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Academic Integrity

Guide to having academic integrity and avoiding plagiarism

Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is the third technique, and it is the one that is the most difficult to master.  Many of the different types of plagiarism usually found in student work include incorrectly paraphrased material.  Paraphrasing, by definition, is taking the author's words and ideas and restating them in your own words.  In practice, this is difficult because you need to stay close enough to the original ideas that you do not misrepresent them--but you cannot be too close to the original wording or your writing will look like a bad copy.  

In the example below, the original paragraph is on the left with a poor paraphrase on the right.  In this paraphrase attempt, many of the source's original words and phrases and used exactly--or with only the removal of a few less-important words.  This is an example of a type of patchwriting (discussed in detail on another page in this guide).  Although some of the phrases are ordered differently in the paragraph, it is obvious by looking at the colored highlighting that the writer did not even try to use his/her own words.

There is an exception of one sentence ("This has a major effect on the way that people function in every aspect of their lives," marked with an arrow) which is actually a good observation.  However, one sentence out of a paragraph is not enough to save this (or most any) paragraph from charges of plagiarism.

Original paragraph: Globalization means a world where nations that are geographically separate are closely connected in many ways. The continuous advances in technology link businesses, organizations, cultures, families, and individuals, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The advent of the Internet and better mobile technologies means that people are reachable anytime, anywhere in the world. A popular television series from the United States may be viewed by a family in the hills of Thailand. Business can be conducted day and night and people have access to information about what is happening elsewhere in the world virtually as life unfolds. Major events are reported instantaneously across the globe; similarly, repercussions rebound across the world immediately.  Poor paraphrase: The concept of globalization means that business can be conducted day and night and creates close connections in many ways for geographically separate nations. This has a major effect on the way that people function in every aspect of their lives. A television series from the U.S. may be viewed by a family from Thailand. The Internet means that people are reachable anywhere in the world and technology links business, culture, families and individual people 24/7. News events can be reported immediately across the globe and repercussions occur immediately.

(Source: Hunt, F. & Birks, J. (2008). More hands-on information literacy activities. Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., pp. 90-93)

 

Another way that students attempt to paraphrase--and do it poorly--is by taking the original text and substituting synonyms for as many words as possible--which is another type of patchwriting.  Since this keeps the original source's overall sentence structure and organization, this is also not acceptable. 

The example below is somewhat extreme, but it illustrates the point well--the words chosen are often more complex than the original, many synonyms are not interchangeable (e.g. half and fifty-fifty in this context, plus all the synonyms for the word 'stone' do not have the same meaning), and the overall effect of the sentence(s) is awkward to read.

Original: "For the last 10 years, dozens of Marvel superheroes have tried to keep powerful stones out of the hands of the bad guys...When combined, these six powerful gems--the Space Stone, the Mind Stone, the Reality Stone, the Power Stone and the Soul Stone--can be wielded to destroy half the universe" (Dockterman, 2018).  Not Original: For the most recent 10 years, a plethora of Marvel paladins have attempted to withhold impressive rocks out of the clutches of the dreadful folks...When comingled, these six dominant baubles--the Expansion Pebble, the Imagination Boulder, the Materiality Gravel, the Effectiveness Piece and the Psyche Mineral--can be exerted to dismantle fifty-fifty the cosmos.

(Source: Dockterman, E. (2018). Avengers: Infinity War is almost here. Here’s what to know about the Marvel Cinematic Universe before you go. Time.com. http://time.com/5227935/marvel-cinematic-universe-timeline/)

 

Now that we've looked at 2 examples of the primary ways that student writers paraphrase poorly, here is an example of a good paraphrase.  It keeps the same ideas of the original source (quoted on the left), but it uses different wording and sentence structure.  As is true of many good paraphrases, it is slightly shorter than the original (but not significantly shorter).

Original: "In so many ways, we're already superhuman. Being extraordinary is so much a part of our heritage as human beings that we often overlook what we've done and how very unique it all is. We have made machines to extend our physical reach and the reach of our senses, allowing us to peer into the depths of space and outer time. Our cameras and receivers allow us to see across the electromagnetic spectrum. We can slow down, freeze, and accelerate time on our screens. We can study and manipulate microscopic worlds, print our names on single atoms, analyze soil on Mars, and observe the rings of Saturn at close range. Our voices and our photographic records of everything we've seen are carried at the speed of light on an expanding bubble of radio, into the infinite" (Morrison, 2011, pp. 378-9).  Good paraphrase: From a certain point of view, the current level of human accomplishment could be seen as almost god-like in its ability to overcome our physical constraints. Through the various technological advances that humans have created, we have moved beyond the limitations of human eyes to see not only single cells and atoms but also otherwise invisible colors of light. With the use of computers, humans seem able to control and shape time itself. Scientific innovations have led to the exploration of space and the ability to record and transmit sounds and images from one corner of the globe to any other (Morrison, 2011).

(Source: Morrison, G. (2011). Supergods: What masked vigilantes, miraculous mutants, and a sun god from Smallville can teach us about being human. Spiegel & Grau, pp. 378-9)


Citation rules for Paraphrasing:

  • An in-text citation is required
  • Quotation marks are not used