Patchwork Plagiarism: Understand It to Avoid It

One can get evidence on direct plagiarism through plagiarism checkers. If a person copies and pastes files from a source, they can detect that if they run it through a plagiarism checker.

However, if one combines phrases and paragraphs from different pieces and puts them together in an article, it would be difficult to find out. Most plagiarism checkers might not be able to identify it or only identify parts. Thus patchwork plagiarism is harder to detect.

Different Places Have Different Patchwork Plagiarism Definitions

Usually, “patchwork” plagiarism (sometimes spelled patch work plagiarism, or “patchwriting”) occurs when a writer copies material from several sources and rearranges it to form a mosaic pattern without acknowledging the sources.

Central Penn College explains “In the areas of writing and plagiarism, the term “patchwriting” is used in two main contexts.  In both, the writer is ‘patching’ words, sentences and/or ideas together — usually without the appropriate amount of their own work and words.”

Patchwork plagiarism can also be defined by inserting parts of someone else’s texts in someone’s own words into content without giving due acknowledgment to the original author. If someone presents the entire work as one’s own, then it is unethical and might cause legal trouble for the person involved.

Much like direct plagiarism, patchwork plagiarism occurs when a writer uses material taken almost verbatim from several sources without acknowledging the sources.

What sets patchwork plagiarism apart from direct plagiarism is that, in patchwork plagiarism, the writer creatively mixes the source materials and their own words into a paragraph that combines both plagiarized and original material. Thus, making it a little harder to detect, and it appears more genuine to the readers.

Any piece of article copied from external sources needs to be acknowledged for it to be declared plagiarism-free. Even if one source does not get the necessary acknowledgment or if one idea taken from an external source does not get acknowledgment, it will be declared plagiarized.

At times articles are so heavily plagiarized that even citing sources makes them seem unoriginal. It stems from a lack of understanding on the author’s part about the subject matter. The article is too sticky to the original matter making it plagiarized even if sources are cited.

Even if citation or paraphrasing is done, but there are too many words and sentences borrowed from the source, it is considered plagiarism. Hence it is better to avoid plagiarism altogether.

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Can patchwork plagiarism be accidental?

Like many forms of plagiarism, it is possible to commit patchwork plagiarism without even knowing it. This is especially true in an academic setting, where a writer is charged with compiling thoughts and ideas from multiple sources and incorporating them into a single piece of research. 

This form of accidental plagiarism is often found in academic writing when the writer isn’t aware of the definition of patchwork plagiarism, and where plagiarism detection software is incapable of catching and helping to prevent it.

An Example of Patchwork Plagiarism

“Industrialization (or Industrialization) is the period of social and economic change that transforms a human group from an agrarian society into an industrial society. This involves an extensive re-organization of an economy for the purpose of manufacturing. As industrial workers’ incomes rise, markets for consumer goods and services of all kinds tend to expand and provide a further stimulus to industrial investment and economic growth.”


“Most pre-industrial economies had standards of living not much above subsistence, among that the majority of the population were focused on producing their means of survival. For example, in medieval Europe, as much as 80% of the labor force was employed in subsistence agriculture. A process called proto-industrialization occurred in Europe as well as in Mughal India, and was the first stage prior to the Industrial Revolution.”


These have been copied from different sources. But when combined together, they can be seen as a patchwork plagiarism example.

Recombined Article:

“Industrialization (or Industrialization) is the period of social and economic change that transforms a human group from an agrarian society into an industrial society. Most pre-industrial economies had standards of living not high above subsistence with high levels of poverty. The majority of the population was focused on producing their means of survival and had the bare minimum necessities for survival. A process called proto-industrialization occurred in Europe as well as in Mughal India, and was the first stage prior to the Industrial Revolution. This article has not essentially been copied from one source or copied verbatim. But since it sticks close to the original source and has been copied from multiple sources, it is still considered patchwork plagiarism, meaning that it can create problems for the writer. 

Know the Ways to Avoid Plagiarism

Cite Sources:

It is essential to cite sources and do it correctly. Not citing sources or citing a wrong source counts as plagiarism. If an article’s information comes from multiple sources, then they have to be mentioned separately.


Instead of copying word for word, one can paraphrase or present the idea in one’s own words. Even then, due credit needs to be given to the source from which the idea was taken.

Use Quotation Marks:

When quoting from a source, put the copied portion inside quotation marks and also mention the source.


It is always essential to recheck an article. While manually proofreading, it is still better to use a grammar checker for this purpose. Grammar checkers can easily detect various kinds of grammatical errors in a short amount of time.

Proofreading also includes a plagiarism check, and a sophisticated plagiarism checker can easily detect patchwork or mosaic plagiarism in real time.

Copyleaks are different from the other checkers available in the market because, unlike other checkers, this duplicate content detector detects poorly paraphrased sentences, where the writer uses software instead of hard work to produce unoriginal, low-quality content.


Plagiarism can ruin the life of a student or even a writer. Often when someone plagiarizes, they do it unintentionally to make it rich with resources and sources. However, exaggeration anywhere is not acceptable. Hence, it is always better to be aware of all kinds of plagiarism, be it direct or patchwork.

It enhances quality and ensures preservation of both the institution and the writer’s reputation. Plagiarism detectors, such as Copyleaks, often make things easier for the writer. The checker checks the content on behalf of the writer to ensure that it is plagiarism-free.

This type of content is also a part of plagiarism because here, others’ work gets recognized as one’s own, without a bit of effort on the writer’s part. Thus, both the institutions and the writers should be aware of plagiarism and use the checkers properly.

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