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Is Paraphrasing Plagiarism? All Your Questions Answered Today!

Jewel Enrile
August 14, 2021
Illustrations by Yuxuan Wu

Nope, it isn't plagiarism. We can end the article right here. See y'all.

Just kidding. Paraphrasing isn't plagiarism, but it can become plagiarism if you're not careful.

To paraphrase, you express someone else's ideas in your own words.

But you have to attribute all rights to the original author. If you miss out on this part, it can be considered plagiarism - and you'll get hit with the consequences.

To make it easier to avoid plagiarism and paraphrase texts, I've got a guide:

What Is Plagiarism?

Wanna remember every definition? Lockcard's right here for you to remember every detail.

Let's define some things first!

Plagiarism is the act of presenting someone else's work - research, a legal journal, any type of text - and passing it off as your own.

You claim the words or ideas are alllll yours, when that's not even close to being remotely true.

Students sometimes commit plagiarism with or without knowing it. Sometimes, it's just ignoring guidelines on how to cite any source properly, or not knowing that paraphrasing tools can lead to plagiarism. (More on this below!)

Sometimes they're simply pressed for time. I've had a professor who had her student plagiarize her own work, not knowing it was hers, and turned it over because of a pressing deadline.

The consequences for plagiarism range from suspension to expulsion. It's best you avoid any form of academic honesty and simply cite your sources!

What Is Paraphrasing?

When you paraphrase, you present someone else's ideas in your own words. In contrast, plagiarism involves presenting someone else's ideas as your own.

Those last two key words are what distinguishes one from the other. With paraphrasing, you don't claim ownership of the ideas at all. You simply rephrase the original passage to integrate it into your paper or material.

To paraphrase properly, you have to understand the original source as much as you can.

Ever heard of people reading 48587457 journals only to use two lines of text for their own paper? Yep, that's the general experience with paraphrasing.

RELATED: Want to paraphrase the right way? I've got 5 steps listed down here.

When Is Paraphrasing Considered Plagiarism?

When you miss out on the proper citation and attribution part, your paraphrasing has become plagiarism. It's as simple as that.

How Can You Avoid Plagiarism?

Interested in keeping your paper plagiarism-free? Here's how to paraphrase without resorting to plagiarism:  

Practice Paraphrasing Properly

Paraphrasing is easy! To paraphrase properly, you have to keep in mind that:

  • The sentence structure must be different
  • The wording must be all your own
  • It has to be in your voice
  • You must cite the source!


I have more in-depth tips in order to do this. But the summary is that:

  • You have to read and understand the material
  • Have it as a reference and try to express the ideas on your own
  • Mention the author/s, or do in-text citation
Still concerned on whether it's paraphrasing or plagiarism? Follow this simple chart!

Paraphrasing will be a breeze then!

And whatever you do, do not use paraphrasing tools. They're practically plagiarizing tools at this point! Most of them "paraphrase" by swapping some words here and there.

Most professors, however, will have an idea of what's going on. These tools may be fast and mimic natural human language, but it's nowhere near how you should actually paraphrase original research.

Here's the truth: it's a way to side-step plagiarism and for people not to put in the work. A published study on these paraphrasing tools outline how dangerous it can be.

Speaking of published, some of these tools for paraphrases are used to rewrite existing research and pass it off as original writing. Yep, it can get that serious.

Quoting

Include a direct copy of the passage, use quotation marks, and mention the author, journal, and research.

Long arguments, for example, can benefit from quoting. A point you admit you can't make better benefits as well!

Summarizing

Instead of a certain point or key concept from the text, you rephrase the entire concept. Like before, you must do a good job of citing sources!

Keep in mind, though, some people consider paraphrasing and summarizing to be the same thing. So you can apply the same concepts!

Let's Sum It Up

Paraphrasing isn't plagiarism, but there's a chance that it could be if you're not careful.

Avoiding plagiarism can be easy as long as you remember to cite the original source! Practice paraphrasing, quoting, and summarizing so you have everything covered. Learn how to use your own words, express yourself properly, and credit the proper source.

Charlotte Chen, Designer @Duolingo

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