Paraphrasing vs. Plagiarism
In a world where some people find it easy to quote other people’s words without proper attribution or take credit for work they did not do, it’s crucial to know the difference between paraphrasing and plagiarism.
Now, this is not to say all plagiarism is intentional. However, committing what is considered a truly heinous crime in the world of writing and academics, no matter how unintentional, is enough to ruin someone's reputation. It doesn’t matter how smart one is or if it’s a one-time mistake. Being exposed for plagiarism is enough to put one’s other works under intense scrutiny and puts one at risk of being shunned by their peers.
The thing is, some people still commit plagiarism rather than use paraphrasing as the right tool to avoid being flagged by their editor, professor, or online editing service. In this post, we emphasize why it’s crucial to understand the difference between paraphrasing and plagiarism and make a conscious choice to practice paraphrasing.
What is the difference between paraphrasing and plagiarism?
Just like plagiarism, paraphrasing involves using another person’s or source’s original ideas in one’s work. An important difference between the two is that paraphrasing entails restating those ideas in one's own words and citing the sources in the text and bibliography. Plagiarism does not give any such recognition to research sources.
Paraphrasing is an important skill one develops with continuous practice. It becomes easier to paraphrase ideas when you use several references, take copious notes and begin to frame your understanding of the topic you’re researching.
So, how do you paraphrase without plagiarizing?
When you paraphrase correctly, you are able to convey to the reader your own understanding of the content you collected through research.
Plagiarism — especially when committed with intent — is a dishonest method employed by people taking shortcuts in their work. Why? When you plagiarize, you’re practically taking credit for someone else’s hard work.
Types of Plagiarism
According to the Harvard College Writing Program, there are six common types of plagiarism:
- Verbatim plagiarism: Copying other people’s work verbatim or word for word.
- Mosaic plagiarism: Taking pieces of text from other sources without paraphrasing adequately or quoting information directly.
- Inadequate paraphrase: Paraphrasing so that the text still resembles the source copy too closely.
- Uncited paraphrase: Paraphrasing another person’s work sufficiently without giving the source any credit.
- Uncited quotation: Quoting information from a source without providing any information on your reference material.
- Using another student’s work: Submitting another person’s ideas or work and taking full credit for it.
If you look at the different types of plagiarism, some people who commit it can and do paraphrase. However, they either do not paraphrase correctly or fail to give credit to their source.
Consequences of Plagiarism
When a person is found to have committed plagiarism, they could end up facing dire consequences. The effects of exposure vary, depending on the institution or the stage at which the plagiarism is exposed.
For example, if you’re a college student and your teacher discovers your plagiarism in an essay-writing project, you may be subjected to a grade penalty. But when you plagiarize a substantial amount of information in your college research paper, you could get dropped or expelled.
If you’re a public figure exposed for plagiarizing material used in your speech or writing, you could be publicly humiliated. If you’re a musician accused of plagiarizing the lyrics of a song you’ve become famous for (or not), it could put your integrity as an artist to question. You could also become the subject of a lawsuit.
How to Avoid Plagiarism
To avoid plagiarism, you need to make a conscious choice to not do it. It's crucial to learn to integrate the ideas you collect during research into the writing process.
You could also follow these tips:
- Use direct quotations and cite your sources, especially when you want to state the original text for effect and clarity.
- Summarize and simplify related points about your topic taken from various sources.
- Paraphrase or restate information from your sources correctly.
Remember that it's crucial to do a plagiarism check before you submit your work. Also, make it a habit to give due recognition to your sources or references.
Tips for Paraphrasing
To avoid plagiarism in any form, practice the following paraphrasing tips:
- Review passages and source materials until you’re able to form your own understanding of the topic.
- Start composing your paraphrased version of the information you read.
- Study what you’ve written to see if it conveys the ideas presented in your source materials correctly and adequately.
- Make detailed notes on your sources so you can use these as references when you decide to use the paraphrased material.
- Use quotation marks to indicate terms or phrases borrowed directly from your references.
As you develop your paraphrasing skills, it would be beneficial to study various paraphrased examples and compare those with plagiarized examples. The more effort you exert to know and master these things, the better you will be at paraphrasing and avoiding plagiarism.
Giving Credit Where It Is Due
However, whichever way you look at it, plagiarism is dishonest and unacceptable. This is why it’s crucial to develop paraphrasing skills that will help you fulfill both academic and professional requirements. Besides, it pays to be honest and fair in life — so give credit where it is due.
You could also visit our resources page for more information.