Hi! I’m Rocky from the Writing Center, and
this presentation is all about paraphrasing strategies to help you avoid unintentional
plagiarism. First off, you might be wondering why you
should be caring about plagiarism at all. Well the answer to that question is that plagiarism
is a very serious offence in college. The consequences if you’re caught start with getting
an automatic zero for the assignment but can also lead to getting kicked out of the class
or even out of the college. Most students don’t really worry about plagiarism because
they don’t go around copying and pasting their essays off the internet or whatever, but accidental
plagiarism can have those same consequences. Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab defines
plagiarism as “the uncredited use (both intentional and unintentional) of somebody else’s words
or ideas.” That means that incorrect paraphrasing, incomplete citations, and other honest mistakes
can still be considered plagiarism and often carry the same consequences.
So how can you avoid unintentional plagiarism? Well, the biggies are citing sources correctly,
which is a topic we won’t cover in this video and paraphrasing effectively, which is what
we’ll spend the rest of this video working on.
Paraphrasing is when you take what someone else has written or said and put it into your
own words. Since the information and ideas originally come from someone else, they will
still require a citation; you just won’t have to use quotation marks. For example, if an
original source said “The Writing Center is a great place to visit for help with any stage
of the writing process,” you have two options. Either you could put that in word-for-word
and put quotes around it with a citation at the end, which is called a direct quote, or
you could paraphrase it, still putting a citation at the end, but this time without the quotes.
Quoting it directly is way easier, right? But it’s not really writing. Although a lot
of your information will come from research, it needs to be filtered through you, the writer.
In fact, it’s a general rule that less than 10% of your whole essay can be in quotes.
I’ll say it again, LESS THAN 10%! So save that 10% for really good stuff. Save it for
the quotes that sound really impressive or that fit your argument perfectly. Everything
else will need to be paraphrased or summarized. Alright, so let’s look at how to write a
sentence-level paraphrase. The main rules are that in your paraphrase you must change
both the sentence’s structure and its words. The most common paraphrasing mistakes happen
when students only change one of these things. Let’s look at an example together.
Like our paraphrasing definition, this example came from Purdue University’s online writing
lab. The original sentence reads, “Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking
notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final paper.” A common error is to
just use synonyms to replace words in the sentence so that it reads something like,
“Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many
of quotations in the final research paper.” It’s true that most of the words have been
changed, but this is an example of plagiarism because it is not a true paraphrase. The structure
of the sentence is still the same. It still starts with students overusing or using too
many quotes in their notes, then it gives the result of students overusing them in the
final paper. A true paraphrase of this sentence would look
more like this: “Often too many quotations end up in final drafts because students take
notes word-for-word from their sources.” This is a correct paraphrase because it changes
both the structure AND the words of the original. It still conveys the same meaning, but very
few words are repeated, and it starts more with the end of the original sentence and
works its way backward, which shows that the structure has been changed.
You might be thinking, But how am I supposed to do that? I’ll be honest, when I’m faced
with needing to paraphrase a single sentence, I can get really stuck. I just stare at it
thinking, But that makes so much sense as it is; how am I supposed to write it any differently?
Because of that struggle I’ve picked up a useful strategy that breaks down a sentence
level paraphrase into three steps. We’ll cover all the steps in this video, but let’s
focus on them one at a time. The first step is to change the subject of
the sentence. Here’s how to do that. First, let’s look at this original sentence
and try to identify the subject. As a grammar review, remember that the subject is the person,
place, or thing that is doing the main action of the sentence. So, if we look at this sentence,
the subject is “Students” since they’re the ones that are overusing direct quotations.
Now that I’ve identified the old subject, I need to decide which person, place, or thing
I want to make my new subject. So if I look at the other options in the sentence, I can
use “notes,” “quotations,” or “paper.” Any of those words could be the subject of
a new paraphrase; there really isn’t a right or wrong answer here. For the sake of our
example, I choose quotations. So, that is step one: choose a new subject.
OK, continuing with our strategy, we are now ready to move onto step 2, which is “finish
the sentence so that it makes sense.” If that sounds weird, what I mean is that with
your new subject, try to continue the sentence without changing the meaning of the original.
Let’s look at that example. So, I am going to start with my new subject,
“Quotations.” To finish the sentence, I’ll have to continue past the word quotations
and explain what’s happening with them. Remember, I’m not using students as my subject
anymore, which means my verb won’t be “overuse” since the quotations aren’t the ones that
are overusing anything. In fact, the next part of this sentence should be something
like “are overused in the final paper” since they’re the items that are being overused
by the students. As you can see, that takes care of that whole last line. At this point
I can see that I still need to include that whole top part starting with “Students”
and ending with “notes” as well as the transition or connecting idea, which is “as
a result.” Let’s do the transition first. OK, if they
are using as a result, that means this sentence is saying that the first half of the sentence
causes the second half. Students overusing direct quotations in their notes causes them
to overuse quotations in their paper. Now, since I started with the second half of the
sentence, that means I need to show that the second half is because of that first half.
Basically, I want to show the same cause and effect relationship, but I’m presenting
it in a different order, so I need to change the word. So, instead of using “as a result”
again, I’m going to use the word “because.” And that keeps that same meaning that I wanted
before. Alright, now I am still on step two because
I haven’t finished this sentence yet. I still have that whole top part to cross off.
I want to keep the same meaning still change the sentence structure of that part too. So,
when I read the original, “Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes,”
I decide that I’m gonna take that “taking notes” part that’s at the end and move
it sorta to the middle. Now, this half is going to read, “students frequently take
notes with too many direct quotations.” So you can see that that second half says
the same thing that that first one did in the example, but I’ve changed the wording
a little bit. OK, that is a lot of work, but now we can
see that the structure of this new paraphrase is very different from the structure of the
original one. It’s important to read it all together at the end here to make sure
it still makes sense with the original, “Quotations are overused in the final paper because students
frequently take notes with too many direct quotations.” Yep, it still means the same
thing, but now it’s a new structure. However, we’re not done yet. Remember that a true
sentence-level paraphrase must change both the sentence structure AND the words, which
brings us to step three of our strategy: change the word choice.
This is an easier part of the process, especially if you have a thesaurus. Let’s look at the
example again. Up top, we have that original sentence still, and our re-structured sentence
is now right below it. Now we’ve got to change the wording. In my restructured sentence,
I have “Quotations are overused in the final paper.” That uses a lot of the same words
as the original, which said “they overuse quotations in the final paper,” so I’m
going to change up some of the word choice there. Instead, I’m gonna write “Too many
quotations end up in final drafts.” As you can see, I didn’t change the meaning, but
instead of using the word “overuse,” I used “Too many” and “end up.” Instead
of using “the final paper,” I used “final drafts.” I didn’t change every single
word, but I changed most of them. If we continue with this sentence, we know that we’ve already
changed our transition from “as a result” to “because,” so that part is good to
go, but the rest still has a lot of the same words like “frequently” and “direct
quotations.” So, I’ll change it up to read “students often take notes word-for-word
from their sources.” Now, it’s a true paraphrase because I’ve
changed both the structure and the word choice from the original sentence. I’ll read the
whole thing together to make sure it makes sense, “Too many quotations end up in final
drafts because students often take notes word-for-word from their sources.” It’s a good sentence,
although for my own personal preference, I think I’d like to move the word “often”
to the beginning, so that it’s “Often too many quotations end up…” Technically
both ways would be correct paraphrases, I just wanted to make sure it sound a bit more
like me. Alright, now it’s your turn to paraphrase.
Since we’ve gotten pretty comfortable with this original sentence, let’s keep using
it. However, this time you need to use one of the other possible new subjects that we
identified when we first read the sentence. The original subject was “Students” so
you can’t use that one, and my subject was “Quotations” so you can’t use that one
either. That leaves you with either “Notes” (you can specify “Students’ notes,”
if you want) OR “Final papers.” Either of these options could become a true paraphrase
as long as you follow step 2, which is to finish the sentence so that it makes sense,
and step 3, which is to change the word choice. You guys are going to do this in class, independently
or in groups, whichever your instructor prefers. Take your time. Look at your handout and your
notes. Ask your instructor if you get stuck. When you think you’ve got a true paraphrase
and you’ve done all three steps, let your instructor know so that you can get some feedback.
Alright, time for you guys to get to work, would someone pause the video please?
OK, hopefully you’re getting the hang of sentence-level paraphrasing. It’s not easy,
which is why it is so important that you avoid putting direct quotations into your notes
as much as possible. If your note-taking method is to highlight sentences from your source,
you’re probably going to have to do a lot of these paraphrases to stay under 10%. So
instead of just highlighting your sources, use other note-taking methods. In the previous
video, we talked a lot about how to summarize and “fact list” your sources, so take
a look at that to practice. I want to leave you with a few final reminders:
Always double-check your paraphrases against the original source. Make sure that you’ve
changed both the sentence structure and the word choice. Also, don’t forget your citations!
You need them for both direct quotations AND paraphrases. And lastly, if you’re not sure
that you paraphrased correctly, get a second opinion. See your instructor after class or
during their office hours, or see a tutor in the Writing Center. With the resources
that you have available to you, there’s no excuse for faulty paraphrasing. Plus, you
now have a new strategy to use if you get stuck.
Good luck with your next research assignment, and happy paraphrasing!