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Possible plagiarism scenarios
Potentially complicating the effort to identify plagiarism is the fact that each of the above basic factors can be combined with other factors, creating a range of possible plagiarism scenarios. Here, then, is a full list of possible scenarios, starting with the worst case:
1. Uncredited Verbatim Copying of a Full Paper, or Uncredited Verbatim Copying of a Major Portion (more than 50%) within a Single Paper–An instance is where a large section of the original paper is copied without quotation marks, credit notice, reference, and bibliography. This case also includes instances where different portions of a paper are copied without attribution from a number of papers by other authors, and the sum of plagiarized material is more 50%, or Uncredited Verbatim Copying within More than a Single Paper by the Same Author(s)–This includes instances where more than one paper by the offending author(s) has been found to contain plagiarized content, and all the percentages of plagiarized material in each of the discovered papers sum to greater than 50%.
2. Uncredited Verbatim Copying of a Large Portion (greater than 20% and up to 50%) within a Paper.–An instance is where a section of the original paper is copied from another paper without quotation marks, credit notice, reference, and bibliography. This case also includes instances where different portions of a paper are copied without attribution from a number of papers by other authors, and the sum of copying results in a large portion of plagiarized material (up to 50%) in the paper, or Uncredited Verbatim Copying within More than One Paper by the Same Author(s)–This includes instances where the sum of plagiarized material from the different papers would constitute the equivalent of a large portion (greater than 20% and up to 50%) of the discovered paper with the fewest words.
3. Uncredited Verbatim Copying of Individual Elements (Paragraph(s), Sentence(s), Illustration(s), etc.) Resulting in a Significant Portion (up to 20%) within a Paper–An instance could be where portions of original paper are used in another paper without quotation marks, credit notice, reference, and bibliography.
4. Uncredited Improper Paraphrasing of Pages or Paragraphs. Instances of improper paraphrasing occur when only a few words and phrases have been changed or when the original sentence order has been rearranged; no credit notice or reference appears with the text.
5. Credited Verbatim Copying of a Major Portion of a Paper without Clear Delineation. Instances could include sections of an original paper copied from another paper; credit notice is used but absence of quotation marks or offset text does not clearly reference or identify the specific, copied material.
Plagiarism, in short
The extreme and more obvious cases notwithstanding, the above scenarios provide us with some basic determining factors we can use when attempting to deal with allegations of plagiarism between authors.
1. Amount or quantity does not play a part in defining plagiarism. However, the amount of material plagiarized should play an important part in determining the appropriate corrective action.
2. Credit notices or references are not sufficient to deflecting a charge of plagiarism if quotation marks or offset text have not been used to identify the specific material being copied.
3. Paraphrasing can leave an author open to a charge of plagiarism if he or she has changed only a few words or phrases or has only rearranged the original sentence order. Even a proper paraphrasing of the original text can lead to a charge of plagiarism if the original source is not properly cited.