Is Accidental Plagiarism Academic Misconduct?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | May 07, 2020 | 0 Comments

In an academic setting, many allegations of plagiarism stem from the intentional copying of another person's written works. In the digital age, this has become especially common. While intentional or direct plagiarism carries steep penalties for college students, this is not the only form of plagiarism that could occur. In fact, you can commit plagiarism without realizing it at all.

Unfortunately, accidental or unintentional plagiarism can result in charges of academic misconduct. This is true whether you unknowingly repeated something you had read before or simply failed to attribute a quote before turning in an assignment. If you are facing these allegations, allow national student defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to review your case and advise you on your defense options.

Types of Plagiarism

To defend against an allegation of plagiarism, it is helpful to understand its forms. Not all plagiarism involves directly copying text word for word, which can make defending against these allegations more difficult. That said, direct plagiarism is the most common form. It is especially common in the age of the internet, where students might be tempted to pull directly from Wikipedia or some other online source.

Mosaic plagiarism is a more complicated type of allegation. Instead of copying word for word, mosaic plagiarism involves keeping the general structure of another person's sentence but using synonyms to disguise the plagiarism.

There is also the potential for self-plagiarism. While this sounds like an oxymoron, colleges and universities will penalize you for submitting work you previously created for another class or project.

Finally, there is accidental plagiarism. This can occur unknowingly or can involve the accidental failure to cite a source. Some students paraphrase the work of another person and unknowingly plagiarize it.

Defending against Allegations of Accidental Plagiarism

Defending against the accusation of accidental plagiarism is not only challenging, but it will also catch you off guard. Unlike cases of direct plagiarism that occur intentionally, an incident of accidental plagiarism is typically an unintended error.

One of the most common examples of accidental plagiarism occurs when you include a quote from another source and either attribute it incorrectly or fail to source the quote at all. In this situation, any evidence that you were aware that attribution was necessary but that it was excluded in error could be valuable. For example, if you have a previous draft or rough notes that corroborate your intention to attribute the quote, it could be strong evidence in your defense.

Another example involves accidental paraphrasing. Similar to mosaic plagiarism, this occurs without rewording the work of another person intentionally. Defending against these accusations can be more challenging, but your prior drafts or notes could also come in handy. Additionally, some plagiarism accusations involve words or phrases that are common under the circumstances. It is possible that you could use the same colloquialism as another write without even knowing it.

Working with an Experienced Student Defense Lawyer

There are multiple ways you could fight back against allegations of accidental plagiarism. To learn about your options, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento online or call (888) 535-3686 today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Attorney Lento and his team represent students and others in disciplinary cases and various other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Attorney Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he and his team have sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address any school-related issue or concern anywhere in the United States.


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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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