraudulent.

How to avoid plagiarism?

Next, we will look at ways to help you increase your work's uniqueness and avoid unpleasant situations when preparing academic papers.

  • If you see an exciting thought in someone's work you want to use, be sure to use a citation. Retelling it in your own words can be accused of plagiarism.
  • After you have written your work, use a plagiarism checker by Fixgerald. The automatic plagiarism checker has algorithms that compare thousands of texts on the Internet in minutes and show similar or copied sections. If you find any in your work, rewrite them. If these are sections you wanted to cite but forgot to include the author, make sure to add a citation.
  • Check if the written text complies with the citation standards of your university. Each university and college has its requirements. You will have to comply with them. Therefore, if you are writing an academic paper, check if you have done everything correctly.
  • Reread your work. Take a break and review your paper after rest. It will help you find your thoughts and correct typos or any errors.
  • Do not rush to delete drafts and used links. If you are accused of plagiarism, you will need evidence that you wrote the work yourself. And the best way to prove it is to show the drafts and sources you used. Therefore, keep them until the paper is finally accepted and evaluated.

Summing Up

There are many types of plagiarism. You knew some of them and have found out about others today. Earlier, it may seem that if you wrote the work yourself, you could not be accused of fraud.

Now you know that, unfortunately, incremental plagiarism can be found in your paper in different ways. Reading a large number of sources or literature is what causes copying most, so develop unique ideas. It is also a shame to be accused of plagiarism when you simply incorrectly formatted the citation, so be careful.

To avoid such consequences, check your finished paper on a plagiarism checker to keep your academic achievements and continue studying!


  • What is the most serious type of plagiarism?

Accusations of any plagiarism are unpleasant. But global plagiarism is considered the most serious because it means that the work was copied entirely and did not contain any ideas or efforts of the author.

The next most serious is patchwork plagiarism. When the work consists of pieces of works of other authors, it also means that there are few or no student ideas in the assignment.

  • What is the difference between incremental and patchwork plagiarism?

Patchwork plagiarism is usually an intentional type of plagiarism. That is, the student copies sections of other people's documents. At the same time, incremental plagiarism can occur accidentally if a person forgets to indicate the quote’s author or write a small part in a style similar to another author's technique.

  • What is the best way to avoid plagiarism?

The best way to prevent plagiarism when writing is to write the paper yourself and check it on a plagiarism checker tool. If the program shows non-original sections, you can delete them, rewrite or indicate citations.

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