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Business Plagiarism Tutorial: Terminology Overview

Overview of Terminology


A paraphrase is a restatement or summary of information or ideas from a source in one's own words. When paraphrasing, a writer should be sure to express the information in an original way, being careful not to mirror the sentence structure of the source or simply substitute synonyms. A paraphrase must be attributed to the source of the information.


When you use words or ideas that are not yours, you must attribute them to your source to avoid being guilty of plagiarism. The way to attribute is to cite the source. Regardless of the type of source, whether print or online, published or unpublished, any source from which you gained content that you wish to use, must be attributed to the source. This applies equally to any type of media (audio, video, broadcast, etc.) and even to social media, course lectures, chapel speakers and personal communication (email, interview, phone conversation, etc.).

Here is a helpful one-minute video that explains opens new windowHow to Cite Sources:What Needs to be Cited?

Common Knowledge

A statement considered to be "common knowledge" does not need to be attributed to a source. Facts that can be found in numerous places and are likely to be found by many people are likewise considered common knowledge. For example, it is common knowledge that Oral Roberts is the founder of Oral Roberts University. However, it is not common knowledge (outside of ORU) that the building housing the ORU Library is named after ORU's first provost, the John D. Messick Learning Resource Center. This latter fact is reported in the book Oral Roberts: An American Life. (Harrell, 1985), p. 232.

As a general rule, well-known or basic facts do not need to be documented; however, interpretations of such facts do.

If something is not common knowledge, or if you are not certain whether it is or not, cite the source. During the course of your studies, you will need to be able to distinguish between different kinds of common knowledge: common knowledge for the general public versus common knowledge for a specialized audience.


Harrell, D.E. (1985). Oral Roberts: An American Life. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Types of Plagiarism

There are different types and degrees of plagiarism. We've defined the most common types below and have provided links to examples.
Direct Plagiarism

Direct plagiarism is the word-for-word transcription of a section of someone else’s work without attribution. The deliberate plagiarism of someone else's work is unethical, academically dishonest, and grounds for disciplinary actions, including expulsion. opens new windowSee example

Self Plagiarism

Self-plagiarism occurs when a student submits his or her own previous work, or mixes parts of previous works, without permission from all professors involved. For example, it would be unacceptable to incorporate part of a term paper you wrote in high school into a paper assigned in a college course. Self-plagiarism also applies to submitting the same piece of work for assignments in different classes without previous permission from both professors.

Mosaic Plagiarism

Mosaic Plagiarism occurs when a student borrows phrases from a source without using quotation marks, or substitutes synonyms for the author’s language while keeping to the same sentence structure as the original. Paraphrasing too closely is also sometimes called “patch writing.” This kind of paraphrasing, whether intentional or not, is academically dishonest and punishable – even if you footnote your source! opens new windowSee example

Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism occurs when a person neglects to cite their sources, or misquotes their sources, or unintentionally paraphrases a source by using similar words, groups of words, and/or sentence structure without attribution. (See example for mosaic plagiarism.) Students should learn how to cite their sources and to take careful and accurate notes when doing research. (See opens new windowNote taking page) Cases of accidental plagiarism are taken seriously and they can result in serious consequences.

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Adapted from collaborative project funded by the Middlebury College Center for Educational Technology and developed by opens new windowColby College, opens new windowBates College and opens new windowBowdoin College. Please direct questions and enquiries to

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