What Are the Consequences of Plagiarism? (Beware and Avoid)

When you use someone else’s ideas, words, or even concepts without proper acknowledgment, you are engaging in plagiarism.

Whether copying a few sneaky sentences from Wikipedia or attempting to pass off an entire journal article as your own work, the implications of plagiarism are often far-reaching and quite serious.

The act of plagiarism, whether intentional or not, can not only damage your reputation and career but erode the trust between one another within academic institutions.

Therefore, the conversation regarding the consequences of plagiarism, particularly for professionals, is an important one to have.

What Are the Consequences of Plagiarism?

More than just an ‘academic faux pas,’ getting caught plagiarizing carries a variety of penalties that can end up costing you way more than just your professional reputation.

Unfortunately, plagiarism tends to start during our formative years, and before the advent of detection platforms, students largely got away with it.

In 2020, a study performed by McCabe and published by the Academic Integrity organization revealed that up to 60% of university students freely admit to cheating, including plagiarism.

60% of university students freely admit to cheating

Of that 60%, over one-third confessed to copying sections from Wikipedia, and 13% acknowledged copying a few sentences here and there without citations.

What starts in colleges can be stopped there.

So, if you’re a college student who has dabbled in a bit of copy-pasting in the past, it might be worth taking a look at some of the consequences of plagiarism both at university and later in life.

Consequences of Plagiarism in College

Plagiarism in college is not only a breach of academic integrity but can essentially cheat yourself out of your own academic and intellectual development.

Academic institutions have strict policies and generally employ detection platforms that can quickly and accurately detect even light forms of plagiarism.

If found guilty, students may face failing grades, suspension, or—in the worst or repeat offenses—expulsion.

It turns out that plagiarism in college can also come back to haunt you later in life, as Harvard President Claudine Gay found out.

Gay was found to have plagiarized content up to 50 times in separate works that went all the way back to their college dissertation in the 90s.

Gay eventually resigned from their position at Harvard in response to the allegations.

Consequences of Plagiarism in the Workplace

In the workplace, especially in STEM fields, the consequences of plagiarism aren’t just a slap on the wrist and a long chewing out.

They can be as severe as losing both your income and reputation.

When employees copy work, articles, or even code and scripts from each other, it undermines trust for both the employee and the company they work for.

As such, consequences for plagiarism in the workplace can often result in court cases and even criminal proceedings.

Interestingly, it’s not just articles or code that can be considered workplace plagiarism.

In an infamous case of corporate plagiarism, Microsoft has been accused of plagiarizing the Arial typeset from the Helvetica font.

Microsoft has been accused of plagiarizing the Arial typeset from the Helvetica font.

This has been an ongoing source of debate for some time, and we’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not Microsoft did in fact, plagiarize Helvetica.

The Personal Consequences of Plagiarism

If caught plagiarizing, either in the workplace or at college, how can it affect your future?

Unfortunately, plagiarism is taken so seriously in academic and professional circles that an accusation will likely follow you for life.

Here are a few of the ways plagiarism can affect you personally:

  • Reputational Damage: Being labeled as someone who has plagiarized can tarnish your image irreparably, affecting both personal and professional relationships.
  • Opportunity Loss: If your academic record is dishonest, it can lead to denied scholarships, academic awards, and eventually job opportunities.
  • Psychological Impacts: The guilt and stress of being caught can lead to anxiety and imposter syndrome later on in your professional career.
  • Ethical Dilemma: The consequences of plagiarism can be beyond the professional, it can lead to challenging one’s own ethical integrity and their place in academic and professional circles.

Legal and Ethical Implications

While plagiarism is definitely an ethical issue, it can also progress quickly into a legal one.

If you plagiarize someone’s copyrighted intellectual property and don’t abide by standards of attribution, it could land you in hot water.

Corporations and academics who stand in high regard may register their work as IP, or ‘Intellectual Property.’

Copying their content and publishing it as your own is considered copyright infringement, and you could be facing not only personal and professional embarrassment but time in court as well.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

With so many digitized copies of articles, encyclopedias, journals, and code, it’s inevitable that, at some point, you might unintentionally create something similar to another person’s work.

Understanding how to avoid such an embarrassing scenario is not only in your best interest but also crucial for maintaining integrity and originality in any work.

Here are some strategies to ensure that your work remains plagiarism-free before you hand it in.

Proper Citation Techniques

If you need to use someone else’s work, simply providing a citation indicating to whom the work belongs is generally sufficient to avoid being accused of plagiarism.

It involves correctly identifying the sources of the information and its author(s).

Most workplaces or academic institutions have their preferred technique for applying citations, so ensure you are using the correct one for your given situation.

Below is a table that outlines the syntax for the most common forms of citation techniques:

table that outlines the syntax for the most common forms of citation techniques

Paraphrasing and Quoting

Paraphrasing means restating someone else’s words or ideas in your own words.

It requires a good grasp of the original text’s meaning to ensure that your version still represents the original intention or concept.

On the other hand, quoting involves directly citing the source author’s text using quotation marks (“”) to delineate between your text and the source clearly.

Both techniques are widely used in scholarly writing and will require correct attribution of the original source to avoid being flagged as plagiarized.

Below is an example of both paraphrasing and quotation techniques with the correct attribution applied:

example of both paraphrasing and quotation techniques with the correct attribution applied

Using Plagiarism Detection Tools

Your boss or professors are probably already using platforms designed to detect plagiarism, so before handing in an assignment or work project, fight fire with fire by running your work through a detection tool as well.

Detection tools compare your work against vast databases of source material and help to highlight any unintentional similarities.

This helps you to identify and correct any wording quickly and avoid getting flagged for plagiarized work.

Here are some popular examples of plagiarism detection tools:

  • Undetectable.ai: This tool not only detects plagiarism but also rates its potential to have been created by generative AI.

    The tool also features a paraphrasing and humanizer function to avoid any false positives when dealing with AI detectors.

    You can try Undetectable AI easily with the widget below (English only).
Rated #1 AI Detector by Forbes
  • Turnitin: A widely used platform in academic institutions, including K12 and college level. It provides extensively detailed reports of potential plagiarism.
  • Copyscape: This tool is used primarily for checking content that is readily available online by scanning the internet for duplicate content.
  • Plagscan: A plagiarism detection tool that is ideal for those who require that no scanned material be made available to third parties. For this reason, it is used extensively by businesses that need reports produced on sensitive content.
  • Grammarly: Compares your content with billions of other webpages to ensure originality, it also has the added bonus of checking your grammar.

Understanding and Following Academic Integrity Policies

Upholding academic integrity is prioritized within institutes of higher learning.

Most institutions tend to have quite specific and well-documented standards of honesty and ethics regarding conduct in scholarly work.

When you enroll in a particular institution, it’s best to get familiar with these standards before starting to work on any projects.

Here are the most often addressed academic integrity policies:

  • Plagiarism: The use of someone else’s ideas or expressions without proper attribution. Policies typically detail what actually constitutes plagiarism and the preferred citation methods.
  • Cheating: A policy that outlines the type of behavior that would be considered dishonest to gain an unfair advantage in examinations and assignments.
  • Fabrication: The act of inventing or falsifying data, research, and citations.
  • Facilitation: Helping fellow students commit any act of academic dishonesty, including the ones mentioned here already.
  • Collusion: Policies aimed at distinguishing when collaboration on academic work has occurred when it was supposed to be completed individually.

Academic institutions will usually enforce these policies through what are known as ‘disciplinary committees’.

These committees are responsible for formulating the policies and the consequences for not adhering to them.

Most institutions will hold workshops or host online knowledge bases that cover each policy in detail.

Engaging with these resources will ensure you are knowledgeable of them ahead of time, making it easier to adhere to ethical practices during your academic pursuits.


Plagiarism is considered a serious ethical and moral issue within the majority of professional and academic fields.

Engaging in plagiarism in today’s highly digitized world is almost certainly going to be detected, resulting in long-lasting academic, professional, and personal repercussions.

Understand these consequences well, and reflect on them next time you’re either tempted to sneak in a few lines of copied source text or forget to review your citations.

With tools such as undetectable.ai readily available to scan and score your work for plagiarism, handing in honest and original assignments and projects is now more seamless than ever before.

In addition to plagiarism detection, most institutions now require a human score when submitting work.

AI detectors are notoriously varied in their results, so why not check for multiple detection scores all within one platform?

Undetectable.ai can do just that, it can also humanize any content that produces a false positive, ensuring your work is both free of plagiarism and any AI-generated content.

Undetectable AI (TM)