How should I act if I discover a user plagiarizing fellow users' posts? What if I find someone plagiarizing external resources without attribution?

See also: Users are calling me a plagiarist. What do I do?

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1 Answer 1


A note on serial voting

If you discover someone engaged in serial plagiarism, do not start running through their profile to downvote plagiarized answers. Serial voting is likely to be reversed, and it potentially gets you in trouble. Moderators have tools to deal with serial plagiarizers, including requesting disassociation (removes reputation) and suspension. Single post votes in isolation are fine.

1. Double-check

Check again whether the OP didn't add a source somewhere after all. Sometimes it is at the end of the copied text, or hidden behind a single-word link. Check out all the links in the answer. Sometimes they get hidden by bad formatting - it's worth clicking 'edit' just for one final check to make sure.

Make sure that the original source you found really is a legitimate source, and not one of the sites copying Stack Exchange content or some other content aggregator.

2. Edit or flag

If it looks like a minor, single incident, editing the attribution in is the way to go. You can do that yourself, either directly or through a suggested edit. Put the attribution in front of the copied material, and put everything into blockquotes that isn't the OP's original speech. Use nice wording, like From the Wikipedia Article on xyz: After that, proceed to step 3.

If it looks like there is an egregious pattern of plagiarism, and deletions seem necessary, flag for moderator attention. Explain that you believe the answer has been plagiarized, and paste the source URL into a comment underneath, say Plagiarism: copied without attribution from ....

If your flag gets declined, flag again and/or raise the issue on Meta. Here is previous discussion. Note that copyright is a separate issue from plagiarism.

3. Educate the OP

The OP may be innocent(-ish) simply because they're ignorant of how gravely wrong plagiarism is - this is the case more often than one would believe. If there is no indication the community has had a conversation with them about the issue, consider leaving a polite comment along the lines of

Hi, it appears that you copied this answer from (insert URL here). You're using someone else's work without giving the author credit. This amounts to plagiarism, and is not welcome on Stack Exchange. Remember to **always** add prominent attribution when using other sources. Thanks!

or a more nicely worded suggestion from JMort:

Hi (User), it looks like you just copied most of this content from (this blog). Can you edit your post and give attribution to the author? Plagiarism isn't really welcomed on Stack Exchange, and it's always nice to give credit where credit is due. Good luck!

Or another option from wjandrea, more stern, but very informative:

It looks like you copied this from (URL). If you're using someone else's work without giving them credit, that constitutes plagiarism, which is not welcome on Stack Exchange. To fix it, you can [edit], include a [link](/editing-help#links) to the source, mention the author's name, and [quote](/editing-help#simple-blockquotes) the copied content. For more details, see [referencing help](/help/referencing) and [this FAQ](https://meta.stackexchange.com/q/160077).

4. Go hunt for more

Moderators have enough to do already - they won't be able to check out a user's entire profile for further instances of plagiarism. If you feel like it, take that task upon yourself, and flag each occurrence as described above.

  • 1
    If you say "flag", why do I remember Meta.SO answers that say "the mods can't do anything, the copyright holder has to enter a DCMA [whatever the name is] removal request". Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 14:22
  • One example I could find is meta.stackexchange.com/a/253305/245641 Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 14:27
  • 13
    @ThomasWaller the mods will become active - they won't be acting on the copyright issues but the plagiarism itself. It works, I've done it many times and was never turned down by a mod.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 20:36
  • and what if the plagiarized answers are helpful? I converted superuser.com/a/776540/13889 into a quote, for instance
    – endolith
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 14:49
  • 9
    @endolith - you are missing the point: give credit to the original author and URL. The problem is when someone copies something, and doesn't say that they did. [If copying from somewhere outside of stackexchange, it is also your responsibility to examine where you are copying from, make sure it is okay to copy it. But at least if you give the link and author, people can check for themselves if there is any copyright issue.] Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 19:34
  • 4
    Giving credit is great, but one would usually prefer their own answer to be upvoted. When someone else with a top (old) answer copies your lower (newer) solution into their answer, it kind of sucks.
    – Demis
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 17:27
  • 5
    It'd be good if this FAQ also covered self-plagiarism. There's meta.stackexchange.com/q/333708/334566 & meta.stackexchange.com/q/298464/334566 but neither of those have the FAQ tag.
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 10:52

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