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What is plagiarism?

Derived from the Latin word for ‘kidnapper’ (plagiarus), the simplest definition of plagiarism is when someone passes off the words of another person as their own. Plagiarism can also happen when someone uses another’s ideas or arguments while preserving the structure in which they were presented.

Some plagiarism is blatant – a direct copying of whole passages of text – while in other cases it can be more subtle and involve the paraphrasing of words or sentences within a body of otherwise original work. A more sophisticated form of plagiarism is self-plagiarism, where a student re-uses their own work. Plagiarism is not the same as the accidental use of an original phrase or term, which is a common, usually unconscious form of borrowing.

For more information on the associated risks and online safety tips for parents and carers, watch our explainer video, available to those with a National Online Safety membership.